Results tagged ‘ Vin Scully ’

Jim Thome And Other Friends

SCOTTSDALE, ARIZONA – He has checked out and gone home so the statute of respect towards fellow hotel guests has expired, I guess.

I arrive at my hotel here the other night and the place is spread out enough that they recommend that you let them throw on to a golf cart for transport to your room, not just your bags – but you. And we go about 20 yards in the darkness when a big, broad guy with short hair sort of steps in front of the cart and the bellman/driver says “excuse me” and the fellow turns around and sort of stares for a moment before saying “Oh! I’m sorry. I kinda froze there for a moment,” and with a genuine laugh, hops out of the way. And he looks really familiar and while I’m staring at him I realize he’s staring at me and our light bulbs go off simultaneously and as I say “stop the cart for a second,” he smiles.

Jim Thome.

“This is where I’m staying while I’m unsigned,” he says with another patented Jim Lunchpail Thome laugh. I say back to him “this is where I’m staying while I’m unsigned,” and we trade career anecdotes and I ask about the Yankees and he says “I doubt it.” And we try to figure out if we first met in 1993 or 1994 and he says he’s working out but otherwise he’s pretty much by the pool each day and I should try to find him when I get back from the ballpark each afternoon. And I joke about how I nearly made his latest free agency academic by running him over with a golf cart and we say good night.

And Thome, who is easily the most universally respected player in the game, is still unsigned despite Twins rumors and Yankees rumors and the reality that somebody should sign him with an idea of convincing him to manage them in a year’s time because the other players think he’s pretty much the epitome of professionalism and knowledge. I think he knows he can’t play in the field any more but that would still let him fit in at Yankee Stadium because lord knows almost none of them can field any more either.

Thome was how my Cactus League jaunt began but the amount of additional quality human beings whom I’ve known forever that I’ve again been able to spend time with exceeds all my previous spring training trips. In the Angels’ camp it was Mike Scioscia (28 years) and executive Tim Mead (28 more), and from their opponents the Reds, writer Hal McCoy (about 10). At the Mariners’ facility it was consultant – and should-be Hall of Famer Ted Simmons (33 years), and manager Eric Wedge (20 years) and our traditional greeting of “Happy Birthday” (we share one; he’s much younger), and the announcers Dave Sims (32 years; we both worked for Charley Steiner in the 1981-82 timeframe) and Rick Rizzs (12). Rick was nice enough to ask me to come on his broadcast for an inning. Then I found out it was after Bob Uecker of the Brewers (36 years) was going to come on for an inning and as I said to Rick on the air: “I thought you liked me.”

At Wednesday night’s Team USA exhibition I got to visit with manager Joe Torre (32 years) and first base coach – and another guy who is a no-brainer Cooperstown pick – Dale Murphy (30). And today in Glendale it was the Texas staff: manager Ron Washington (10), coach Dave Magadan (11) and coach Dave Anderson (30 years ago this month I interviewed him at Vero Beach when we thought he might be the next Dodger rookie-of-the-year – “boy were you wrong,” he said, again). Upstairs I had a great chat with Rick Monday, who I’ve known for 33 years as everything from a player to a World Series star to a rival sportscaster when he was on Channel 11 every night in LA at exactly the same time I was on Channel 5.

To top it off, of course, was my annual visit with Vin Scully. I readily admit that it took me nearly three years to screw up the courage to introduce myself to him – and I was on local tv in LA during all that time – and when I finally did he said he was relieved, because he thought I’d done something to offend him. I’m sure Vin is not the saint we all portray him as, but that’s really just a hunch because nothing I’ve ever seen him do suggests otherwise. The self-deprecation never ends; even today his first words after hello were “thank you.” I said you’re welcome and then asked him what I’d done. He said “thank you for writing that excellent and kind blog about the Piazza interview.”

Ohhh, yeah. That was nearly a month ago and that was what he wanted to talk about. We batted back and forth the singular personality that is Mike Piazza, but mostly he was talking about friendship and support, and I mentioned that this was the kind of loyalty his kindness and patience engendered, and that I knew I spoke for many when I said I felt like it was our job to fire the arrows when he was attacked – especially when it was as unjustified and as inexplicable as it was in poor Piazza’s self-destructive book. And then there were the usual friendship questions that I invariably suddenly realize are being asked and answered by the Babe Ruth or William Shakespeare of his field and I remember why it took me three years to stop shaking long enough to say hello back in 1988.

