Monday, October 3, 2016

Farewell Vin Scully

I'm an Arizona Diamondbacks fan and have been ever since my hometown got the franchise. As a consequence, the Los Angeles Dodgers are major rivals and I have learned to have that special place in my heart for the Dodgers reserved only for other things I don't like, like molé, macaroni and cheese, people who take too long to get to the point, people who talk too much, people who talk during movies, and the Dallas Cowboys.

Just kidding, I don't hate anything as much as I hate the Dallas Cowboys.

But, my dad was a lifelong Dodger fan and up until the day we got a franchise, I used to bleed Dodger Blue.

I grew up in a great time to be a Dodger fan with a lot of great players like Steve Sax, Mike Scioscia, Pedro Guerrero and of course #34, the one and only, Fernando Valenzuela. We had Fernando Mania like you couldn't believe. Every Chicano kid that ever picked up a bat or glove in the barrio wanted to be Fernando.

My kid brother would mimic his delivery for hours, only to get yelled at by my dad for being a pitcher and taking his eye off the plate. Real Dodger fans get that.

The truth is we were hand-fed baseball since we were old enough to walk and for that entire time, Vin Scully WAS baseball too me. Whether it was crackling through the AM station on the radio driving around town with my dad, or coming out of the boom-box while my dad was under a car fixing something on a Saturday morning, Vin Scully's voice was what painted the picture of the game for us.  You could almost hear the color of the grass or the grit of the infield dirt in his voice.

Dad couldn't really afford to take us to Chavez Revine for a ball game and a Dodger Dog, but we listened religiously, whether we wanted to or not. That silky, gentlemanly voice of Vin Scully was like a throwback to the ol' timey announcers of baseball days long gone.

Back to Dem Bums from Brooklyn.

We didn't understand that then, but I understand and appreciate it now.

For a kid growing up in my generation, the best memory I have of Vin Scully is when he was calling the first game of the 1988 World Series between the Oakland Athletics and the Los Angeles Dodgers. My father believed the most important Catholics on the planet were Pope John Paul II and Tommy Lasorda and certainly not in that order. Kirk Gibson was the soul of the Dodgers that year and hadn't been playing that game because he had to bum legs.

And then 2 outs and the bottom of the 9th happened. The DH spot came up. Limping up the stairs with his bat in his hand was Kirk Gibson.

"And look who's coming up!" Vin said.

All of us boys and by dad, started cheering and making a raucous. The crowd at Dodger Stadium went crazy. And Vin did what any good broadcaster is supposed to do. He shut up and let the moment happen. Hearing the crowd lose it, only made us more anxious.

"All year long they looked at him to light the fire and all year long he answered the demands until he was physically unable to start tonight with two bad legs." Vin had set up the at-bat.

Did I mention Gibby was facing future Hall of Famer and one of the best closers of all time, Dennis Eckersley?

Eck was working the outside of the plate, trying to prevent Gibson from having something he could pull. Gibson got behind 0-2 early and eventually battled back to a full count.

"Gibson shaking his left leg, making it quiver like a horse trying to get rid of a troublesome fly" Vin explained about Gibson trying to get over a troublesome hamstring injury.

Mike Davis had stolen second base during the at-bat and that meant the Dodgers didn't need a home run, they just needed a base hit to score Davis from second base. The tension was building to a crescendo.

The payoff pitch was coming and Scully remarked, "Sax waiting on deck, but the game right now is at the plate."

Eck started his wind-up and it was an outside pitch. Gibson was like a coiled snake unleashing, reached over the plate and made contact. The minute he started his swing, my dad went from sitting on the floor to jumping up and down. He'd seen enough baseball in his life to know even before Gibby made contact.

CRACK!

"High fly ball into right field...she is..GONE!" is how Scully called it.

I have it memorized. I played it back in my head a million times. It was one of my most vivid memories of childhood. My dad was running around the living room exactly like Lasorda running out of the dugout. Gibson pumps his fist at waist level as he limped by second base. The crowd and the Abeytia boys all collectively lost their minds.

And Vin Scully was masterful. Again, he didn't say a word after calling the home run. Gibson completely made his way around the bases and the team met him at the plate. Vin let you hear the crowd and just marinate in the moment. He didn't step on the moment by talking over the crowd.

"In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened."

Scully summed it up completely in one sentence.

So perhaps its fitting that calling his last game for the Dodgers turned out to be another walk-off home run. This time for the Dodgers to clinch the NL West.

Turns out that was the last year that the Los Angeles Dodgers won the World Series. Throughout all the years, like a loyal Dodger fan, Vin Scully was there, painting the picture with his voice.

Could this be the year that Dem Bums recapture a World Series? Probably not. They don't have the bullpen and bats to go too deep into the playoffs.

But maybe, just maybe, spurred on by the retirement of the guy that has been their voice for so many years, they can come down with a little Dodger Fever in the playoffs. And maybe Dem Bums can do what Vin said back in '88 - make the impossible happen.



Since my Snakes are out, and my youngest daughter is a rabid Dodger fan herself - just this once, this Diamondback fan will say something he hasn't said since he was in high school...

Go Dodgers.

Farewell Vin Scully, thanks for the memories!

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Why did you not become a Cardinals fan when your state got a franchise? The Cards have been in Arizona since the '88 season, ten years before your beloved D-Backs were formed. Is it your tie to NA heritage?

The Lion Star said...

Partially.

But more so because the Cardinals weren't an expansion team. They were St. Louis team. We don't even have Cardinals native to Arizona. That is why there are still a lot of Cowboy and Raider fans in the valley. Had the NFL given us an expansion franchise, the Cardinal fan base would've been onboard sooner. It took more than a decade to get decent fan support.

Thats the bigger reason. Thanks for asking!

Anonymous said...

Makes sense!

Anonymous said...

Dodger baseball on KTAR 620AM in Phoenix. Until the taxpayerbacks moved in.

Go Blue!


H.G. Listiak fan