I’d like to say there wasn’t a dry eye in the house at Dodger Stadium tonight for Vin Scully Appreciation Night, but I don’t know if that’s literally true. I do know this: I was seriously choked up, and I didn’t even grow up listening to Vin Scully. And the people in the seats near me were clearly moved, folks for whom the voice of Vin Scully was a lifelong companion.
To say his career is amazing would be a serious understatement. He has been the broadcast voice of the same major-league sports team since the year the Korean War began. The Dodgers left Brooklyn in 1958, and Scully left with them, to become probably the most beloved local figure in Southern California.
At the ceremony tonight at Dodger Stadium, local celebrities including actor Kevin Costner, L.A. mayor Eric Garcetti, the legendary pitcher Sandy Koufax (how amazing is that! the guy pitched a perfect game five decades ago, and looked quite hale and vigorous tonight), and current Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw paid tribute to the retiring broadcaster. But it was especially heartening to hear some of the stories fans told during the pregame events. One gentleman said that, back in the Sixties, he was a student at UCLA, and not doing well there. He was getting a lot of C’s, and was depressed about it; so he wrote a letter to Vin Scully, asking how he, too, could become a sports broadcaster. Scully wrote him back, saying, Look, if you’re a student at UCLA, broadcasting is not what you need to do. You’re a lucky person and you have a lot of opportunities; you need to find something you love to do, do it, and get somebody to pay you to do it. The young fellow followed Scully’s advice, and has been a professor of geography for over three and a half decades. (I know, being a professor of geography doesn’t sound cool. But I also know that, to people who don’t edit magazine articles, editing magazine articles doesn’t sound cool. But Vin Scully was right: If you enjoy your work, even though it might not be considered glamorous work by the world at large . . . you are an incredibly lucky man. I totally believe in what that geography professor was saying.)
Another highlight was an anecdote from one of the speakers, who recounted that Scully once went to church before a World Series, and prayed not for a Dodgers victory, but that in the Series, there would be only heroes, and that nobody would be a goat. What a wonderful evocation of an earlier, truer morality; of sportsmanship, gentlemanliness, and nobility; of the desire for excellence on all sides; of something better than the chest-thumping glorification of “winning” at all costs, and the humiliation of anyone who stands in the way of our team.
Vin Scully represents something important in the American character. The American character has seen bad days, but we have to hope that it will see better ones.
Enjoy your retirement, Mr. Scully! You have run the good race.