So I know Vin for 25 years now – and remember that this represents only about 40 percent of the time he’s been bringing you Dahhh-ger base-ball. And if you wonder how much of a self-starter you can be as you begin your 64th year at one job, Vin and I visited for maybe ten or fifteen minutes and then he had to pre-record something for his broadcast and when I looked back in his booth after that he had begun his daily ritual of scribbling and reviewing notes for the game ahead. The exhibition game. The exhibition game on a drowsy Thursday afternoon. The exhibition game three weeks before the season begins. And he would continue to do so for at least an hour.

Talk about a role model.

Later in the week here I’m going to formalize what shallow insights I’ve been able to glean from the games I’ve seen (hint: Billy Hamilton) but for now I’m thinking of everybody that Spring Training provides me the opportunity to see again, from Thome to Scully.

That’s fifteen men who I’ve known for a total of 390 years. And every moment of that time, with every one of them, has been a privilege.

It’s been a pretty good trip, huh?

 

The “Crushing” 1998 Vin Scully/Mike Piazza Interview Isn’t That Crushing

Mike Piazza has written a new book in which he claims that Dodgers fans turned against him during his ill-fated contract negotiations in 1998 because Vin Scully asked him about it during a Spring Training interview.

“He wasn’t happy about it. And Scully’s voice carried a great deal of authority in Los Angeles…The way the whole contract drama looked to them (the fans) — many of whom were taking their cue from Scully — was that, by setting a deadline and insisting on so much money, I was demonstrating a conspicuous lack of loyalty to the ball club. I understood that.”

As he started the season poorly at the plate, “Vin Scully was crushing me,” Piazza concluded.

The ‘crushing’ 1998 Scully interview on my alma mater KTLA is available online. Watching it, it can only be hoped that Mike hasn’t seen it, and had it (mis)interpreted for him by someone who has since been treated for paranoia or at least crippling – maybe the right word is crushing – tone deafness.

(C) KTLA

(C) KTLA

“We’re visiting with Mike Piazza, and I’m sure neither one of us would like to talk about it, and yet the millions of people out there watching are interested in it, it is a big story, so consequently we have to address it. And that is, you’re down here, playing out the last year of your contract, coming up hopefully for you will be a multi-year multi-million dollar contract. Is that on your mind?”

Crushing.

Piazza answered generically about trying not to think about it and being blessed with a great family and agent. Twice he said he hoped “it’d just take care of itself.” He went to nearly every cliche except ‘Employees Must Wash Hands.’

Then Scully went for the kill:

“Well to be honest, you know, the outsiders, myself and all the other fans, we pick up a newspaper: ‘Piazza issues an ultimatum,’ and you say ‘whoa! What is that all about?”

While branding himself just a fan, Scully has actually done something that a fair reporter does (and so it is rarely seen or heard or done). He offers Piazza the opportunity to say that the characterization as an “ultimatum” of the timeline he set for the Dodgers to sign him to a new deal – a very fair thing for Piazza to do with free agency seven months away – was inappropriate or incorrect.

Piazza will have none of it. He doesn’t criticize the reporting, he doesn’t criticize the Dodgers. He gives it the old c’est-la-vie: “We basically just made clear our intentions that for me, I mean, I made all along that I would love to work things out with the Dodgers. We didn’t mean it to be threatening, we didn’t mean it to – unfortunately it comes out that way sometimes – but again, I stated I would love to be a Dodger for my whole career and I hope we can work things out and again that remains to be seen. If for some reason I happen to be a free agent at the end of this year I hope the Dodgers are the number one team that’s interested. So, again those things, unfortunately sometimes get a little bit misconstrued in the paper and they come out maybe a little bit aggressive but for me again, I try to be very professional about it and realize my job is on the field and my representative, what he does is his job, so I have to trust him on a lot of things.”

Scully, Question Three:

“Sure. Well ultimatum is a heavy word. That’s the kind of the thing, ‘if you don’t do this, we bomb you.'”

Here that stinker Scully goes again, giving Piazza a chance to say it’s not an ultimatum, that he doesn’t want the thing to drag through the season and potentially ruin 1998 for him, or the Dodgers, or the franchise for the next decade (or, as it proved, all of the above).

