To read the proclamation from the Beverly Hills City Council in honor of “Vin Scully Day in Beverly Hills” and to see the tribute video, click here.
It is October 2, 2016.
The French have an expression, “Partir, c’est mourir un peu,” which roughly translates to: “To say goodbye is to die a little.”
The day has finally come and I feel as if a little part of me has died.
Saying goodbye to Vin Scully as the voice of the Dodgers has never been a pleasant thought or an easy proposition. And now it’s upon us.
Much has been written about Vin Scully’s storied career, especially this season, which is his 67th and final season as the voice of the Dodgers. Much has been made of the absolute and utter void his retirement will create. Much has been made of Vin Scully’s role as “the poet laureate of baseball” or “the voice of Summer” and it’s all true. But Mr. Scully means so much more to those of us who know, who get it.
For me personally, Vin Scully is a link through the generations; he will forever connect my 9 year old boy, who himself grew up listening to Vin Scully, with my grandfather, whom he never knew. I’m so honored my own son, the 9 year-old Dodger fan and Beverly Hills Little League All Star, bears his name and I hope the connection between Vin Scully and Vin Mirisch and the poetry, drama and sheer joy that is baseball will be passed down to his own children, and beyond.
It is hard, if not impossible for the long-time Dodger faithful to imagine Mr. Scully’s tropes not painting the picture of our team’s fortunes (so disappointingly glum since 1988). Although in recent years Mr. Scully no longer broadcast most of the team’s road games, there was always the sense that a home stand is just around the corner, and that familiar lilt would be back to embody baseball.
Vin Scully has related how he became enamored of the roar of the crowd when he was eight years old and it washed over him from an old radio console. With the ingrained humility which is character-defining for him, Scully has actually thanked Dodger fans for our enthusiasm and for our vocal appreciation of the game at the ballpark. At no less than Vin Scully Appreciation Day at Dodger Stadium on Sept. 23, he addressed the sold out crowd: “When you roar, when you cheer, when you are thrilled, for a brief moment, I’m eight years old again.”
For those of us who were lucky enough to grow up with Vin Scully in our lives – “blessed” would be the appropriate word, and even that might be a euphemism – the voice of Vin Scully takes us back to our own youths, to a safe place, to a world of green fields and blue skies in which our biggest problems are trying to get a run across from third with less than two out.
Fortunately, nothing – not even the DH – can kill baseball itself, but if Feb. 3, 1959 is known as “the day the music died,” then for those of us blessed with having grown up in Southern California, today, Oct. 2, 2016, may be “the day our youth died.”
Vin Scully makes me cry.
Quite a bit, in fact, over the past few weeks. And not just me. This and last weekend, which marked Vin Scully’s final games broadcast from Dodger Stadium and which the Dodgers billed as “Vin Scully Appreciation Weekend,” have been weekends of tears. My guess is that more adult tears have been collectively shed in Southern California during these two weekends than since 9/11 and in a sport-related context perhaps since 1988, when they were tears of elation.
This time they were tears of nostalgia. Tears of loss. Tears of love. Tears that knit together disjointed memories and the feelings they conjure, like Proust’s madeleines. Tears of a whole swarm of mixed emotions which have to do with winning, losing, family, baseball, life in this vale of tears and so much more… And of gratitude. Boundless gratitude.
But Vin Scully’s voice is much more than Proust’s madeleines or a Dodger dog. Oh, sure, listening to Vin can transport you back to all manner of childhood memories. For me it’s Dodger games with my brother, Richard, and my grandfather. There’s something so glorious and simple about baseball that it can make you cry even when it’s not breaking your heart. Vin Scully’s voice and poetry does that for me, as for so many others. In their everyday nature describing the increments of the long baseball season, they are so sublimely ingrained into our daily lives that they become allegorical for baseball and what binds it to all that is good in the American soul.
Those who get it, understand. Those who don’t, never will. Vin Scully isn’t just “the voice of Los Angeles.” He represents a kind of fourth dimensional metaphysical connection within the region. He connects time and place and space and memory. He’s Proust’s madeleines as a shared experience, a commonality which encompasses individual and shared memories, encompassing almost anyone and everyone alive who loves the Dodgers. It’s almost stereotypical that kids growing up in the LA area from the move of the Dodgers in 1958 until the demise of the transistor radio, share the individual experience of listening to Vin Scully under the covers and sometimes falling asleep to his voice.
