Vin Scully memories from the media: Ken Korach

Ken Korach, right, with legendary Oakland A's broadcaster Bill King.

Ken Korach, right, with legendary Oakland A’s broadcaster Bill King.

They have been Vin Scully’s colleagues in the media. And as he heads into his final broadcast at San Francisco on Sunday, here are some more of their stories:

Ken Korach is finishing his 11th season as the Oakland A’s lead radio play-by-play man, having been with the organization for 21 seasons and in the American League for the last 25.
An L.A. native who was 6 when he heard Vin Scully’s first broadcasts of the Dodgers as the team arrived from Brooklyn, Korach worked his way through minor league  and college sports before making his Major League Baseball debut with the Chicago White Sox in 1992 on weekend games. He replaced longtime A’s broadcaster Lon Simmons in 1996 and worked with the legendary Bill King (the one-time Los Angeles Raiders radio voice), whom he eventually replaced upon King’s death in 2005. Korach wrote a book about King called “Holy Toledo: Lessons from Bill King” in 2013.
Last Friday, Korach left his A’s radio booth and bought a ticket at Dodger Stadium so he could attend Scully’s “Appreciation Day” festivities. He said it “exceeded my expectations, if possible.”
Here, Korach shares his memories and appreciation of Scully:

920x920“I don’t ever remember a time when I didn’t want to be a broadcaster.  I took me a few years – and three jobs — after college to apply for my first job since I was thinking that once I decided to go for broadcasting as a career I had to be totally committed.  There would be no turning back and, as you know, the lifestyle demands dedication and a willingness to roll with the schedule.

“So Vin’s was the first voice I heard.  I remember going to games and gazing at the press box and it seemed like a magical place.  I would see him working up there and imagine myself there some day.  Literally, I would announce the games to myself while sitting in the stands. I did this when I was probably 8 or 9 years old and it continued for years, even during football and basketball games.

“I don’t ever remember a time when I wasn’t fascinated by radio.  Back then, radio was the link to the team since the Dodgers only televised the nine games each year from Candlestick Park. The A’s offered me their TV job twice and I turned it down each time. I imagine part of the reason goes back to my childhood.  When I imagined myself broadcasting a game, it was always on the radio.

“Vin’s influence on me has been profound and wide-reaching.  I didn’t know back then, of course, what he was doing to prepare, but I imagine like osmosis in a way he instilled in me the importance of preparing.  It was because he’s always tried to make each broadcast special.  It was more than balls and strikes.  The stories, the background information.  Those things separate Vin and so I know that my desire to do my homework each morning probably went all the way back to listening to him.

“A brief story: Our A’s team was at Dodger Stadium in 2009 and Vin came running down to our booth where my broadcast partner, Vince Cotroneo, and I were hanging out before the game. Vin had a very specific question: ‘Can you tell me when Curt Young pitched against the Dodgers in the ’88 World Series?’ Curt is the A’s pitching coach. I felt I knew Vin well enough to kid him a little bit and I said, ‘Vin, you’re really hustling tonight!’

“Then he got a little stern and he said: ‘This is what we do, we tie it all together. I would feel terrible if Curt went to the mound for a visit and I didn’t know the last time he was on that mound was in the World Series.’

“There you go.  Those were the lessons he taught me when I was a kid all those years ago.  Even now, I’ll drive around and listen to the first three innings on XM or listen on the computer and he motivates me.  There have been several times this year when I’ve listened to Vin and decided I was going to go to the park a little earlier the next day, or I would do a little extra research on the other team’s starting pitcher. 

“The other thing is his sense of fair play.  This, I think is also a California thing.  All of the greats here did this.  Give the other team its due.  Never call your team ‘we.’ Sandy Koufax even mentioned this Friday night.  Bill King was really a big influence in this as well and would tell me:  Don’t be afraid to talk about the other team and don’t be afraid to get excited about a good play.  Our job is to describe the action and if the other team makes a great play we should appreciate that.

“The first time I interviewed Vin – and met him — was in 1997, the first year of inter-league play.  The A’s TV producer asked me to interview Vin for the pregame show.  A couple of things stand out, besides me being really nervous and Vin’s grace calming my nerves. His answer when I asked him the essence of a baseball broadcast:  ‘That you are believable.  That’s number one.  If you always say, “Well that was a great play by your team,” it won’t mean anything because the fans will be thinking: “He always says that.”  So, credibility is the most important thing.’

“The other thing was when I asked him about Kirk Gibson, and he went into this great answer and started by saying: ‘Let me tell you about Kirk Gibson.’ It was classic Vinny inflection and I’ve talked to other announcers who’ve interviewed him and they get the same feeling.  This voice that had come out of my radio for almost 40 years was now talking to me! It’s like an out-of-body experience.  The thrill of that and the feeling of being in his presence is something that is hard to describe.

10athletics02-popup“There are so many direct influences.  One that stands out is when I called Dallas Braden’s perfect game (in 2010). I remember listening live to Koufax against the Cubs (in 1965) and one of the things that Vin did was set the Dodgers’ defense in the ninth inning.  I remember hearing him on an interview saying that he did this because he was thinking that if those players ever listened to a tape of the game they would know they were part of history. So I set the A’s defense — each player and position – in the ninth inning of Braden’s perfect game.  I’m not afraid to admit this came directly from Vin.  It was the only thing I scripted in that inning. 

“I was talking to my dad the other day and he was commenting on the Vin ceremony and he said:  ‘Vin always says the most appropriate things.’ I’ve never known anyone who handles his celebrity so well.  As you know, there are so many people that just want to spend a minute or two before a game. He can’t possibly have time for everyone and yet he makes each of those encounters special.  I remember introducing him to my dad and step-mom before a game and it wasn’t a long exchange but he made it unforgettable for them by being genuinely interested in meeting them. It’s his graciousness.  He is such a role model on the air and off.  The way he deflects attention and has stayed so humble.

“Some more background: My dad coached baseball and basketball at Verdugo Hills High, then basketball at Metropolitan College (which merged with Trade Tech) and baseball at L.A. Valley College. Back in the Coliseum days, the Dodgers gave a pass to all of the high school coaches.  It was good for my dad and a guest and so we went quite a bit. Those passes ended when Dodger Stadium opened but, eventually, my best friend’s dad had season tickets and, so, beginning around ’65 or so I went to eight or 10 games a year.

“We were also big Angels fans and I remember my dad taking me to an entire series when the Yankees came to the old L.A. Wrigley Field in ’61.  We went to their home opener in ’62 at Dodger Stadium. We went to every game in town.  My dad went to USC and my mom to UCLA.  We went to all the college games, including the old Pac-8 basketball doubleheaders at the Sports Arena.

“My dad is still around and doing well at 97 and living in the Marina – which has been such a great gift, especially since we lost my mom when she was 21. But when I hear Vin’s voice calling a game, I almost get the feeling that my dad is talking to me. It’s that voice of authority in a way and a voice that is so comforting and so much like a family member.  And, a voice that you don’t want to let down.  I suppose, like a father, I want to please him although I know he isn’t sitting there listening. 

“After all, I’ve heard that voice for 58 years.”

= Previous Scully media memory stories:
= Ross Porter, Charley Steiner and Dick Enberg
= Joe Davis and a second entry later.
= Fred Claire
= Derrick Hall
= Josh Rawitch
= Joe Jareck
= Mark Langill
= Toby Zwikel
= Steve Brener
= John Olguin
= Brent Shyer
= Jon Weisman
= David Vassegh
= Jon SooHoo
= Matt Vasgersian


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