Six fantastic stories from Vin Scully's conference call on Monday
This weekend, Vin Scully will call his final games at Dodger Stadium. Next weekend, he will call his final Major League games, ever, at AT&T Park in San Francisco. As baseball prepares to say goodbye to the legendary broadcaster, Scully was kind enough to participate in a conference call with reporters today. Here are six of the best things we learned during the call.
1. He was heckled
During the first two seasons the Dodgers and Giants played on the West Coast, the Giants played in an old Minor League park called Seals Stadium. Evidently quarters were so tight at the old park and when Scully and the Dodgers came to town, the San Francisco fans were able to rib Scully during broadcasts.
"When we arrived at Seals Stadium, they did not really have any kind of a radio booth. We didn't televise. So we actually were one row behind the regular fans, and once they realized what we were doing - for instance, a beer commercial live - why, they'd start hollering, just good-naturedly, but they'd start hollering the names of all the other brands of beer they could possibly think of. So that taught us to record all the commercials rather than be heckled by the fans."
2. He made puns that caused an entire stadium to groan
Scully credits much of his success to the advent of the transistor radio. Fans would bring their radios to the park and he would be able to talk directly to them from his spot in the broadcast booth. As a result, the fans would actually respond en masse to him during games.
"I'll always remember the worst pun I ever gave was in the Coliseum. Joe Torre was the catcher and he caught a foul tip off his hand. He had to come out of the game. But the next day he played third base, and I was just talking to the fans and somehow this came out. I said, 'Well, there is Joe playing third. If he does not ever put the gear back on behind the plate, he will forever be known as Chicken Catcher Torre.' The groan from the crowd of 50-, 60,000 was something that I'll still remember to my dying day."
3. The spotlight makes him uncomfortable
Scully has had a marvelous career that demands celebration, but the focus of that celebration isn't entirely comfortable with all the attention he's been receiving. During the call, he referred to the attention as "a little embarrassing" and humbly chalked it up to a mere consequence of the fact that he's "lasted 67 years". Naturally, we know the truth that Scully deserves every ounce of praise he's received this season and more. Ever a symbol of grace, Scully hasn't let his discomfort prevent him from accepting compliments with grace and kindness. Upon receiving one such compliment during the call, Scully responded:
"I'm deeply touched for that remark. I'll put it aside, and maybe I'll think about it as I gaze at a flower or something during my retirement."
He sure does have a way with words.
4. His final game falls on the 80th anniversary of his baseball fandom
Scully's final broadcast will come on Oct. 2 in San Francisco. During the call, he told the story of another Oct. 2, exactly 80 years ago.
"I was walking home from grammar school. I went by a Chinese laundry, and in the window was the line score of the World Series game; that would be Oct. 2, 1936, and the Yankees beat up the Giants, 18-4. As a little boy, my first reaction was oh, the poor Giants. Then my grammar school was 20 blocks from the old Polo Grounds ... so that's when I fell in love with baseball and became a true fan. My last game with the Giants will be Oct. 2, 2016. That will be exactly 80 years to the minute from when I first fell in love with the game."
5. He has the stamina of an Iron Man
During one June weekend in 1989, Scully called three games over the course of Saturday and Sunday - a 10-inning Cubs/Cardinals game followed by a 23-inning Dodgers/Astros game later that night and a 13-inning Dodgers/Astros game the following day. Tally that up and you'll find he called 45 innings in less than 36 hours. Afterwards, he received a telegram that made it all worthwhile:
"When the game ended, I came out of the booth admittedly a little tired, and there was a telegram waiting for me, and it was from one of my dearest friends in the world who was a sports writer in San Diego by the name of Phil Collier, and it was just perfect. The telegram read: Lou Gehrig was a wimp."
6. We can credit the roar of the crowd for Scully's career
What makes anyone choose a career? It can be fate, necessity, or passion. In Scully's case, it was a childhood love affair with the sound of the roar of a crowd coming across the radio.
"When I was growing up as a little boy, I didn't really -- the only thing I loved in the beginning at 8 years old was the roar of the crowd. I would crawl under the big old radio we had, and the only sports in those days would be college football on radio. …But it was the roar of the crowd that poured out of the loud speaker like water out of a shower head, and I would just be covered in goosebumps. And each time, every Saturday I would listen, and eventually I got into, gee, I love the roar, I'd love to be there. And then later on I projected I'd love to be the announcer. But I figured, the announcer that was somewhere in never, never land."
Vin Scully eventually found his way both to never, never land and directly into our hearts.