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T.J. SIMERS

He's in no hurry to say goodbye to Vin Scully

Announcer is waffling on retirement plans, which is good, because the Dodgers have no one to replace him.

September 06, 2009|T.J. SIMERS

T.J. SIMERS — The heat in the TV booth is stifling, only a small black fan whirling and aimed at everyone but Vin Scully.

"Don't like it blowing on me; don't need it," Scully says, his long-sleeved starched shirt appearing as fresh as when he put it on. "I'm refreshed. I have the breeze blowing off the lake out there just beyond center field. It's wonderful."

It's almost chilly now in the booth, the picture of shimmering blue water planted in the mind's eye, the familiar voice saying so, and in a few minutes, "It's time for Dodger baseball."

But how much more time?

And oh no, Eric Collins, who's next?

Scully recently told Plaschke, "I will come back for one more year."

And then retire?

"Yes, that makes sense," Scully told Plaschke.

Great news, though, Scully is already waffling, and while there's no question he said what he said to Plaschke -- he says now he has no definite plans when he might really retire.

He's not one for fanfare, a farewell tour out of the question and that alone might account for his pronouncement that he has no definite plans to retire while still leaving after next season.

He says he doesn't like making plans knowing God might have His own. And then he launches himself into a Bob Uecker story that he just loves, a conversation with Scully not much different than listening to a broadcast.

"He found out his career was over when he went to the Milwaukee clubhouse and was stopped from entering," Scully says, laughing because he knows what comes next. "The clubhouse guy tells him, 'Sorry, no visitors allowed.' "

That's the way Scully would like to go, failing to gain admittance to the Vin Scully Press Box in Dodger Stadium, his only regret he'd never get the chance to go on the air the next evening and tell the story on himself.

He just loves poking fun at himself, the other night making the point the Dodgers wouldn't dare run with Manny Ramirez at the plate, the Dodgers running on almost the next pitch and Scully saying, "Way to go, Scully."

He can make all the miscalculations he likes and for as many years as he chooses, as far as I'm concerned, anything to prevent the Dodgers from beginning the search for a replacement.

No one on the field has been as important -- as the voice in the booth in this franchise's history. An otherwise forgettable Friday night game, for example, has Scully saying of a pitcher, "With his limited stuff, he's like a diamond cutter; he makes a mistake and it just shatters."

Then it's just another Thursday night, Jon Garland getting hit hard early but suffering no damage on the scoreboard, Scully coming back after a break to say, "[Organist] Nancy Bea is so subtle -- playing 'Mr. Lucky.' "

How many other announcers even notice? Scully's big picture a work of art -- told in the detail.

The Dodgers have already made one practice run in preparing for life without Scully, settling on Collins to do the TV games that Scully does not. Collins is the guy who refers to the pitching mound as the "bump."

They added Steve Lyons as his companion. Together on TV, Collins and Lyons could bring back the grip radio once had on baseball audiences.

A Dodgers spokesman says a pair of team officials narrowed the search for the TV pair, but the final choice rested on a collaborative effort by the Dodgers and Prime Ticket -- as many as 12 to 18 people in the room to share the blame.

Wonder if they have a big enough room for all the folks who will want to weigh in on Scully's replacement?

Most folks will probably tell you there's no way the Dodgers will get this right when it comes to replacing Scully, the initial choice falling flat because of constant comparison to Scully.

Some point to Chick Hearn, and Paul Sunderland's abbreviated stay as his replacement. Sunderland, though, was humorless, a broadcast technician following a brilliant entertainer, lacking any link to the Lakers and was just the wrong choice.

As hard as it might be to imagine Dodgers baseball without Scully, I think there is someone out there who has what it takes to make Dodgers fans feel comfortable, someone with the ability to laugh at himself when reminded "he's no Scully," someone like Scully who will never be mistaken for a homer, thereby always packing credibility.

He's a conversationalist, Dodgers family, on some nights already talking to you before the game about the team. He has UCLA in his background, but give Eric Karros credit for overcoming it and making himself into an outstanding baseball analyst.

He's smart too, and here's hoping he takes advantage of the time he still has to make himself into just as good a play-by-play man. It might not come into play, but it adds another layer, making him an even more attractive candidate.

Scully, of course, is the last of the great one-on-one communicators linked so closely to the team they represent, whether it was Mel Allen and the Yankees or Harry Caray and then Jack Buck with the Cardinals.

"It's not an ego thing," Scully says in explaining why he still goes it alone. "Two people in the booth and they talk to each other. I get to talk directly to the fans."

The Dodgers will most likely play it safe when the day they dread finally arrives.

And if that's the case, I like Matt Vasgersian, a former Brewers and Padres announcer who is working for the MLB Network, as a play-by-play announcer to work alongside Karros.

They share a common characteristic, an ability to laugh at themselves, and will have to do so with regularity when reminded how much everyone misses Scully.

They are also both young men, so they will have no problem waiting another 10 or 15 years until Scully finally calls it quits.

--

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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