But instead of taking this second opportunity to paint himself in a good light, Piazza again tries to have it both ways. Instead of saying ‘it’s not an ultimatum,’ or ‘I don’t think of it as an ultimatum,’ or ‘the Dodgers have unfairly leaked this to make me look bad,’ or even ‘Vin, you’re being unfair to me,’ he again tacitly accepts the term: “Well, again, that wasn’t the intention at all, we just wanted to make clear that for me, again, I basically came up through this organization and my intentions are to work things out and it remains to be seen. But again, as far as I’m concerned, it’s done, it’s over with, I’m here to play baseball, I’m signed to play through this year and I’m going to go out there and give 110% as far as not short-changing myself, the fans, or the organization. And everything else, again, remains to be seen.”

Ah, but that’s when Scully absolutely destroys Piazza.

“Absolutely. And well said.”

At this point Scully literally turns the interview to the question of Piazza’s knees, and then how many stolen bases Piazza had in 1997, and the next we hear of this almost milquetoast chat, it’s fifteen years later and this – not Piazza’s intransigence in negotiations nor the lunkheadedness of the Dodgers’ then-new owner Rupert Murdoch – this Scully interview is what induced Armageddon at Chavez Ravine.

Scully was understandably mystified. “As God is my judge, I don’t get involved in these things,” he told The Los Angeles Times. “I can’t imagine I would ever put my toe in the water as far as a player and his negotiations.

What Piazza was trying to do in the interview, of course, is exactly what he has so belatedly and unfairly accused Scully of so many years later. He was trying to influence Dodger fans. He wanted them to rally to his side. He wanted them to help him pressure the team to give him the money (now a ridiculous-sounding $105 million over seven years – $15,000,000 a season). He didn’t want to issue an ultimatum, but he wanted them to think there was an ultimatum dictated by circumstances and he had done all he could to avoid it and would continue to do so and gee don’t the Dodger Dogs smell good?

Again, one hopes Piazza hadn’t seen the interview and simply had it recounted to him by somebody who didn’t get it. You know: somebody who doesn’t understand English. That Piazza had a totally hit-and-miss record with, and understanding of, the media (if asked in 2000 to identify the most cooperative MLB star and the least cooperative one, my answer each time would’ve been “Mike Piazza”) suggests otherwise.

The sadness here is that until the release of his new book, Piazza’s exit from Los Angeles had been seen as one of the sharpest downhill turning points in the years between Kirk Gibson’s homer and the day the franchise was wrested away from Frank McCourt. If Dodgers fans did have it in for Piazza – because of Scully or their frustration or the shape of his mustache – they quickly turned. For nearly all of the last fifteen years he had been viewed as the victim in the equation, and his departure as an unnecessary and uncorrectable mistake.

Until, that is, he went and blamed Vin Scully, of all people, and forever made it look like Rupert Murdoch was the good guy in all this.

More On Mickey, Vinnie, And The Bryce

Told you Saturday that, although the Maestro himself can’t specifically recall it with certainty one way or the other, it appears that Vin Scully did more than just broadcast Bryce Harper’s first Major League game ever, at Dodger Stadium, on Saturday night. He appears to have also broadcast Mickey Mantle’s first (exhibition) game ever in New York, and his first appearance ever inside an actual big league ballpark.

In the late ’40s and early ’50s the Yankees and Dodgers would open up with a three-game series, right before Opening Day. In 1951, they began it on Friday, April 13, at Yankee Stadium. Mantle was flying back from Kansas City after a visit to a draft board, and missed that game. But he played at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn on the 14th and 15th.

The Dodger announcers in 1951 were Red Barber, Connie Desmond – and Vin Scully. There was no reason Vin should’ve been off the broadcasts that weekend, and now there is more evidence that he would’ve been very much needed in the both. In those days, those three men handled all of the radio and television for the Dodgers, switching from one to the other every few innings.

Sure enough, the impeccable Bill Francis of The Baseball Hall of Fame has dug up what I could not: Confirmation that the Dodgers-Yankees exhibition of April 14, 1951 – Mantle’s unofficial debut – was televised. Check out the entry for 1:30 PM on Channel 9, from The New York Times weekly tv listings, published on April 8, 1951:Channel 9 was WOR-TV, and they carried the Dodger broadcasts (the Yankees and Giants were on WPIX-TV, Channel 11).

