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Vin Scully : In 36 Years as Voice of the Dodgers, He's Never Been at Loss for Words

April 08, 1985|RICK REILLY | Times Staff Writer

The Vin Scully Show, now embarking on its 36th year with the Dodgers, rolls on and on, with each new reviewer gushing more than the last. Fifty-seven summers aren't much betrayed in his ruddy-red Irish face. Neither is the sadness when he smiles, which, by nature and by design, is practically always.

Yeah, even Vin Scully, master-weaver of high drama and happy endings, has his sadnesses. But sorrow makes for lousy theater--on the air and off--and if there is one thing Scully can't stand it's lousy theater.

"I'm the great cover-up," Scully says. "I don't talk about my sadness. I guess the psychiatrists might say that I need to purge myself of that. But I can't. I'd rather tell them a joke. I have to do it my way. I can't allow the sadness to lead me on."

And so, the show leads him on. The most transfixing, regaling, entertaining show in baseball carries elegantly on.

For that, baseball fans must be forever indebted. Not, of course, as forever indebted as Dodger President Peter O'Malley, who shells out an estimated $750,000 per year for a man who is, essentially, a part-time employee. O'Malley at least has company. The bookkeeper at NBC pays Scully approximately the same size stipend to work the "Game of the Week" and six golf tournaments a year. That's $1.5 million a year, with winters off and no heavy lifting.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday April 9, 1985 Home Edition Sports Part 3 Page 9 Column 2 Sports Desk 2 inches; 61 words Type of Material: Correction
A photograph of golfer Denise Strebig was incorrectly identified as Lauri Peterson in Monday's editions of The Times, and a photo of a boxer identified as Olympian Virgil Hill was not Hill.
In the Monday Morning story on announcer Vin Scully, it was erroneously written that the George Washington Bridge is located in Brooklyn. The George Washington Bridge spans the Hudson River, connecting Manhattan and the Bronx with New Jersey.

After 36 years, Vinnie has become everybody's friend. Does Los Angeles love Vinnie? Does Lasorda bleed white clam sauce?

Or, as a Mr. G.G. Gundry of Malibu writes in: "If Vin Scully announced lawn bowing, I would listen."

No, Vinnie doesn't do the Dodgers. Vinnie is the Dodgers--more than Lasorda or Sax or, yeah, even Mr. Potato Head. Vinnie has that certain papal infallibility about him. As Lasorda himself once put it: "Davey Lopes hits a line drive off the wall, comes flying around second and slides head-first into third and not one person in the stadium believes it until Vinnie tells them it's true."

This is not much of an exaggeration, even for Lasorda. Scully may be the single-largest influence on transistor radio sales in Los Angeles. In fact, so many people pack a radio to Dodger games that KABC engineers often have to adjust for the noise of Vinnie's voice cascading up from the stands into the booth.

All those people hanging on every word can be intimidating. "It's strange knowing that thousands of people are listening to you describe a play they are watching," Scully says, but Scully says he's never had a letter from somebody who was there saying he got it wrong.

And transistor power can be good for kicks, too. Once, during a particularly dull game in 1960, Scully noticed in the press guide that one of the day's umpires, Frank Secory, was celebrating a birthday.

Vinnie thought it would be fun if everybody listening in the stands paid the man in blue a tribute. "I'll count to three," Scully said, "and everybody yell, 'Happy Birthday, Frank!' "

One, two, three . . . counted Scully.

"HAPPY BIRTHDAY, FRANK!" roared thousands.

Secory's face looked as if he'd just been buzzed by a 727. The crowd giggled with delight, eminently pleased with their little game and its instigator, Scully.

All of which goes to show you that Dodger Stadium is Vinnie's. Even players from visiting teams worship at Scully's Shrine. One was Cincinnati Reds' reliever George Culver, who would no sooner take his seat in the bullpen without his transistor than he would without his glove. One night, the Reds had a pitcher warming up in the bullpen but Scully's view was blocked. Scully knew George listened, so he said over the air, "Hey, George, if that's Granger warming up, give us a wave."

Culver waved.

"Thanks, George," Scully said.

Scully can get away with that stuff. He is as comfortable as your favorite college sweat shirt. Flip on the car radio and you can almost see him riding shotgun, swapping stories, affecting no pretensions or style except the simple feel of himself. It is for that reason Scully never-- never-- listens to other broadcasters. Scully doesn't want to be Marv Albert or Lindsey Nelson or Joe Piscopo. Scully just wants to be Scully.

Scully appeals to the truck driver and the English lit professor alike. He knows his way around homers and Homer, Shakespeare and stickball. If Scully says an errant shortstop is like "The Ancient Mariner--he stoppeth one of three," one minute, then the next he's describing a change-up that "squirts out like a wet bar of soap."

Los Angeles has lapped it up since 1958, when the Dodgers came to town with Scully running interference. He turned Los Angeles into a transistor town, first and forever. Forget video, from April to October for 27 years, Scully's mellifluous musings have drifted up from every traffic jam and outdoor cafe, every limousine and ice cream truck. The portable Vinnie. Unless, of course, he's doing the TV broadcast on Channel 11. Then it's VinnieVision.

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