In the booth, Scully doesn’t judge, just de­liv­ers the calls

Broad­caster is one of the best play-by-play an­nounc­ers

The Covington News - - SPORTS - By Tim Dahlberg

LOS AN­GE­LES— The trib­ute was com­posed in the 28 sec­onds it took Henry Aaron to round the bases and the roar to fi­nally sub­side. Lis­ten to it to­day, and it will still make the hair on your arms stand up straight.

Vin Scully wasn’t work­ing from notes. He had noth­ing pre­pared be­cause, well, that might ruin the magic of the mo­ment.

He let the crowd in At­lanta tell part of the story. Then he spoke from his heart about the mag­ni­tude of it all.

“What a mar­velous mo­ment for base­ball. What a mar­velous mo­ment for At­lanta and the state of Ge­or­gia. What a mar­velous mo­ment for the coun­try and the world,” Scully told Dodger fans back home in Los An­ge­les. “A black man is get­ting a stand­ing ova­tion in the Deep South for break­ing a record of an all-time base­ball idol. And it’s a great mo­ment for all of us and par­tic­u­larly for Henry Aaron, who is met at home plate not only by ev­ery mem­ber of the Braves but by his fa­ther and mother.”

Un­til now, Scully thought most peo­ple had forgotten about it. At the age of 79, he still lives in the day-to-day world of play-by-play, where what you say in the first in­ning is his­tory by the first pitch of the sec­ond.

He’s had other mag­i­cal calls. Dodger fans would ar­gue that it’s magic ev­ery­time he sits in front of a mi­cro­phone and wel­comes them to a beau­ti­ful night at Dodger Sta­dium.

Scully was do­ing just that Wed­nes­day night, in his ope­nair booth two lev­els above home plate. Cup of cof­fee in hand, tie care­fully knot­ted and not a hair out of place, he set­tled com­fort­ably into a seat he has oc­cu­pied for al­most ev­ery home game since the sta­dium opened 45 years ago.

The hated Gi­ants were in town, usu­ally a se­ries that Scully rel­ishes for both the ri­valry and the his­tory that goes back to when he was broad­cast­ing for the Dodgers in Brook­lyn and the Gi­ants were play­ing across town at the Polo Grounds.

But this night was dif­fer­ent. This se­ries was dif­fer­ent.

Barry Bonds came to town with a chance to tie or break Aaron’s home run mark. If he did, Scully would be mak­ing the call, 33 years af­ter he did the same for Ham­merin’ Hank.

He wasn’t look­ing for­ward to it, but not for the rea­sons you might think.

“It’s noth­ing per­sonal but I’d just as soon have the Aaron one and not a sec­ond one,” Scully said. “The Aaron mo­ment was so pre­cious that if I got to do an­other call it wouldn’t be the same. It would just be the sec­ond one.”

The night be­fore, 56,000 fans jammed the sta­dium to watch the spec­ta­cle, many with por­ta­ble ra­dios to lis­ten to Scully’s broad­cast. It’s a tra­di­tion at Dodger Sta­dium, where most nights you hear snip­pets of Scully’s smooth voice as you walk through the park.

He is as much Dodger base­ball as Sandy Ko­ufax, even more a part of the fab­ric of the team than Tommy Lasorda. He’s the rea­son Dodger fans can ar­rive late and leave early, con­fi­dent he will paint the pic­ture for them while they lis­ten to their car ra­dios.

He’s a mod­est man who still seems sur­prised when peo­ple tell him that, as kids, they’d fall asleep lis­ten­ing to him on the tran­sis­tors they would sneak un­der the cov­ers. In the in­ter­est of full dis­clo­sure, I was one of those kids, thrilling to his calls of Sandy Ko­ufax pitch­ing a no­hit­ter and Don Drys­dale set­ting the score­less in­ning record.

My kids lis­ten to Vinny now, and some­day their kids might do the same. He shows no real signs of slow­ing down, even though he’s the only an­nouncer in base­ball who works solo and has twice the air­time to fill.

He won’t fill it with talk about per­for­mance-en­hanc­ing drugs or spec­u­la­tion about play­ers who might be out par­ty­ing all night and chas­ing Hol­ly­wood star­lets. That’s left to oth­ers. His job is to en­ter­tain you for a few hours with what is un­fold­ing be­fore him, and he is a be­liever in some­one be­ing in­no­cent un­til proven guilty.

“I am not a judge or a jury. It’s none of my busi­ness,” Scully said. “I just do foul lines.”

The game was now just a cou­ple hours away, and the first fans were com­ing into the park. Bonds was bat­tling cleanup, and Scully had some work to do to make sure he had the right facts and sto­ries for this night.

He had noth­ing pre­pared for Bonds, though, just as he didn’t re­hearse Aaron’s his­toric home run or Kirk Gib­son’s ninth-in­ning homer in the 1988 World Se­ries. It just wouldn’t seem right if it was in the can and, be­sides, the crowd would help out.

“To me the story is how the crowd re­acts and it will be very in­ter­est­ing to see how the crowd will re­act here,” he said. “There’s noth­ing I can say that will be pen­e­trat­ing and in­ci­sive.”

Dodger fans would dis­agree. They know bet­ter be­cause they’ve lis­tened to the Aaron call, the Gib­son call and thou­sands of calls in be­tween. They’ve heard magic on air. They know that no mat­ter what hap­pens on the field, they have a trea­sure in the booth.

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