I didn’t grow up an outdoorsman, and it still feels a little silly to call myself such. Yet, by any reasonable interpretation of the word, I surely qualify. I fly fish year round and hunt four or more times a week when bird season opens.
But for some of the traditional activities we associate with outdoorsmen in the Northern Rockies — say prepping a pack string for a weeklong backcountry hunt — I’d be about as useful as a pimple on prom night.
I grew up a city boy in Southern California, where the outdoors of my youth consisted of three seasons: football, basketball (often played outdoors in that balmy winter climate) and, most importantly, Little League baseball.
Back then, being a baseball fan in Southern California meant being a Dodger fan. Sure, we liked the upstart Angels, but in the 1970s they were just that novelty act down by Disneyland.
The Dodgers are one of the great Major League teams, sporting a handful of World Series titles, and, more importantly, this is the team that broke the color barrier with Jackie Robinson. Then, when the team moved to Los Angeles, the Dodgers turned baseball into a coast-to-coast national pastime.
The Dodgers also had Vin Scully, for me simply the greatest announcer in sports broadcasting. I don’t mean that just for baseball, or for any particular era.
Scully is the best sports announcer ever. Full stop.
And after 67 years calling Dodger games, the 88-year-old Scully will hang up the mic for good on Oct. 2. Even Giant and Yankee fans will have to stop and appreciate the end of this great Dodger career.
The internet is filled with lists of Scully’s greatest calls. One of my favorites is when Dodger pitcher Fernando Valenzuela tossed the only no-hitter of his career, the first in the major leagues by someone of Mexican descent. His call after the final out: “If you have a sombrero, throw it to the sky!”
But his greatest moment came in the 1988 World Series, the last won by the Dodgers, and one most thought they had little chance to claim. In game one, Kirk Gibson, the National League’s MVP that season, but by October playing on two bad legs, limped to the plate to hit a walk-off home run for the Dodgers. They went on to upset the Oakland A’s in five games.
Gibson’s at bat was epic, lasting more than five minutes. It included three foul balls, four throws to first base by A’s closer Dennis Eckersley, who was trying to keep the tying run, Mike Davis, at first base, Davis’ stolen base, and then finally a full count.
When Gibson connects on Eckersley’s backdoor slider, driving it into the right field pavilion, Scully’s call is simple and pitch perfect:
“High fly ball into right field. She. Is. Gone.”
He then waits more than a minute to speak again, allowing the celebration at Dodger Stadium to fill in the details. Then Scully returns to the mic:
“In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened.”
There were other great calls, but more that any precise phrase, there is just the sense of place that Scully’s voice creates for so many of us who have lived in Southern California.
This is what I hear in his voice:
Summer nights, dangling our toes in the pool. Inside, my old man is watching the game, beer in hand. He’ll be asleep by the seventh-inning stretch (the alarm comes early when you’re a tradesman). The backyard is dark except for the flicker of the television coming from the house. Scully’s voice leaks out into the night through the screen door. It’s a voice I’ll always equate with summer and youth and the anticipation that somewhere, out just beyond the television glow, there was something amazing for us to discover.
Usually there was.
Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.
Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.