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A Dodgers’ home opener without Vin Scully? It only happened once in his broadcasting career until Tuesday.
What’s described as a bad cold kept the 84-year-old Hall of Fame broadcaster at his Hidden Hills home, and could lead to him missing more games this week, team officials indicated.
Scully started his 63rd season with the franchise when the Dodgers opened the season in San Diego last weekend, but the effects of the illness that had been going around the team’s roster hit him Sunday, when it was decided that instead of doing an extended call of the game for the three innings of simulcast, he only call the action for the Prime Ticket TV feed.
The last time Scully missed the Dodgers’ first game of the season was in 1977, when he first joined CBS’ crew covering the Masters golf tournament in Augusta, Ga. He has otherwise been part of the team’s home opener 61 of the last 62 seasons going back to Brooklyn with Red Barber.
Charley Steiner found out early Tuesday that he’d be moving from the KLAC-AM (570) radio booth to do the call Tuesday on Prime Ticket, paired up with Steve Lyons, who in recent seasons has been working with Eric Collins on select Dodgers road games. Rick Monday ended up calling the game solo on the radio.
“I probably missed Vin more than anyone else today,” mused Steiner after Tuesday’s 2-1 Dodgers victory. “Pinch hitting for Babe Ruth? That’s tough. Maybe I should have been more nervous, but I really wasn’t.”
Steiner, part of the Dodgers’ broadcast crew for the previous seven seasons, said he got a call at about 7:15 a.m. Tuesday and “had no idea” that he’d be told that his assignment would be changing.
He told the Prime Ticket audience in the opening of the broadcast: “Vin Scully, not with us today, he has a bad cold, so a couple of long men come out of the bullpen in relief.”
The last time Steiner remembers anything similar was when Jon Miller came up with laryngitis prior to calling a 2000 World Series game in New York, and Steiner stepped in for him on ESPN Radio.
Joe Torre, the former Dodgers manager in attendance and one-time TV play-by-play broadcaster for the California Angels, said that he was “certainly disappointed” for Scully.
“I go back to the Brooklyn Dodgers with Vinny,” said Torre. “I know what he represents and who he is.”
Fernando Valenzuela, the former Dodgers’ Cy Young Award winning pitcher and an analyst on the team’s Spanish-language radio broadcast, said: “I know he wants to be here, but health is first. If he’s not here, I know he feels bad. He loves to be in the stadium all the time.”
Scully’s voice wasn’t completely silent from the opening day festivities. A video shown on the message board used his call of Sandy Koufax’s perfect game in 1965, Kirk Gibson’s 1988 World Series home run, Valenzuela’s 1990 no-hitter, and Monday saving the American flag in center field in 1976.
The Dodgers saluted Scully, as well as Hall of Famer Spanish-language broadcaster Jaime Jarrin, entering his 54th season, prior to the introduction of the starting lineups, as public address announcer Eric Smith asked the fans to “give (Scully) a cheer and wish for a speedy recovery.”
Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp he hoped Scully got well soon, and, after asking how long it had been since he missed a game, remarked: “That’s a long streak. I just hope he gets better and I see him in the next couple of days.”
Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw, who lasted only three innings on opening day in San Diego before he left the game with the flu before making his second start Tuesday, added: “I haven’t gotten to see him yet (this season). I hope I didn’t give it to him.”
= Staff writers Jill Painter and J.P. Hoornstra contributed to this story.