A few weeks ago, when Vin Scully took a fall getting out of bed and was hospitalized briefly, a friend of mine who is a big baseball fan shook his head and said, “You get to a certain age, you should just hang it up and go home.”
In a lot of cases, that’s true. It isn’t true of Scully. I was reminded of this yesterday afternoon when—thanks to the baseball package, one of the great inventions of this century—I was able to sit and watch Scully work his magic during the Dodgers-Diamondbacks game. For a baseball fan, listening to Scully broadcast a baseball game is like someone who loves classical music listening to Mozart or Beethoven.
Some of it no doubt is familiarity. Although I never got to hear Scully work Dodger games as a kid, he was there every Saturday for many years doing the NBC Game of the Week and he was also around a lot doing the NFL and golf on CBS. Part of it also is that unique cadence of his: the way he draws out ‘one and one,’ can be imitated but it is unique to him. It also seems as if every Dodger broadcaster who has followed him—I’m thinking mostly of Ross Porter and Rick Monday—has ended up picking up on Scullyspeak. The Dodgers are never the Dodgers they are the ‘Daaadgers,’ and Daaadger Stadium is almost always referred to as Chavez Ravine—which for those of you under 40 is the area where it is located.
I’ve written before about how much I enjoy listening to great baseball broadcasters. Bob Murphy was a huge part of my boyhood and I get a big kick out of listening to Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling on the Mets telecasts now. I don’t enjoy watching the team very much, but the broadcast is terrific, especially since there’s no covering up the team’s deficiencies in the booth. If you’d like to experience the opposite end of that spectrum tune in the Orioles or Nationals sometime. (Disclaimer: Cohen is a friend. Having said that, I don’t think you have to be his friend to appreciate his work).
There are plenty of other baseball broadcasters who are great fun to listen to: Joe Castiglione in Boston; Marty Brenneman in Cincinnati (also a friend though we agree on almost nothing); Dave Niehaus in Seattle and Howie Rose on radio for the Mets (okay, I have a Mets bias) come to mind. The game really misses Skip Caray and Harry Kalas.
But there’s still only one Scully. His calls are lyrical and his familiarity with the players and the game is still astonishing even at 82. Yesterday when the camera showed a shot of injured Diamondbacks pitcher Brandon Webb, he basically went through Webb’s entire life story in about 90 seconds. He wasn’t reading from the media guide either, you can tell when someone is doing that. Webb popped up on camera in the dugout and Scully just started talking.
There’s another thing about Scully: he’s a genuine star—he’s only been doing Dodger games for 61 years (!!!) now—who never acts like one. Although he doesn’t travel east anymore in the regular season, he does during the playoffs. Last October I ran into him—almost literally—in the press box in Philadelphia. We were walking through a door from the dining area to the press box area.
When I stopped to open the door for him, Scully said to me, “Aaah yes John, a man who believes in age before beauty, something I can admire.”
I told him I wasn’t sure if he was right on either count but that I was honored to open the door for him. He laughed and said, “We’re all just honored and lucky to be here aren’t we?”
I’m pretty sure he was 100 percent sincere when he said that which might explain why he still sounds so happy to be in the broadcast booth even after all these years. I hope he keeps doing what he’s doing for as long as he can do it because the day he isn’t doing Dodger games is the day that the ‘Daaadgers,’ won’t really be the ‘Daaadgers,’ anymore. Someone will sit in Vin Scully’s chair, but no one will ever replace him.
I am SO glad it is baseball season.
On a far less pleasant topic I am going to go over this Tiger Woods issue one last time and then people like ‘anonymous,’ who kept insisting on the posting site the last few days that there is some deep, dark secret I am hiding can either accept what I’m saying or not accept it and we’ll all move on.
I have never had any sort of personal run-in with Woods and he has never ‘done,’ anything to me that has caused me to dislike him. When Mike Wilbon said a few months ago I was angry with Woods for not talking to me for the book I did on Rocco Mediate and that’s why I was criticizing him for his behavior, he was, quite simply, mistaken. As I said before, I told Rocco when he first called about doing the book that I KNEW Tiger wouldn’t talk to me for the book and doubted, quite honestly, he’d talk to anyone but he’d have a better shot at it if someone else did the writing. The person who was upset was ROCCO because he’d done a number of favors for Tiger post-U.S. Open. If you don’t believe that, ask him sometime. He’s a very approachable guy.
‘Anonymous,’ sort of wants it both ways: On the one hand he says he bases his disbelief in what I’m saying on the Wilbon theory—which Mike has since withdrawn by the way after we talked the whole thing through. On the other hand he says I’ve disliked Tiger for years. How can both be true? Then he throws in John Hawkins silly comment about my ‘lack of a relationship,’ with Tiger because I don’t cover golf ‘fulltime,’ like he and some others do. I responded to that too: I’ve never claimed to have a ‘relationship,’ with Woods although I’d bet I’ve spent more one-on-one time with him than a lot of the guys he calls by nicknames in press conferences. That isn’t a lot of time but it is probably more than almost anyone other than Jaime Diaz, who may be the one writer who has some sense of who Woods is, having known him since he was 15.
My objection to Woods has more to do with the way he has treated people through the years than anything else: I’ve seen him blow by kids looking for autographs consistently since the day he turned pro (and the excuse that he can’t sign for everyone so therefore he signs for no one is not only tired and worn out it isn’t true; you have one of your flunkies cut off the line at some point and say, ‘Tiger has to go, but he’ll be signing again tomorrow.’ Sure, he might disappoint a couple kids but he’d thrill a hundred of them. Phil Mickelson, for the record, signs every single day for 45 minutes. Most players plan some time into their day to sign).
Woods has also been disdainful and condescending in most of his dealings with the media; he does almost nothing if it doesn’t involve money; he tells TV networks who he will or will not talk to based on how much they have or have not sucked up to him during broadcasts and his on-course behavior has been lousy from day one. (I’m not talking the profanity as much as the club-throwing and club-pounding. By 34 you should have that under control).
Tiger and I have had one major disagreement from day one and it is something we have discussed on a number of occasions: I always saw his dad as just another pushy stage-jock parent who got lucky that his kid was the one with ridiculous talent. Obviously—and understandably—he didn’t see his dad that way.
We had a lengthy conversation about this years ago over dinner in San Diego—yes, we had dinner—during which I said I objected to Earl cashing in on Tiger by writing not one but TWO autobiographies. “He wrote the first one because people kept asking him how he did it,” Tiger said.
“Okay,” I said, “Even though I don’t buy that he did anything, I’ll accept that. Why’d he write the second one?”
Tiger smiled. “Okay, good point,” he said.
So we agreed to disagree and we’ve done that through the years. I know the people around him—except for Glenn Greenspan who I knew for a long time before he joined ETW Inc. two years ago—think I’m the devil because I have consistently not bought into the Tiger off-course myth. Ironically, I thought Tiger was headed in the right direction a couple years ago (I wish I could remember exactly what he did, but there was something that impressed me. It may have been—sadly—his seemingly changed demeanor after he became a father) and actually wrote to Mark Steinberg to tell him that. Turns out I got that one wrong.
Bottom line: I don’t hate Tiger and he’s never ‘done,’ anything to me. I just disagree with a lot of what he’s done and feel like there are enough cheerleaders and apologists out there for him that I don’t need to be another one. I felt that way before November 27th and still feel that way. If cringing when Nick Faldo says, “after all Tiger’s been through,” means I’m ‘out to get Tiger,’ in some people’s minds, so be it.
And, to quote Forrest Gump, that’s all I have to say about that.