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BILL PLASCHKE

Dodgers' tribute to Vin Scully needs to be a home run

The long-time voice for the franchise says he'll probably work one season, giving the Dodgers 15 months to send him off the right way.

July 29, 2009|BILL PLASCHKE

While the Dodgers' acquisition of a top starting pitcher before the trading deadline remains woefully uncertain, one thing has become wonderfully clear.

They just got their ace.

Vin Scully, thought to be retiring this winter after 60 seasons, said this week he is planning on coming back for one more summer.

Scully, 81, said if he continues to feel well he will work past his landmark year and retire after the 2010 season.

"God willing, I will probably come back for one more year," Scully said in a phone interview. "At this moment, my health is excellent, and I'm leaning toward one more year."

And then retire?

"Yes, that makes sense," he said.

That makes sense? That makes magic.

We now have 15 months to hang on to every syllable, cherish every story, embrace his hellos as we prepare to say goodbye.

"Hi everybody, and a very pleasant evening to you, wherever you may be."

OK, Dodgers, the microphone is now yours.

You've got 15 months to plan a way to properly honor the most beloved employee in franchise history.

More enduring than any player, more impactive than any manager, more intertwined with this city than the color blue, Scully is not only the voice of the team, but its soul.

How the McCourts handle this will say much about not only their credibility as Dodgers owners, but their place among Los Angeles citizens.

Scully's goodbye tour next year will be so fraught with emotion, well, last week people were crying just at the thought of him leaving in October.

Did you see the unveiling of the new Dodger Stadium video that played between innings during the night of Manny Ramirez's Bobblebomb?

It featured Scully's favorite song, "It Had To Be You," sung by Betty Hutton, accompanied by clips from his long career, from the early years as a redhead to his later years as, well, a redhead.

By the end of it, many in the stands were in tears. Up in the booth, Scully was in shock.

"I had no idea they were doing anything, I was writing in my scorebook when I thought, 'My, that's a nice song,' " Scully said. "Then I looked up and saw the scoreboard and thought, 'Oh, goodness.' "

After the song ended and the scoreboard showed him sitting there stunned, the place erupted in the first of what will be 15 months worth of farewell standing ovations. "I was kind of overwhelmed," Scully said.

As always, Scully stood up and applauded back. Then, as always, he summoned a Dodgers official with a question.

"You're not going to play that thing every night, are you?" he asked.

Scully was told that it would be played infrequently, in keeping with his consistent wishes to remain simply a voice.

This was the Dodgers' first attempt at a farewell, and it was a good one, but now it's time to get serious.

If they could build a Mannywood in a couple of weeks, surely they can use the next few months to figure out a way to permanently honor Scully in a way that no Dodger has been honored before.

There was talk about making him a centerpiece of the proposed stadium park, but that idea is several years from the shovel, and Scully deserves the attention now while he and his city can enjoy it.

"Honestly, I have never given that a thought, and I never will," Scully said. "I'm embarrassed to even think about it."

Well, I'm not, and here's my plan.

Turn this Dodgers monument into a statue. Sculpt Scully sitting in a booth, with a microphone and headsets and his ever-present scorebook.

Fill the desk with dozens of ports where fans can plug in headphones and listen to tapes of Scully's calls. What greater tribute than having Dodgers fans gathered at his feet as one, listening to his voice forever?

Place the sculpture just beyond the Dodger Stadium center-field fence, in the area currently populated by autograph booths and fans chasing batting practice fly balls. Lay down some grass like they do at Yankee Stadium for the center-field Monument Park. Call it Scullyville.

Because there is no main Dodger Stadium walking entrance, this is the best spot to be reached by the most people. You don't need a ticket to come here, you just need to pay for parking. With all sorts of fans hanging out before every game talking baseball, it feels like Chavez Ravine's front porch, which would make it the perfect spot for the Dodgers' storyteller.

Los Angeles would love it. Scully might not love it so much, but nobody understands Dodgers history better than he, and thus he would relent.

I think.

"We are going to honor Vin, but we want to make sure we do so in sync with his wishes," said Charles Steinberg, club vice president. "Everyone would love to say thank you to him, over and over, but we want to make sure we do it arm in arm with him when the time comes."

Scully's time is 15 months. The Dodgers' time is now.

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bill.plaschke@latimes.com

twitter.com/BillPlaschke

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