Meaning that the odds that Vin Scully wasn’t at both Harper’s debut, and Mantle’s New York debut, have shrunk to just about nothing.

UPDATED: Mantle and Harper…and Vin Scully

The comparisons have been made for years, and tonight one of them comes true. Like Mickey Mantle, Bryce Harper will make his major league debut tonight, slightly out of position, and at the same age – 19.

Dismissing for the moment the relative validity of the comparisons of the players, something startling dawned on me this afternoon. We all know Mantle broke into the majors at Yankee Stadium on April 17, 1951, batting third and playing in right field (and wearing number 6) and grounding out to second base in his first at bat against Bill Wight of the Red Sox. Mantle would go 1-for-4 and notch his first of 1509 career RBI on a single that plated the third run in a 5-0 shutout by Vic Raschi.

But that wasn’t Mantle’s first game in New York as a bona fide member of the Yankees – and that’s where the startling part comes in.

Check this out:

(C) Associated Press 1951

That’s exactly what it looks like. Mantle posing with Joe DiMaggio – at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn. The date is Saturday, April 14, 1951 and it’s part of the annual pre-season exhibition games the Yankees and Dodgers used to play. The seriousness of these games (though they didn’t count) is evidenced by those patches on their left sleeves. It’s the 50th Anniversary of the founding of the American League and the patches were brand new. Mantle has just gotten off an overnight flight from Kansas City, having just again been classified as medically unfit to serve due to osteomyelitis by yet another draft board. DiMaggio played CF and Mantle RF, and in the second exhibition, on Sunday the 15th – as Jane Leavy reports in her epic biography The Last BoyMantle merely went 4-for-4.

Update: This was not just Mantle’s first game in New York, it was also his first game in a Major League stadium. In 1951 – and only in 1951 – the Yankees spent spring training in Phoenix. There were no big league parks west of St. Louis then, and when the team began the “tour” that annually preceded the regular season (and to some degree still does) it went west to places like Seals Stadium in San Francisco. On March 26, 1951, Mantle hit a home run at USC’s field that went at least 550 feet, possibly as much as 600. But then came a letter from the draft board and Mantle had to leave the Yankees for nearly two weeks.

Note what’s painted onto the press box level in the fabled Brooklyn ballpark. WMGM was the Dodgers’ radio flagship station (at 1050 AM, it had been, and would again, become WHN). But it was just an exhibition game. Would Mantle’s debut have even been on the radio that day?OK, so I can’t find the television listings for April 14th.

But there you have it: at minimum, Mantle’s first game ever in New York, on Saturday April 14, 1951, was broadcast by the Yankees’ station (WINS, with Mel Allen and two new colleagues who were replacing Curt Gowdy, named Bill Crowley and Art Gleeson), and was also carried by the Dodgers’ station, WMGM, with their announcers.

Wait.

The Dodgers announcers? In 1951?Red Barber on the left, then beginning his 13th year in the Brooklyn booth. In the center, Connie Desmond, Barber’s sidekick since 1942. And on the right, the kid, the local fellow who had just joined the team in the middle of the prior season…Vin Scully.

Updating: I asked my old friend (and my second boss) and Dodgers’ broadcaster Charley Steiner to check with Vin this evening to make sure he didn’t have that weekend in 1951 off for some reason. Vin says he has no recollection one way or the other (I mean, it was at least 10,000 games ago) but doesn’t think he wouldn’t have been working the exhibition games, especially the ones in New York, and recalls doing so throughout that era. So I think it’s safe to say that Vin Scully broadcast both Bryce Harper’s Major League debut tonight, and Mickey Mantle’s first game in New York just 61 years, and two weeks, ago!

Amazing.

By the way, one more relic. Just in case you get to go back in time, print this out:

What Do You Think Of This Guy Scully?

T.J. Simers of The Los Angeles Times has an almost unbelievable column today (and trust me, I’m using “almost” deliberately – some of them are unbelievable), which quotes a Dodgers’ season ticket-holder as saying he’s received a survey from the team asking him (and presumably others like him) to grade the performance of Vin Scully.