He connects cultures and generations and people and families through time and space. In this day and age of dividing people into groups and divisive identity politics, Vin Scully is the great uniter. How will we ever get on without him?
Today, of course, you can watch baseball online all over the world. But when I lived in Austria two decades ago, games weren’t available online. I missed baseball and subscribed to a service which sent me a Dodger video cassette each week. Many of the games were network or opposing team broadcasts, and I sent the service numerous notes specifically requesting the Dodger broadcast. I would savor those games, as Vin Scully brought me home.
In coming years, it will be tempting to watch old Dodger games just to hear his voice. The excitement of some of his calls, even years after the fact, will continue to bring both tears to my eyes and goosebumps to my skin for as long as I live. And while nothing will — can — ever compare with the original Vin Scully, I am almost tempted to wish for a Scullyizer which could be programmed to announce games using Vin Scully’s signature voice and intonation. It would actually not be that difficult. Any of you who have kids who play baseball video games know they do a pretty good job of covering the announcing for most situations. Just sample all of Scully’s broadcasts, his signature phrases (“two balls, two strikes, two outs, the deuces are wild”), perhaps program in some Scullyesque anecdotes, and we’d probably have a better product than whatever will come next year.
But that’s the thing: Vin Scully and his poetry are so much more than a product. And they are irreplaceable. Timeless and time-sensitive at the same time.
On the morning of Vin Scully’s final home broadcast, in which the Dodgers almost on script clinched the division championship with an unlikely walk-off home run, the baseball world lost Jose Fernandez, a 24-year All Star pitcher on the Miami Marlins. On Scully’s final home broadcast, he related the tragedy of Fernandez’s death and the impact on the players, especially his fellow-Cubans such as Yasiel Puig. With sadness, warmth, perspective and a sense of humanity. That’s Vin Scully.
The baseball world grieved for the tragedy of the loss of Jose Fernandez and his potential which would never ever have a chance to come to fruition. Jose Fernandez might very well have had a Hall of Fame career ahead of him.
If part of the tragedy of Jose Fernandez is the unfulfilled potential, part of the glory of Vin Scully is how he has created a new, virtually unreachable model for the ability of a human being to fulfill his potential, and in so doing, to touch others.
Vin Scully makes me cry because he shows that goodness actually does exist in this world. It’s something we need now more than ever. He shows that the potential for a life well lived is actually something that with humility, good humor and making the most of one’s God given talents, can actually be achieved. It actually happened. Vin Scully’s 67 years as the voice of the Dodgers were real, and even more than providing a living example of what it means to fulfill one’s potential, they have helped show us in an almost cosmic way what it means to be human.
George Bernard Shaw once described the British critic, satirist and caricaturist Max Beerbohm as “incomparable.”
In so many ways, Vin Scully is incomparable. And that’s just part of why we all want to keep him forever.
In his humanity, wrapped up in baseball, Our game — or, as he described it, “the greatest sport the world has ever known” — Vin Scully has taught all of us so much about the game and literature and life. His broadcasts have featured literary quotes from Shakespeare to Dylan Thomas, including, touchingly and fittingly the following Thomas poem:
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
While Vin Scully has likely never heard of the Swedish poet Birger Sjöberg, his retirement calls to my mind, almost inescapably, a haunting phrase from Sjöberg’s ballad, “Dödens Ö,” (“The Island of Death”): “Obeständighetens hån det är, jag sörjer så.” The rough translation is: “The scorn of impermanence is what I so grieve over.”
For 67 years, Vin Scully has been an antidote against transitoriness, the scorn of impermanence and the dying of the light. Leave it to him to teach us the lesson of mortality and how to say goodbye with grace, humility, humanity and utter gratitude for the miracle of baseball, made possible by the miracle of life.
For 67 years, Vin Scully has lit the fire which has inspired so many of us to an almost ineffable love of baseball and so much more. Now it is up to us to try our very best to become the keepers of that flame ourselves, to continue his legacy in our own individual, unique ways and to fulfill our own unique G-d given potential.
The Dodger faithful have all been blessed with a unique and lasting gift. Thank you, Mr. Scully. Thank you so very much, and may G-d bless you for the miracle of baseball, decency and humanity you have shared with all of us for the past 67 years.
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