By Jack Neworth
Two Sundays ago, Vince Scully, the Dodger broadcaster for the past 67 years, did play-by-play of his final home game at Dodger Stadium. As each Dodger came to bat he tipped his cap to Scully in the booth. In story book fashion, the Dodgers won in extra innings, clinching the Western Division title for the 4th straight year. After the game there was a very special ceremony.
The entire stadium looked up at Scully, perhaps the greatest broadcaster in the history of any sport. Ever-humble, Vin stood open armed and grateful as he bid an emotional farewell to the adoring fans. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
Over the 133 years of the Dodgers, there have been many iconic Hall of Fame players. In the modern era, Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax are but four that come to mind. But the most beloved and valuable Dodger of all-time has to be Vince Scully.
Last week, the U.S. Senate, which hardly agrees on anything, honored “the life and career of Vince Scully.” Then, on Sunday in San Francisco, Scully broadcast his last game. His final sentence was fittingly simple and elegant. “I have said enough for a lifetime, and for the last time, I wish you a very pleasant good afternoon.”
At 22, and a recent graduate of Fordham University, Vinnie first started broadcasting for the Dodgers in 1950. To put it in perspective, Queen Elizabeth, the longest reigning monarch in U.K. history, was two years from ascending to the throne. Dwight Eisenhower, who would become the 35th President, was still in uniform. Think of how few people are fortunate enough to work at a job they love, and how even fewer do it for the same employer for 67 years.
Vinnie was more than an announcer, he was a friend. As a kid, with my trusty transistor radio, there was many a night that, with the lights out, I’d listen to Vinnie’s broadcast in bed before going to sleep. At Dodger games, as everybody had transistors, Vinnie’s poetic descriptions echoed throughout the stadium. But enough reminiscing, because a daunting task is at hand.
The Dodgers are facing the Washington Nationals in the 2016 National League Division Series with the Nats having the home field advantage. If they win that series and then if they win the Championship Series (two big ifs) they would be in the World Series for the first time since 1988. This quarter-century Dodger drought is the longest in franchise history going back to 1883. Yikes!
But consider the Chicago Cubs who haven’t been to the World Series since 1945 and haven’t won the Fall Classic since 1908. The Dodgers and Cubs have droughts they’d obviously like to end but, as both are in the National League, at best, only one will prevail. If it can’t be the Dodgers in the World Series, I’d want it to be the Cubs. (There might be a national celebration if the Cubs won the Series.)
During the past 25 years the Dodger have made the playoffs 9 times but they’ve never come close to making the Series. Could this be the year? They are as healthy as they’ve been all season and somehow it feels “in the air.” I say that because of Clayton Kershaw, who may ultimately be the best Dodger pitcher in history. When he missed two months due to injury most thought even being a wild card was doubtful. But somehow, in adversity, the team came together under first year skipper Dave Roberts, the likely National League Manager of the Year.
This year’s team actually has the feel of the ’88 team, only with better personnel. Probable Rookie of the Year, shortstop Corey Seeger, catcher Yasmani Grandal and third baseman Justin Turner had career years. With 25 home runs, outfielder Joc Pederson ranked 3rd on the team, while perennial Gold Glove first baseman, Adrian Gonzales, tied for team lead in RBIs. Kenta Maeda, in his first season pitching in the U.S., won a team-high 16 games and closer Kenley Jansen had an All-Star year.
Even outfielder Yasiel Puig, months ago seeming a lost cause, has shown a growing maturity to match his talent. Veterans like Howie Kendrick and Chase Utley, among others, contributed mightily. And the bullpen, a liability in years past, has been a mainstay. But will it be enough?
Yesterday was the first game against the Nats managed by former Dodger, Dusty Baker. Kershaw, snake bit in the post-season, pitched against 20-game winner and Nationals ace, Max Sherzer. Hoping the Dodgers won the opener, my fingers are crossed. (Which would explain any typos.)
The Dodger franchise has been in 18 World Series total, nine in Brooklyn, nine in L.A.. In Brooklyn they won only one World Series, 1955. Here, they’ve won five. Could it be six? For all he’s contributed for 67 years the team would dearly love to win for Vin. Winning the World Series might help lessen the pain of losing Vinnie. Or as Vinnie put it, “We should be focusing more on the tomorrows than the yesterdays.”
Jack Neworth also writes “Laughing Matters,” which appears every Friday. Jack is at facebook.com/jackneworth, twitter.com/jackneworth and firstname.lastname@example.org.