While that sinks in, let me regurgitate some basic facts. Vin Scully joined the Dodgers early in the season of 1950. He has been connected with that team so long that two of the eight National League franchises the day he got there, have since moved, and a third has moved twice. Four of the other five have each twice replaced their ballparks. Between expansion and relocation, two-thirds of all the big league clubs are newer at this than Scully is. The late Bob Sheppard, considered an institution at Yankee Stadium since time immemorial, started the year after Scully did, and retired three years ago. He has broadcast Dodger games under twelve U.S. Presidents. Scully has been with the Dodgers for 100% of their seasons in Los Angeles and is generally credited with personally selling the sport and the franchise in its new home. If he isn’t the game’s all-time greatest announcer – if he isn’t sports’ all-time greatest announcer – he’s no worse than second or third.

And the unceasingly tone-deaf Dodgers are asking their fans if he’s any good, in the way that – well, I don’t know, maybe the way ESPN would have asked its viewers after I did the one and only game I ever did (or am ever likely to do) as a major league baseball play-by-play man, in 1993:

On a scale of 1 to 5, “They wanted my opinion of Vin Scully in the following eight areas: 1. Knowledge of baseball; 2. Knowledge of Dodgers organization; 3. Objectivity; 4. Accuracy of calls; 5. Storytelling ability; 6. Focus on the game; 7. Style; 8. Overall performance.”

Simers infers (and I think it’s a reasonable assumption) that somebody in The Fortress Of Solitude On Elysian Park Avenue must be seriously thinking using the poll results against Vinnie. Seems unlikely they’re going to give him an award or a bonus based on whether Steve From Pasadena has given him a 4 or a 5. More likely this is an anti-Scully move in the making, either in an effort to get him to retire, or perhaps in contract negotiations. Either way, it’s madness. Sandy Koufax and Fernando Valenzuela have their enduring legacies but you could add their reps together to those of Don Drysdale and Steve Garvey and pretty much any other fan favorite, and the cumulative weight still wouldn’t reach up to the top of Vin’s ever-polished shoes.

Moreover, if anybody actually attempted to run Vin out of his job before he was ready, the Dodger faithful would rise up with righteous wrath and run the McCourt ownership group out of town faster than you can say “Bankruptcy Referee.”

I am reminded of something that happened years ago. And I put this in this context: I was so nervous about meeting him that I couldn’t screw up the courage to even attempt it until I’d been on television and radio in L.A. for two years. When I finally did, Vin said “I thought maybe you didn’t like me, and it’s funny, because I listen to you every afternoon on KNX. Where on earth do you get those ‘This Day In Baseball History’ facts?” I blurted out my admiration, and my sources, and I’m proud to say he has been dropping these delightful nuggets into his broadcasts for the last 25 years.

Anyway, more recently than that, maybe ten years ago (or about a sixth of his career ago), I found myself in the extraordinary position of sharing one of those priceless “Let’s Complain About Our Bosses” sessions – with Vin Scully! The bosses were two branches of the same octopus (I worked for Fox, and the Dodgers were owned by them) and Vin couldn’t understand why the team suddenly wanted to make changes in his telecasts without consulting him. “I think, just by accident, I probably have a good idea what these viewers want from us, after fifty years. I mean, just humor me and let me go on thinking that!” Why, he wanted to know, did Fox insist on making his game telecast look just like that of the Pirates? “I love Pittsburgh. No offense meant to Pittsburgh. But why should my broadcast look like Pittsburgh’s? Or Pittsburgh’s, like mine?”

The Dodgers defended the poll to Simers by saying they ask their fans about lots of stuff, including all the announcers.

Which brings me back to a version of Scully’s question from 2001:

Why?

When you’ve got Vin Scully, why would you want him to be exactly like anybody else? Why would you even reduce him to being compared to anybody else?

Like A Good Piece Of Art

This is not intended as an insurance advertisement, just a freeze from ESPN’s coverage of the Home Run Derby that struck me as bordering on art: the shadowed silhouettes of fans in the right field bleachers at Angel Stadium during David Ortiz’s ups.

