Op-Ed

Vin Scully, pitch perfect for the Dodgers

Sometimes it seems that if you don't say it, it hasn't happened.

I know what you mean, but I don't look at it that way. The first thing I had to prove in Southern California was that I was fair; that I wasn't rooting for the Dodgers on the air. I hope after all these years people realize, he's accurate. If he says it was a great play, it must have been a great play, not because a Dodger made the play.

Did you ever see a call and think, that's not right?

Oh I have, and I've tried very hard — I admire the umpires; it's such a difficult job. We have a million dollars [in equipment] just to show you somebody being safe or out at first base. And 99% of the time the umpire's right. But if they make a mistake, I just try to gloss over it. Just as I hope somebody would gloss over my mistakes too.

There's a big discussion in baseball: We can see whether the play was called properly and correct it if necessary. The fear is that it would take too much time. But eventually, maybe they'll do like football, and have a man upstairs to say yes or no quickly.

Maybe we'll have bases fitted with electronic sensors to determine when someone's safe?

I can't imagine it coming to that, but I never imagined domed stadiums and AstroTurf! But I hope not. An honest disagreement, where the manager comes out and argues — I think the fan really likes that, especially if they're with the manager. They would love to run down on the field and argue, but they leave it in his hands.

You sometimes let the stadium noise tell the story — like the minute-plus when you didn't say a word after Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth's home-run record.

When I was very young I fell in love with the roar of the crowd. [Listening to] college football, I'd crawl under the big radio. Somebody on either team would do something and the crowd would be thrilled. Once I got into the business, I realized there's nothing better than the roar of the crowd, so I tried to call the play as quickly and as accurately as possible and then get out of the way and let the crowd roar. What could you say that would be better?

Do you have a different voice for radio, for TV, for every day?

It might be a little different when I have a headset on and [with] the crowd [sounds]. I did learn that when you're going to talk almost nonstop for three hours, you try to keep your voice more from the diaphragm than maybe your ordinary at-the-breakfast-table voice.

Baseball has had the White Sox scandal, the strike, steroids; how does it survive?

The game is greater than the people who play it. There's a difference between baseball and other sports. Everyone has played a little bit of ball, but not many people have played football, not many people are tall enough to play basketball. But baseball touches everybody. In springtime, you see pictures of nuns playing catch. Everybody plays it.

Another thing is, the baseball fan knows in his heart and soul that he knows as much as any manager alive today. That's why they come; that's why they second-guess. You're not going to have a football fan second-guess the complicated maneuvers — they try, but they can't, and they know they can't. But baseball — oh, yes.

You're not on the road with the team anymore. Was it hard to make that break?

In the beginning it was a strange feeling to watch the bus pull away. But at this stage of my life, realistically, I treasure the time that I'm off as well as the time that I'm doing the game.

Do you listen or watch when they're playing out of town?

Oh no, I like to get away from it. I also don't want to lock my wife into it, that I'm going to sit there and watch the game. What I do is, in the morning, when I'm checking the papers, I'll make notes, so I'll know what they've done.

You've worked with a partner, with two partners on the air. How different is it from working solo?

When I did football for CBS, I [worked with] Jim Brown, the player, and the coach, George Allen. I had one on each side of me, and I'd be doing the play by play but also trying to remember, who did I ask the last question of, so I could balance everything? I did the game of the week in baseball with Joe Garagiola, and we had a lot of fun. We were just two characters sitting watching the game and making remarks.

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