The importance of being Vinny *

Sports Illustrated's Richard Hoffer pays eloquent homage to Vin Scully and his importance to Los Angeles in this week's issue. Hoffer used to cover sports for the LAT and may still live here for all I know. He gets it.

In a city that is predicated on transience, that celebrates change so famously, there is little room for local institutions....If the Brown Derby had really meant to last, it would have franchised.

But here's Vin Scully, age 80, at least one more year on his contract, as suspiciously carrot-topped as the day in 1949 that Red Barber discovered him ("Red Skelton just called," Vin's somewhat excitable Irish mom told him), still calling games (most of them, anyway), not just a comforting presence or a relic but a professional reassurance, always finding the lyric to the singsong music of the night.

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Someone was smart enough to transcribe Scully's ninth-inning call of Koufax's perfect game in 1965—just an example—in all its press-box poetry. Every paragraph is seeded with drama ("A lot of people in the ballpark are starting to see the pitches with their hearts"), bringing you to the edge of your seat ("He is one out away from the promised land, and Harvey Kuenn is coming up"). It was literature, all right, miraculously appropriate to the moment. ("Swung on and missed, strike two! It is 9:46 p.m.") Someone clocked him, too; he remained silent for 38 seconds after Kuenn fanned for the final out.

Of course, that wasn't the only humdinger. There was Kirk Gibson's shambling pinch-hit appearance in the opener of the 1988 World Series, set up when Scully ordered the NBC cameras to pan the Dodgers' dugout before the bottom of the ninth. ("Well, the man who's been there for the Dodgers all season, Kirk Gibson, is not in the dugout and will not be there for them tonight.") Gibson, iced up in the clubhouse, suddenly inflamed, and you know what happens next. After the game, Scully went down to then owner Peter O'Malley's box and realized all he could do was pace, goose-bumped.

There's also an item in SI about Dodgers youngster Matt Kemp becoming friends with CNN oldster Larry King, and about Malibu's own 46-year-old NHL star, Chris Chelios, entertaining a bunch of actor pals with the Stanley Cup in Detroit last week.

* Also: Tom Hoffarth at the Daily News digs through the SI vault to tote up how many times the magazine has written about Scully. Hint: It's a lot.

Hat tip: Dodger Thoughts


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