All those years of listening to Vin Scully tell stories — over the air, and to him personally — has given Dodgers team historian Mark Langill his own qualified story-telling set of skills.
Langill told about a dozen Scully-related stories to a group of library visitors last Tuesday in Sierra Madre, some of which we touched on in the story on him in Sunday’s editions, and some may be ones you’ve heard before.
But we’ll let Langill tell them again.
== “One of the things that I think are telling about what made him a success is the story he tells about when he was Fordham Prep school in New York, and Larry Miggins, a classmate who was a couple of years ahead of him, were sitting around one time talking about their futures. Vin knew he wanted to be a sportcaster. Miggins was one of the school’s best athletes. Would it be something, Vin said to him, if you were in the major leagues? And wouldn’t that be something, Miggins said, if you were an announcer and I hit a home run when you were behind the microphone.
“Now it’s 1952. Miggins was with Cardinals in 1948, but Vin didn’t join the Dodgers until 1950. The Cardinals and Dodgers meet in May of ’52. Miggins is a reserve outfielder, and Vin is only calling two innings a game on the radio. So the chances are things aren’t going to happen as they once talked about. In the fourth inning, Larry comes into the game, and Vin happens to be behind the mike. And guess what happens?
“As Miggins is circling the bases on his home run, Vin says it’s the only time he had difficulty keeping his composure as it all comes back. He called Larson’s pefect game (in the 1956 World Series), Kirk Gibson’s home run (to win Game 1 of the 1988 World Series), but he’s always had that Larry Miggins moment. Just try to plan that.”
And here’s the box score.
== Before anyone could bring it up, Langill told the audience: “People always ask: Who’s going to replace him? You won’t, because the format will not exist any more. As far as one person talking on the air, which goes back to Red Barber, we were lucky when (Walter) O’Malley was trying to sell baseball to the West Coast and he asked Scully if maybe he could cheer a little more for the Dodgers on the air. He tactfully said: ‘I was taught to be neutral as a reporter,’ and O’Malley was OK with that. You don’t see Vin making appearances on all kinds of TV shows, you’re not sure what his political slants is, he doesn’t tip his hand too much — because he wants you to enjoy the broadcast, to think of the game and of baseball. That’s the amazing thing about him.”
== On whether Scully should or shouldn’t have been involved in Fox’s All-Star Game broadcast: “It’s important to let him end this on his terms. Earlier this season, there was talk of ‘Let’s have Vin do the All-Star game,’ and there were petitions signed. But what people don’t realize is that had Vinny been on the Fox telecast, it would have been Vinny. He’s a soloist. To ask him to be part of an ensemble wouldn’t have been fair. It’s not not him to be another talking head.
“Plus, he’s 88 years old. Maybe he wanted that time with his grandkids, be at home and rest. I don’t know any other 88-year-old who can do nine innings and sound wonderful and still have amazing recall on the air. The other day, he was asked to do a lunch that was planned for the upcoming Notre Dame-USC football game, the Friday after Thanksgiving. He couldn’t make it, but as he was thinking, he started a story about taking a flight to Dallas … and USC was playing Notre Dame, and USC was losing so badly early, but when the plane landed, the pilot announced to everyone that the Trojans had won, ‘but we thought he made a mistake.’ It turned out to be the 1964 game.”
== On his approach to calling baseball, a sport he played in college: “Once he was scheduled to do a tennis match, so he went out and took lessons. He wasn’t a natural tennis player. He could do a golf broadcast, because he was a golfer. As for football, he didn’t play it, but he hired Jack Faulkner, an assistant coach with the Rams (defensive line, 1971-’79, then became the general manager) who taught him the fundamentals. John Madden became Vin’s partner in the CBS booth, and people thought that Vin could then yield to John when it came to football questions. But part of Vin’s genius was he knew it was easier to ask a question if you already knew the answer. He wanted to know as much about the game so that when he set Madden up with a question, it wasn’t a blind question.”
== Two more snap shots that revealed something:
“I remember one time when someone bright in an index card that had been signed by Red Barbar, and they asked Vin to sign it. He was particular about signing his name always below Barber, never above it.
“Another time, I remember him doing all the booming introductions to an Old Timers’ Game. And afterward he was about to leave. I asked him, ‘You aren’t going to watch the game?’ He replied with something that wasn’t stern but it was direct: ‘I prefer to remember them the way they were.’ That’s just a special way of thinking. He saw players in the bigger context. It was never about the stats.”