Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Sound Track of My Life

I damn near cried when Johnny Carson retired from the "Tonight Show" in 1992.

Not because I thought Carson was the cleverest comedian of all time. In fact, his humor could best be described as cornball, long on the vaudeville, short on the sophistication.

It was because Carson had become part of the fabric of my life. No matter if times were good or bad, Johnny was always there at 11:30 p.m.

I watched while walking a crying baby at night, praying that sleep would come to one or both of us. I watched when putting together the kids' toys on Christmas Eve, cursing that Tab A wouldn't always fit in Slot B.

I watched while waiting for my teens to get back from Saturday night dates.

I watched after birthdays and anniversaries. I watched after funerals.

I thought about this when I realized the Dodgers are already cranking up the publicity machine in advance of the team's 50th anniversary in Los Angeles next spring.

The Dodgers have owned this town since they landed in 1958. Or sure, we have loved our late, lamented Rams, our Lakers, our Trojan football and Bruin basketball. But it was a fleeting romance, a quick kiss in the dark.

It is the Dodgers who brought joy to Mudville.

When I think of a half-century of Dodger baseball, however, there is one constant that remains when all the seasons and players begin to blend together in memory.

That is Vin Scully.

Like Johnny Carson, he has become part of the sound track of my life.

Back in the days before every game was televised, Scully was the Dodgers.

His voice on the radio meant spring was here. When Scully called the Dodgers, it was time to get the lawn furniture out, fix a cool drink and listen to the drama unfold as only a master story teller could describe it.

It is Scully who said, "He (Bob Gibson) pitches as though he's double-parked."

It is Scully who described pitcher Tom Glavine as being "like a tailor; a little off here, a little off there and you're done, take a seat."

It is Scully who called Stan Musial "good enough to take your breath away."

It is Scully who said, "It's a mere moment in a man's life between the All-Star Game and an old timer's game."

It is Scully, who, in an eloquent Irish tenor, can call a baseball game and make it sound like a reading of Emerson or Whitman.

And years ago when I did get to a game at the Coliseum or Dodger Stadium, it was Scully's voice that dominated the scene, broadcast over a thousand portable radios clutched by fans throughout the park. It was as though, even if you saw the action with your own eyes, you needed Scully to validate it before you believed it.

Most important to me, it is Scully was has held my rapt attention as a fan of baseball and a lover of the English language from adolescence to approaching old age.

He says he'll retire soon. And when he does, my interest in Dodger baseball will probably wane. After all, I don't watch the "Tonight Show" much anymore.

As part of their 50th anniversary celebration, the Dodgers plan to enter a float in the Rose Parade. According to their press release, "Dodgers legends past and present will ride on a float through Pasadena in the 119th Rose Parade."

It will be criminal if one of those legends isn't Vin Scully.

The fact is, he should be riding at the front of the parade.

I have nothing against TV chef Emeril Lagasse, the 2008 grand marshal. But Scully will be remembered as the greatest broadcaster ever when Emeril's recipe for manicotti stuffed with eggplant is long forgotten.

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