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Scully recalls college days while accepting honor

Dodgers' legendary voice, Fordham grad receives Bush Award

LOS ANGELES -- The baseball community came alive, stories flowing, on Sunday evening as the National College Baseball Hall of Fame honored Vin Scully with the George H.W. Bush Distinguished Alumnus Award at Bel-Air Country Club.

The 41st President of the United States and Scully, the Dodgers' incomparable play-by-play voice, share a history best described, naturally, by one of the planet's master storytellers.

"I was an outfielder, a center fielder," said Scully, who wore number 17 at Fordham University. "I could run, throw and catch, but I wasn't much of a hitter.

"One of my most memorable games was when we played Yale in 1947. I'd never been to Yale, and it was a thrilling day, a great game. It gave me a taste of what the big leagues were like, with the grandstand, public address system, scorecards, an enthusiastic crowd.

"It was 1-1 in the bottom of the eighth when their shortstop [Art Moher] hit a home run with a man aboard, and we lost, 3-1. Their first baseman was George Herbert Walker Bush. Wonderful, lovely man, politics aside. Terribly bright."

Neither man could have imagined the other going on to become an influential figure in American society. They were just a couple of wide-eyed college kids on that April day in New Haven, Conn., playing ball.

"Years later," Scully said, "we were playing golf up at Cypress [in Monterey, Calif.], and a ton of photos were taken of us. We talked a lot about that game in 1947.

"Yale had a pitcher named Frank Quinn, who signed a $100,000 bonus, but hurt his arm. He pitched against us that day and had great stuff. I said, 'Mr. President, as long as you're in the White House, we both know we went 0-for-3 that day.'

"He was aware of a great player, Frankie Frisch, who went to Fordham and was known as the 'Fordham Flash.' [Bush] sent an autographed picture of us standing on the tee and wrote, 'To Vin Scully, the Fordham Flash' ... well, er, ah, mmm.' It's one of my favorite pictures He's a marvelous human being."

Tweet from @Dodgers: Vin Scully poses with his George H.W. Bush Award presented by the National College Baseball Hall of Fame.

Thankfully, many more Vinny stories will be shared in 2016. Looking and feeling ship-shape, Scully is returning to the Dodger Stadium booth he knows as well as his own living room, after missing postseason play with a medical procedure.

"The game means a great deal to me," Scully said, pronouncing himself fit and ready to go, "and I'm honored to be part of this. I went over the list of names in the College Baseball Hall of Fame, and, honestly, I'm embarrassed to even be mentioned with these great talents."

Unlike the team he has represented for 65 years, Scully never disappoints the fans. He's undefeated.

"What makes him so special," said Sandi Scully, his wife, "is his heart. It's what people connect with, what makes him who he is."

President Bush played for Yale Bulldogs teams that appeared in the first two College World Series and was captain of the 1948 squad.

"The Hall of Fame is honored present the Bush Award to Vin Scully," said Mike Gustafson, president and CEO of the National College Baseball Hall of Fame. "His career in broadcasting is unparalleled. Mr. Scully is representative of what the Bush Award stands for."

Scully's words and tales have a broader audience than ever with the reach of programming. His popularity in his adopted home -- he was born in the Bronx and raised in Manhattan -- seemingly grows every season.

Video: Vin Scully talks returning in 2016, favorite memories

"Growing up in Los Angeles and hearing that voice as a kid, you dream that someday he'll announce your name," said Nomar Garciaparra, a Dodgers broadcaster and former Red Sox star. "To have that happen to you is an awesome feeling. He's so unique ... the best."

Dodgers coach Tim Wallach, who's among the candidates to succeed Don Mattingly as the manager, is another native Southern California son with enduring memories of that voice.

"I was a Dodgers fan growing up, and I still remember listening to those games every night," Wallach said. "To know my name was being called by Vin Scully as a player was a tremendous thrill. He's the greatest of all time."

Tommy John, for whom Dr. Frank Jobe's career-saving elbow reconstruction surgery was named, notched 87 of his 288 wins in six seasons with the Dodgers, enjoying the company of Scully.

"What a lot of people don't know is that Al Michaels, one of the greatest sportscasters ever, modeled himself after Vin," John said. "Al used to go to bed listening to tapes of Vinny's telecasts. I don't think Vin knew that. It shows the impact he's had. A lot of people grew up wanting to be Vin Scully."

Tim Leary, a Santa Monica native who won 17 games for the Dodgers' 1988 World Series championship team, was delighted to be on hand for the Scully presentation.

"I was a huge fan as a kid," Leary said. "Vin Scully was almost like a family member to us. His voice was always there."

Scully came to the Brooklyn Dodgers in September 1949, joining Jackie Robinson, Duke Snider, Roy Campanella, Gil Hodges, Don Newcombe, Carl Erskine and Pee Wee Reese. A legendary broadcasting career began to take form with the "Boys of Summer."

"Sometimes," Scully once confided, wistfully, "I feel like I'm on a grassy knoll on a golf course, watching all the people I've known in baseball, football, all the sports I've covered, walking by. I've been lucky to know so many wonderful people."

The award presented to Scully featured the likeness of a Yale hat, a ball and a first baseman's glove.

"I should've worn my Fordham cap," the ageless redhead said, beaming.

Lyle Spencer is a national reporter and columnist for Follow him on Twitter @LyleMSpencer.
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