Tag Archives: Vin Scully

The Road Best Not Taken

We all grow up to soundtracks. Mine included the Beatles, the Temptations, Neil Sedaka, and Wilson Pickett. Don’t judge. It also included Walter Cronkite and Huntley/Brinkley. It also included local voices like radio DJ’s Billy Love, Tom Kindall, and Little Bee. I suppose these and other voices were influential to varying degrees to a goofy teenager in Lexington who was (to quote every first year major league baseball player in history) just glad to be here.

But the soundtrack also included baseball announcers. First it was polished Claude Sullivan describing the Cincinnati Reds games as they it just might be more important than just a game (which of course they were). Then whiling away endless hours of rain delays with Waite Hoyt’s remembrances of his playing days. Al Michaels’ urgency and, occasionally Vin Scully’s erudite ramblings followed.

This had to be the greatest job in the world; major league baseball announcer. It was right up there with being a cowboy or an astronaut or a three-chord guitar-strummin’ British rocker. THAT’S what I wanna be!

Of course I’d never ridden a horse, or thrown a lasso, or shot a six-gun…and frankly, I still question the wisdom of throwing your now empty gun back at pursuers.

I was pretty sure I’d never achieve the required quantity of push-ups to earn my space suit, and I feared projectile hurling might defy my efforts at the anti-gravity waltz.

But play-by-play for America’s game? Oh yeah – that was for me.

But baseball is a fickle game. It only follows the script after the real game is played. You can’t impose a romantic and glorious story line on it with any confidence until the actual statistics are tabulated. To attempt to do so can lead to a humiliation that this sensitive soul simply cannot bear.

Listening earlier today to Barry Larkin and John Sadek gleefully extol the glory of Eugenio Suarez raising his batting average to a giddy .170 was embarrassing. I am a fan of all three of those fellows but…

Listening to Mr. Larkin start a comment; “Notice how the pitcher, with nobody on-base…” and at that precise moment watch the batter sting the pitch into right field for a single, forcing Larkin to amend his comment on the fly in mid-sentence…ouch.

It’s got to be frustrating at an alarming frequency.

I recall a moment early in Jeff Brantley’s announcing career. A young Edwin Encarnatión came to the plate with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning with the Reds trailing. Mr. Brantley launched into a rant about the ineptitude of Mr. Encarnatión. It was brutal. On the next pitch, Encarnatión smacked a game-winning home run. The crowd was ecstatic. The announcing booth was eerily serene. Encarnatión has gone on to a sterling power-hitting career. Brantley is my favorite current voice of the Reds. But at the time…uber-ouch.

But the moment that I first suspected that the mine-field that baseball announcing might not be for me occurred in the sixties during a Saturday Game-of-the-Week broadcast with Curt Gowdy and Tony Kubek. The Mets won the game on a walk-off hit by Choo-Choo Coleman. Tony Kubek interviewed Coleman in the dressing room after the game.

Kubek: “I’m here with the star of today’s game; Choo-Choo Coleman. Choo-Choo…that’s an interesting nickname. Do happen know how you got it?”

Coleman: “No.”

Kubek: “Back to you, Curt.”

My admiration for Tony Kubek soared.

I went back to work on those push-ups.

This is Our Time

That’s what Governor Andy Beshear told me today.

What a blessing he has been in this season when America learned to its dismay that “corona” was not something you could drive or smoke, but something that could truncate your season basketball tickets, or hose down your spring beach hormones, or free up your Sunday mornings (but not to play golf), ……or kill you……or kill those you love……or kill what you love.

I do not want to disappoint Governor Andy…or endanger my mom, or Janie, or my friends, or total strangers for that matter. I will stay healthy at home.

But I do miss baseball.

I’m loving the free streaming from the Metropolitan Opera and looking forward to the National Theatre’s stream of “One Man Two Guvnors” this Thursday evening.

Continuing my dubious literary journey though the tawdry Edgar Wallace canon is amusing.

Walking the dog 18 times a day is fulfilling.

Janie’s cooking is jes’ fine.