IMG_0105.jpg
2010 HOME RUN DERBY (C) MLB/ESPN

Nice, huh?
MORE ON BOB SHEPPARD AND PUBLIC ADDRESS ANNOUNCERS:
A commenter on the last post quotes a second version of the only major gaffe committed in the 57 seasons the late Mr. Sheppard announced Yankee games at Yankee and Shea Stadiums. In the version I recounted, a faulty microphone caused his editorial comments about starter Shane Rawley (“if you call that a pitcher”) to echo around the ballpark. In the version the commenter cut-and-pasted, Bob recalled it as Rawley entering a 1982 game in relief and his first pitch getting whacked for an extra base hit, leading to a different comment (“some relief pitching”) going out over an open mic. 
In point of fact, I heard both versions, from Bob. Since Rawley, otherwise effective with the Mariners and particularly the 1987 Phillies, spent his entire two-and-a-half years in the Bronx pitching like the Human Torch, either version could be correct (maybe even both). My point in telling the story was that after initially being terribly embarrassed by the gaffe, Bob came to embrace it and enjoy it as much as the rest of us cherish some of our on-air bloopers (my favorite of my own can’t be repeated or reprinted – I’ll spare you).
This reminds me that one of the first clues as to the identity of Bob’s forgotten predecessor was a open-mic blooper so hilarious that it was recorded by all of New York’s many newspapers in the ’40s, and has since passed into baseball lore – but attributed almost exclusively to another PA man. A few fans sitting front-row in fair territory had draped their overcoats over the then low fence in the outfield. The next day, the papers all reported that the Yankee Stadium announcer had inspired a roar of laughter from the crowd by intoning “Would the fans sitting in right field please remove their clothes…” 
Remarkably, not one of the eight or nine beat reporters – who used to fight each other for details in a way we can’t comprehend today – said who the PA announcer was! This was the first hint that his anonymity was being protected for some reason. Later evidence proved the reason was obvious: it was Yankees’ Public Relations man Arthur “Red” Patterson, and the writers certainly weren’t going to tick off their official conduit to the club by publicly humiliating him by name.
A year or two later, Tex Rickards, the Dodger PA announcer whose style would be the exact opposite of Sheppard’s (earthy, gravelly, sitting not in the press box but next to the Dodger dugout, often wearing a team jacket reading “Dodger Announcer”), made the exact same mistake. Rickards’ version of “will the fans sittin’ in the outfield please remove dere clothes” has gone into history. Patterson’s is an almost forgotten footnote – except he did it first.
Incidentally, the doubling of duties was not unique to New York. A remarkable recording of a Yankees-Tigers game in Detroit from 1934 has Tigers’ radio play-by-play man Ty Tyson telling his listeners that Luke Hamlin was coming into pitching, then, with an audible click, he turns on the PA microphone and makes the same announcement to the crowd.

Imagine Vin Scully doubling as the Dodgers’ voice, on air, and in Dodger Stadium!
One last note about Mr. Sheppard. Visiting with my friend Gary Cohen after the Mets’ game yesterday (and congratulations to Gary, Ron Darling, and Keith Hernandez for placing second to Vin in GQ Magazine’s ranking of the best TV booths in the game), he told me that Ralph Kiner had mentioned during the broadcast that when Ralph joined the Mets’ crew in 1962 he sought Sheppard’s advice on enunciation and clarity – which gives you a sense of the esteem with which he was held, relatively early in his remarkable career.


Now If He Can Just Add Mets And Yankees

Jon Garland is, as I write this, making his Dodger debut against the guys who were his teammates until Monday night, the Arizona Diamondbacks. He joins a pretty limited group: those who have been the property of both Los Angeles teams (I know, I know, Anaheim), and both Chicago teams (though he never played for the Cubs).

Garland just “crossed the hall” in the parlance of the great Mr. Scully, who recounted his favorite story of a player appearing in uniform for both teams in the same series. In 1952, at the start of a doubleheader, Brooklyn spare outfielder Cal Abrams shouted out something derisive from the Dodger dugout at the manager of the visiting Reds, Luke Sewell. Dodger manager Chuck Dressen, a pretty fiery guy, told Abrams (according to Vin) “that’s great, keep it up. So, for nine innings, Abrams rode Sewell unmercifully. Then after the first game ended, Dressen went up to Abrams and said ‘I have to inform you, you have been traded to the Cincinnati Reds.’ So poor Cal had to go across the hall and introduce himself to the man on whom he had been chewing for nine innings.”
The Abrams story, as with virtually everything else Vin has ever said, checks out neatly, courtesy the best historical baseball site there is, Retrosheet. Abrams in the record books as having been dealt by the Dodgers to Cincinnati on June 9, 1952 – the day after the two teams completed a doubleheader in Cincinnati. So if it didn’t happen after the first game, it could have easily happened after the second. If Abrams and Sewell had a tense relationship thereafter, it didn’t last too long: Sewell was fired at the end of July.
Back to the Garland symmetry: there is Upton Spidey Sense too tonight. B.J. sprained his ankle in the fifth inning of the Rays’ game with Boston. Hours later, brother Justin was a late scratch at Dodger Stadium because of “contact lens issues.”

