The way it ended was just as perfect as the rest of it. ‘Class’ is a word often thrown around when discussing Vin Scully, and why not? He was the embodiment of it, and it came to be expected when listening to Dodger baseball. Every kid that grew up in Los Angeles in the last 60 years learned a lot from Vin: how baseball is played, how to respect others, and how to live life with unbounded joy.
And I do mean everybody. Vin bridged every divide—culturally, economically, you name it. They all love Vin. But Vin’s secret was never that he was a genius or some kind of baseball encyclopedia. He simply told stories. His broadcasts have been Los Angeles’ campfire for the last 60-years, and we all crowded around for the next tale. He became an entire city’s uncle, and we loved him accordingly.
One of my favorite Uncle Vin moments came early this year against the Giants. Madison Bumgarner was pitching, and Vin started to recount a story about how the pitcher once saved a rabbit from a rattlesnake, nursing it back to full health. Every now and then, he’d interrupt his story to add interjections like “1-1 pitch, sinker low, 2-1.” It was enchanting, and during the fourth inning of an early season ballgame, you couldn’t tune away.
There’s an atmosphere change that comes when Vin starts telling a story. They normally start with the word ‘now’: “Now, Jonny Gomes has lived a hard life…” “Now, the Marlins used to be a AAA team…” “Now, let’s go back to Ted Williams, Cleveland, Lou Boudreau…”
Any conversation you’re having hushes, and you tilt your ear forward to see what’s coming next. Restaurants hold their breath to better hear the voice from the TV in the corner. The stories almost never have much to do with baseball, and perhaps that’s the point. He views players as people first, and the stadium as a grand showcase for their characters. He turned baseball into a wonderful drama, and we all took something away from it. When he wrapped up the Bumgarner story, he wasn’t even talking about a rabbit and a snake anymore. “You’ve gotta somehow survive,” he said. “You’ve gotta somehow battle back.”
And then there’s his famous quip from 1991: “Andre Dawson has a bruised knee and is listed as day-to-day. Aren’t we all?”
It was always “we” with Vin. He was preaching to a choir that he couldn’t see or hear, but he understood us as well as any friend could. His greatest gift was his extraordinary wealth of empathy. He understood better than anyone that people don’t follow sports for the numbers or even the joy of victory. They follow it to experience something larger than themselves, to connect with a community. And Vin was the one who made sure that everyone in that community knew one another and got along.
That’s why there’s been such an outpouring of love the past few weeks. That’s why I’m so sure that there will never be anyone like him again. That’s why my dad was weeping in the stands of Dodger Stadium last week as a sold out crowd gave Vin a seven-minute ovation. Vin stood there and waved. A minute in, he said, “Alright, alright. Enough,” and then he stopped fighting it. Watching his face, I swear you could see it hit him for the first time. He could see the impact he had, the lives he affected, the amount of people who truly love him. He started crying too, and we kept applauding louder and louder as the man who provided our soundtrack for so many years stood there slack-jawed and speechless.