But I do miss baseball.

That explains the giddiness I’m feeling over the “Baseball’s Greatest Games” series on the MLB Network. Bob Costa zips though highlights of the greatest baseball games in the last 50 years with commentary from participating players. Then the network shows practically the entire game with the original play-by-play.

So…

Tonight I’m watching the first game of the 1988 World Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers (formerly of Brooklyn) and the Oakland Athletics (formerly of Kansas City and Philadelphia). This is the Kirk Gibson game; a cherished moment for any baseball fan. Mr. Gibson’s one-legged homerun in the bottom of the ninth for a walk-off (hop-off?) victory for the Dodgers. I know it sounds like a Monte Python routine but it’s actually quite thrilling.

The play-by-play is by Vin Scully and Joe Garagiola, similarly cherish-able; “He was about three minutes late on that fast ball” or “The ball didn’t get up. It didn’t get down. It just got out.”

I got yer analytics right here. Vin and Joe didn’t need no stinkin’ stats.

Also cherish-able for this baseball nerd is getting to watch Lexingtonian John Shelby play center field for Los Angeles.

An interesting aspect of the rebroadcast is the elimination of 90% of the replays and 100% of the strolling time between pitches. It turns baseball into a rhythmic action sport. It’s gripping. You can’t take your eyes off of it.

“You can’t take your eyes off of it.”

Not even for a second.

Not even to take a bite outta yer hotdog, or turn to the friend (or stranger) next to you to discuss in complete sentences and grunts what shoulda been done on that last play or what should be done on the next, or who’s a bum and who’s not, or whether the so-called poetry of Rod McKuen was simply a long-range pre-publicity campaign for Clint Eastwood’s Play Misty for Me (that’s a close call).

In these re-broadcasts, as much as I’m enjoying them, time has been extracted from the timeless game.

Time for important stuff.

And it’s our time.

Our time for important stuff…

…like staying home…

…being healthy…

…being together…

…protecting what we love…

…protecting ourselves…

…not being part of the problem……

……waiting for the next real pitch.

I do miss baseball.

It Could Be the Last Thing You Do

Baseball musings while watching Alfredo Simon make a pitching career out of the first inning (48 pitches already and still flingin’ – I’m guessin’ he’s not gonna get a complete game outta this) on a balmy evening (39 degrees and still droppin’) in Chicago. Night games…in Chicago…in April…what kind of mind…? This game is currently on a pace to last 6 ½ hours.

Hey, not to worry, more time to muse. It’s baseball, baby.

Yesterday I caught a few minutes of a Dodgers game described by Vin Scully. One of the batters was blessed with “Socrates” as his first name. Mr. Scully proceeded to give us a biography of the Greek philosopher AND a play-by-play of what it’s like to die from drinking hemlock AND a pitch-by-pitch description of the batter’s plate appearance. You can’t get that kind of service from any other sport.

Right now I’m listening and learning about the circulatory system of ducks as imparted by Thom Brenneman while the Reds pitcher tries to lay down a bunt. You can learn a lot useful stuff in a baseball game.

But what I’m thinkin’ ‘bout tonight is the fearful responsibility involved when buying a ticket to a baseball game. We take it lightly, but think about it.

It could be the last thing you do.

If the game is tied at the end of nine innings we don’t stop playing by the regular rules of baseball until we have a winner. No matter how many innings that may take.

We don’t have clocks, or ties, or judges’ decisions, or goal kicks, or coin flips. We play on. Theoretically, any game you decide to attend could last forever.

Cool……………and a little scary.

W. P. Kinsella wrote SHOELESS JOE, the book the fine baseball film FIELD OF DREAMS was based upon. His next novel was another fine baseball book; THE IOWA BASEBALL CONFEDERACY. In it, he posits exactly such an eternal baseball game. I recommend it. Oh, don’t get anxious, it’s only 310 pages long and it has an ending.

So, the next time someone asks you if you’d like to catch a baseball game, stop and ponder if you’re really ready for that kind of commitment.

I pretty much always am.