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Q&A

It's Really Vin's Game, Onscreen and Off

September 20, 1999|MATT COLTRIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Baseball broadcaster Vin Scully, in his 50th year as voice of the Dodgers, plays himself in "For Love of the Game," a baseball romance starring Kevin Costner that opened Friday. In the film, Scully does what he does best, announce a game--in this case a possible perfect game being pitched by Costner. Widely considered the sport's best announcer, Scully's rare big-screen appearance adds drama and poetry to the baseball sequences; as usual, he's received rave reviews for his work.

After singing to visitors in the broadcast booth before a recent game at Dodger Stadium, the Hall-of-Famer, wearing one of his World Series rings, spoke about the film, the thin line between his acting and announcing, and baseball movies.

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Question: So to the list of your accomplishments do we now add: Vin Scully, thespian?

Answer: No, I was just a sports announcer doing a game. The only acting was trying to generate excitement even though I knew the outcome. Normally if a fellow is pitching a no-hitter or a perfect game, I don't know if he's going to make it, so that excitement envelopes me.

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Q: So isn't that acting?

A: Well, I've called three perfect games. I think I've called 20, 21 no-hitters. Those helped me. So that's the only acting I did in the sense of remembrance of things past.

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Q: How similar were those games to the movie?

A: Don Larsen had his perfect game in the World Series (1956) and was at the end of his career. Sandy Koufax had his (1965), and though we didn't know it, he was kind of at the end, but still at a pinnacle. And then Dennis Martinez pitched one here (1991). Dennis had already pitched for a thousand years and was battling . . . all kinds of problems. The Times had a picture of him sobbing in the dugout, it was so overwhelming to him. I did try to remember those three men. Not so much Koufax, because Sandy was still too perfect, but Larsen and Martinez were closer to this fella (Costner's Billy Chapel, a veteran pitcher in possibly his last game).

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Q: How much freedom did you get with the dialogue?

A: They were wonderful. Sam Raimi, the director, would ask me about something, and I might say I wouldn't do it that way. And he would say, "You're the guy," I guess because I've been doing it for 50 years, and we would change it. They had a script but they also told me to just do the game and that's what I tried to do.

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Q: Any examples of changes you suggested?

A: I said to Sam after he showed me the game--not the movie, just the game--"Sam, for 99.9% of the time, you're right on the money. But you couldn't resist going Hollywood. The last play to preserve this whole thing, it could have happened, but it's a stretch. I would hate to see you do a stretch when it's so good up to here." Well, they reshot the scene.

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Q: Was it Costner's idea to cast you?

A: I was told that when Kevin first got involved because he grew up around here or whatever that I was the guy he envisioned doing the game. He saw the announcer as being me.

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Q: How is he as a ballplayer?

A: Well, I only saw him on film, but he was remarkable (Scully's announcing was added later). They used a center-field camera, so when the pitcher pitches, you're gonna see the pitch and it was all Kevin. So if I'm saying it's a breaking ball, it's gotta be a breaking ball.

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Q: How good is his baseball ability compared to other actors?

A: Gary Cooper ["Pride of the Yankees," 1942, as Lou Gehrig] I never thought was that believable. William Bendix ["The Babe Ruth Story," 1948, as the Babe] I didn't think was believable. I'm not sure about "Bull Durham," and "Field of Dreams" was more ethereal [two other Costner baseball movies] but I'd say he [Costner] might be the best. Just like when he made "Tin Cup." I played golf with him before he made it and after. I mean he's a good golfer. He kills the ball.

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Q: You seem to be choosy about your movie roles.

A: I've never been involved in a big film like this. I've had some small parts and I've done some TV stuff. People will call and ask for 30 seconds of tape and we won't charge them so you'll hear my voice sometimes. But I love baseball and I don't want to be part of anything that would cheapen it or vulgarize it.

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Q: Why did you decide to do "For Love of the Game"?

A: They sent me the script, and on paper I didn't think it was that great. But what do I know about scripts? Then I went over there [to Universal] and their attitude was great. What I saw was impressive.

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Q: How do you like the movie?

A: I haven't seen it yet. But I bought some shaving cream today and the guy in the drugstore said he saw it at a preview or something and it's great. But I guess anybody'll tell you that.

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Q: Did you consider taking the night off from the Dodgers to attend the premiere?

A: Nah, 'cause I'm not Hollywood. I'd rather be here.

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Q: No, you're not Hollywood.

A: You know, they have makeup and wardrobe and everything, and you sit around. I mean, they gave me a big trailer with all this stuff. It was nice, but I was afraid if I stretched out I'd fall asleep.

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