Sunday, September 11, 2016

Out at Home

I know far too many people who live in the past. Talk to them for a while, and it becomes apparent that high school was a profoundly epic experience, one they relive day in and day out.

I enjoy dabbling in nostalgia occasionally. But I choose to enjoy my dwindling number of tomorrows instead of all those yesterdays.

There is one tomorrow I’m dreading, however. That will occur at the end of the month when Dodger announcer Vin Scully retires after 67 years on the job.

It should be a big league sendoff, befitting the best of them all.  But it probably won’t be.  More on that later.

If one’s life has a soundtrack, mine is orchestrated by Scully.

Back in the days before most games were 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. 

And 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.

How good is he?  Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax once said of him, “It may sound corny, but, I enjoyed listening to Vin call a game almost more than playing in them.” 

How popular is he?  He was once asked to run for governor.

How unique is he?  He blends the objectivity of a reporter with the soul of a poet.

But it was more than that.  It was Scully’s voice that was a constant during life’s milestones.

I listened to him as a teenager. I listened to him when I married and started a career. I listened to him the weekend my wife and I moved into the house we still occupy after 43 years.  I listened to him as I held my children in my arms and later when we would play catch in the back yard. I listened as I waited for them as teenagers to return from dates. I listened when they went off to college.

Through triumphs and tragedies, Vin Scully was a reassuring presence in our lives.

Vincent Edward Scully has been named California Sportscaster of the Year 28 times, he received the Ford Frick Award from the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982, was honored with a Life Achievement Emmy Award for sportscasting and induction into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1995, and was named Broadcaster of the Century by the American Sportscasters Association in 2000. In 2014, he was grand marshal of the Rose Parade, an honor he should have received about 20 years earlier.

He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of fame. The Los Angeles City Council in a unanimous vote, renamed Elysian Park Avenue to Vin Scully Avenue, changing the address of Dodger Stadium to 1000 Vin Scully Ave.

Through the power of his voice, he has almost single handedly made the Dodgers one of the top drawing franchises in all of sport.

And how has the team rewarded him?  By making him invisible.

Seventy per cent of us don’t get Dodgers broadcasts. And haven’t for three years.
Worse, if you want to hear Scully on the radio, he only calls the first three innings. After that, he’s only heard on a cable channel you probably don’t get. Talk about twisting the knife.

All this is thanks to Time Warner, a bumbling cable company that paid way too much ($8.35 billion) for broadcast rights and now can’t sell the telecasts to other outlets, and the Dodger owners who refuse to re-do the deal.

I guess we are supposed to enthusiastically support a team that doesn’t care if they have insulted and alienated their fans, made themselves into the poster boys for corporate greed and, worse, silenced an icon.

Now we learn that the Dodgers and KTLA Channel 5 have struck a deal to bring us the last five games of the season.  

Great. If you can negotiate 5 games, why not 10?  Or the entire month?  Throwing the fans a bone is about as far as our corporate overlords are prepared to go.

And believe it:  If it wasn’t Scully’s swan song, we wouldn’t have gotten that.

But in the meantime, I’ll be able to enjoy one more time the guy who brought joy to Mudville, the voice whose popularity has crossed generational, economic and racial lines.

And it will bring back a lot of memories.

After all, it was Vin who once said, “It’s a mere moment in a man’s life between the All-Star Game and an old-timer’s game.”

Robert Rector is a veteran of 50 years in print journalism. He has worked at the San Francisco Examiner, Los Angeles Herald Examiner, Valley News, Los Angeles Times and Pasadena Star-News. His columns can be found at Robert-Rector@Blogspot.Com.

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