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Wednesday 28th Jun 2017

As I have written often, the Dodgers were my baseball team as a kid.

I did grow up in Northern California, where the Giants had only played in San Francisco for a couple of years in 1959, when baseball caught my eye. It was the year the Dodgers beat the White Sox, although that did not have nearly as much to do with my identification with the team as did my notion to be different. Not that I meant to be contrary. I just always gravitated to the underdog/other side of whatever.

Since everyone else in my universe was a Giants fan, I took a fair amount of guff from my brother and his friends and even my friends, because I preferred Willie Davis and Maury Wills to Willie Mays and Jim Davenport.

As a picked on little brother, the smallest of the pack, I found my childhood consolation with music, movies, books, and then baseball, and the Dodgers were the leaders of the pack. The NL was a tight consortium in those days, with just eight teams, all loaded with one star or another. The Reds had Frank Robinson, the Pirates Clemente, the Cubs Banks, the Braves Aaron and Mathews, for example. And that meant any time we went to see a game, there were stars abounding.

But, the Dodgers, with Koufax and Drysdale, were so special to me during a time that was particularly tough all over, for the 60's were indeed that time of unrest, and they were also the years of my formative schooling. They were also the years, from 1963-1969, that I suffered the most from Crohn's disease. So those things, books like "The Catcher in the Rye," movies like "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance," songs like "Please, Please Me," and the Bums having a good day were all of importance that was magnified to say a 12-year-old.

Many was the night I went to sleep, adjusting the clock radio that sat on my night table, pulling in a scratchy KFI, the Los Angeles flagship station that carried the Dodgers. And it was there I heard Scully, and his partner Jerry Doggett, wax on about Union 76 Oil and Farmer John's sausages between innings.

I remember the pain of the Dodgers collapse in 1962, and the blitz of the Yankees in 1963, victory over the Twins in 1965, and the thumping handed over by the Orioles in 1966, when girls and hippiedom entered my universe.

Of course, the common denominator of the Dodgers at the end of their days in Brooklyn, to their first days at Chavez Ravine, to the days of the Lopes, Garvey, Russell, Cey infield to the present is Scully, who is indeed retiring at the end of this season, at age 88, following 67 years of tracking Dodger Blue.

A few years back, when I was still chasing stats for MLB.com, I was walking out of the press dining room at ATT when I spotted Scully, perfectly attired in a blue flannel sport coat with charcoal gray slacks. He was leaning against a wall outside the door to the Dodgers radio room, talking on a cell phone. 

I had actually seen Scully in the dining room before games for a number of years, often even sharing meals with my friends like David Feldman and Michael Duca, who were Official Scorers. But, I was always too shy to ever want to crash their table and pay any respects.

But, with a good 40 minutes before first pitch, and the voice of the Dodgers right there, I waited till Vinny's call was finished.

I approached Scully, somewhat shyly, and he looked up and I told him just how important his voice and that team was to a sick kid, struggling to make sense of an increasingly crazy world. How I lived as a sole Dodger fan in the midst of Giants fanatics, and that I tuned him in on my radio at night to make me feel some kind of connection to something on the planet.

Vinny looked me right in the eye as I blurted all these incidentals to him, rambling for a minute or so, then sighing, and the voice of the Dodgers graciously took my hand and shook it, thanked me for sharing these details with him, finishing with "it's stories like these that validate my years of work."

It was all kind of surreal: the best voice in baseball thanking me for simply listening to and acknowledging him. 

It certainly made my day, and it is one of those moments I will treasure in my memories always.

Thank you Vinny, for being an anchor to a distraught kid during many years of uncertainty, and then validating the same kid, grown up, 50 years later with your kind words.

I will miss your voice, and spirit, but do enjoy your well deserved retirement!

 

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