Vin Scully, Voice Of The Yankees

The advent of the Mets’ annual visit to Dodger Stadium always reminds me of one of the greatest baseball stories nobody tells.

Let’s correct that.
A decade ago, when I was still working full-time in sports and in Los Angeles, it was the Yankees coming to town for an exhibition game, and, with them, my friend Michael Kay, at that time still a member of their radio team. Michael is usually pretty direct, but on the field before the game, he was hemming and hawing something awful until I finally blurted “out with it!” He explained he was just too nervous to introduce himself to the legendary Vin Scully, even though both were not only major league broadcasters, but also alums of Fordham University in New York.
Mike was still repeating his apology when I explained I knew exactly how he felt. When I had first worked in Los Angeles as a local sportscaster in the ’80s, it had taken me two years to screw up the courage to introduce myself to this nonpareil of my business. As I reassured Michael, Vin was easily the nicest famous person in the sport, maybe in the country. And he always had a story that in some way related to you.

Little did I know.
As Michael began to hyperventilate, I made the introductions. Vin asked about Fordham, about Mike’s youth, about his newspaper career, about the Yankees. And then came the story: “Michael, did you know; Keith, I don’t even think I told you this — I nearly became the Voice of the Yankees?”
Absolute silence for two or three beats, and then, from Kay and Olbermann, a joint “whaaaat?”
“When the Yankees let Mel Allen go in 1964, I got a phone call from the man who they had brought in to run their broadcasting operation, Craig Smith,” Vin began. “He had been in charge of the World Series broadcasts forever, so I’d known him about ten years by then. And he asked me if I’d like to come home to New York and become the lead announcer. He offered a very handsome salary, and a long contract.
“Well, I was amazed, as you can imagine. I’d found a wonderful home here in Los Angeles, but remember, this was only seven years after the Dodgers left Brooklyn. I was still a New Yorker through and through. Plus, here was a chance to work again with Red Barber. And recall, too, that this was just before the Yankee dynasty collapsed. As much as Mr. O’Malley had done here and in Brooklyn, the Yankees were still the marquee name in sports. If it had been 1958 or 1959, when I still missed New York so, I would’ve said yes before he hung up the phone.”
“So, I thought long and hard about that one. But I had a young family, and I think we had all just truly adjusted to living here – takes just about seven years, I think – and in the end I turned it down.”
Michael and I each sputtered various observations about how changed the baseball world might have been. Vin Scully doing the Yankee games? Would the franchise still have ebbed with such a benign but effective salesman at the microphone? Would the Dodgers’ roots, still growing in 1964-1965, have gone in as deeply as they did? Would CBS’s failed experiment in corporate ownership have succeeded, and George Steinbrenner never have bought the Yankees? What would have happened to the man to whom the Yankees gave the job Scully turned down? Would Joe Garagiola have ever wound up on The Game Of The Week, or The Today Show?
Vin laughed. “Oh, to tell the truth, I don’t think it’d made that much difference. It’s not very important.” He excused himself to go back to preparing for his broadcast, and, as usual, made it seem like I had done him a great favor by introducing Michael to him. After Vin had left, Michael and I sat there on the Dodger bench for a few moments in silence. Then he said “If he had been the Yankee announcer when I was growing up, I never would have dreamed of applying for a job as his gopher, let alone as his partner.” I told him that once again I knew how he felt – it was very tough knowing that my sportscasts often preceded Vin’s play-by-play on cable. It seemed somehow a sacrilege to pretend to deserve to be on the same channel.
Still, think of it: 45 years of “Hi again everybody, it’s time for Yankee Baseball!” Or maybe Steinbrenner would’ve quarreled with Vin and eased him out. Or, likeliest of all the alternate-galaxy theories: working in New York, where in the ’60s all the network and advertising executives were still located, Vin Scully would’ve gone on to the Game Of The Week, or something even higher up on the tv food chain, a lot earlier than he actually did.
Who knows – maybe he’d still be doing it – and doing it on NBC.
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