By Bill Plaschke
October 2, 2016
Dodgers broadcast announcer Vin Scully and Giants legend Willie Mays wave to the crowd. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
He spoke to the game, to its history, to the unique situation of being honored at a retirement party disguised as a baseball game.
He spoke to the adoring folks who filled San Francisco’s AT&T Park, to the admiring announcers sitting in the next booth, to family members who surrounded his chair and wrapped him in a giant midgame hug.
Then, finally, after three hours of a brilliant final broadcast that will rank among his finest, Vin Scully stripped away all the decorations and did what he has done best for 67 years.
He spoke directly to the hearts of Dodgers fans.
He spoke simply, and we understood exactly.
With the cameras focused on the celebrating Giants after their 7-1, wild-card clinching win against the Dodgers, the retiring Scully uttered his final live call of a baseball game.
“I have said enough for a lifetime and, for the last time, I wish you all a very pleasant good afternoon,” he said.
Moments later, at the end of a postgame message taped earlier from the broadcast booth, he signed off for good.
“There will be a new day, and eventually a new year, and when the upcoming winter gives way to spring, ah, rest assured, once again, it will be time for Dodgers baseball!” he said. “So this is Vin Scully wishing you a very pleasant good afternoon, wherever you may be.”
In the coming years, wherever Dodgers fans may be, it will not be the same without him, a fact that rang true again Sunday when Scully officially ended the most legendary career in sports broadcasting history with his usual smarts, humor, and grace.
While nothing will ever compare to his emotional “Wind Beneath My Wings’’ home farewell at Dodger Stadium a week ago, this final broadcast — which aired on radio, free TV and cable TV throughout Southern California — reminded Dodgers fans of what they will be missing.
He was as sharp as he’s ever been. He was as smooth as he’s always been. By the end of the broadcast, viewer sentiment was likely filled with a little frustration. Seriously, he’s only 88, why does he have to leave now?
At one point, he was so involved in such wonderful storytelling that he actually scolded himself, saying, “Now, stop jabbering, Scully, and get back to the ballgame!”
No, no, no, never stop jabbering! This was one game that needed to go 18 innings and last all night. Hopefully, you taped it, or you know someone who taped it, or the Dodgers taped it and will give away the DVD during a promotional night next year.
The afternoon began in San Francisco with the ultimate pregame tribute — rival Giants fans cheering at the sound of Scully’s voice intoning, “It’s time for Dodger baseball’’ over the stadium loudspeaker while waving cheer cards reading, “Thank you, Vin.”
Then the broadcast microphone was turned on, the first pitch was thrown, and it was all vintage Vin.
He compared wildly inconsistent Giants starter “Matthew Cody Moore” to “the little girl with the curl.”
He described the weather by saying, “The temperature here is 62 degrees, kind of an angry sky at about 6:30 this morning, but it’s softened up a bit … and the sky has punctures in it with a little bit of blue overhead.”
And this was all while leadoff hitter Howie Kendrick was still in the batter’s box.
In typical humble Scully fashion, he initially never said a word about this being his last game, and in fact avoided the subject for the first three innings while the Giants were rolling to a 5-0 lead.
He said jittery Giant Hunter Pence “would make coffee nervous.”
He referenced a camera shot of a boy in a Dodgers cap sitting next to a boy in a Giants cap and explained the somewhat childish beginnings of the Dodgers-Giants rivalry.
He said the Dodgers’ solid Adrian Gonzalez was “the butter-and-egg man, he’s been delivering for years.”
He noted that a curveball from the Dodgers’ Kenta Maeda “floated up there like a soap bubble.”
He finally briefly addressed his situation beginning in the fourth inning, when the classy Giants and their star Willie Mays unveiled a plaque marking their press box as the site of Scully’s last broadcast.
Of course, Scully cut the ceremony short, saying, “I think there’s a game going on and they’re calling for me.”
Once back in the booth, he only briefly explained the honor.
“I was a little late coming back for a very, very good reason … there’s a plaque on the wall,’’ he said. “Like Kilroy, I’ve been here.’’
He briefly returned to baseball with a hilarious observation about Yasiel Puig appearing to bite the end of his bat, saying, “Yasiel, I guess, is testing the wood. Some of the fellas actually smell the wood. I’ve seen players hold it up to their ear. He’s the first one I’ve seen who might have tasted it a little.’’
In the bottom of the fourth, with the Giants leading 5-1, and the game already seemingly a foregone conclusion, Scully could avoid the obvious no more.
The Giants’ public address announcer reminded the Giants crowd that this was his final broadcast, everyone turned to the press box and waved their cheer cards, and Frank Sinatra’s “My Way’’ began playing over the loudspeaker.
At this point, Scully finally relented and allowed himself to bask in the moment, saying, “I was thinking sitting in the booth talking to Willie, who would ever think that little redhead kid with the tear in his pants, shirttail hanging out, playing stickball in the streets of New York with a tennis ball and a broom handle, would wind up sitting here, 67 years of broadcasting, and with my arm around one of the greatest players I ever saw, the great Willie Mays.’’
Scully appeared momentarily overcome with emotion, paused, appeared to wink with his right eye, and said, “There are miracles aren’t there, right? Let’s go back to this one.”
He added, his throat thick, “I’ve had enough spotlight ... for 10 years … for 10 lives.”
The spotlight remained firmly on his retirement for the remainder of the game, which he unbelievably continued to call with accuracy and insight.
He focused on the Dodgers’ batboy, Champ Pederson, who was celebrating his 29th birthday.
“The thing about Champ, and he says it, he’s outspoken about it, he says, ‘Yes, I have Down syndrome but I’m OK.’ He’s a terrific young man … It’s just a marvelous, marvelous, wonderful note … Champ Pederson, and he is a champ.”
Has any play-by-play announcer ever consistently relayed so many life stories with such dignity?
As if sensing that some Dodgers fans were wondering why he would end his career at the park of their hated rivals, he also told a bit of his own life story. He wove the tale of how he became a Giants fan, and a baseball fan, after seeing the score of their 18-4 World Series loss to the New York Yankees posted on a storefront on Oct. 2, 1936.
“A lot of time has gone by, exactly 80 years to the minute from that day I looked at the line score of the World Series,’’ he said. “When I looked at the schedule and knew I was golng to retire, I thought, I have to do that game. It’s as if it was ordained that I would do this game. So here we are, hope you’re enjoying it, hope I’m not interrupting it too much.”
Please, please, interrupt it more, interrupt it forever!
In the fifth, his large family joined him in the booth, prompting him to say, “What a way to celebrate your last game, having a family here with you…. Meanwhile, family, it’s time for me to go back to work, so I love you, see you later!”
In the seventh, with prompting from Giants announcer Mike Krukow, a swaying Scully helped lead the crowd in the singing of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”
In one of his final moments before his formal farewells, he dropped a final word of wisdom, a slight rewording of a quote from Dr. Seuss.
“Don’t be sad that it’s over,” Scully said. “Smile because it happened.”
Los Angeles is indeed sad, yet Los Angeles is truly smiling.
Godspeed, Vin Scully, wherever you may be.