Vin Scully draws a crowd in 2008. [Gary Leonard is front and center.] Robert Beck/SI
Back in July of 2009, during the height of that baseball season, Vin Scully — then just 81 years old — told Bill Plaschke of the LA Times that he would likely do one more year at the microphone then retire. Apparently taken aback by the reaction around Dodger Stadium and in the larger community of fans who grew up with him, Scully recanted and said he didn't really mean it. Now it has happened again. Ben Bergman, a reporter for KPCC who does not usually cover the Dodgers, reported that in a conversation recently with Scully, the legendary announcer strongly hinted that he was leaning toward retiring after next season. The key quote was, "I’m pretty well sure – and I don’t want to go back and forth with it – but I’m looking to next year and thinking that should be about it.” That certainly leaves wiggle room on the eventual decision, but doesn't sound like Scully's meaning at the time could be misread. He was thinking that, perhaps, his time had come.
So the story once again swept the SoCal media on Wednesday and beyond on sites like ESPN.com. And once again the (possibly scooped) Dodger beat regulars called up Scully to ask: really? This afternoon he told the LAT's Steve Dilbeck that he hasn't decided and isn't even necessarily leaning. “I look at each year as possibly my last. Next year will be no different," Scully said. As for the KPCC story, he explained: "I wasn’t making a declaration. I guess it was misconstrued."
Well. For what it's worth, Scully has talked about the emotional tugs that stop him from retiring. Remember his poignant comments last year in Golf Digest:
Some people die twice: once when they retire, and again when they actually pass away. Fear of the first one is a big incentive for me to keep working. Players, writers, people who work at the ballpark and front office, when I quit I know I’ll never see them again. I’ve never been the type to come to the ballpark and hang out; I’ve gone to one game in the last 60 years that I wasn’t working. I keep working because I don’t want to lose my friends.
That's especially poignant coming from someone so widely loved. He has also said that one reason he never will cooperate on a book about himself is that he has told so many friends, colleagues and potential authors no through the years and he doesn't want to disappoint anybody. I wonder if that's what happens with these partial steps toward leaving the stage. When the word gets out, he has to look into the eyes of people he has worked with for decades. Some of them are media types who would love (and be sad at the same time) to get that scoop.
As a lifelong fan, I feel he has given his listeners all they could ask and more — 64 seasons ( and next year will be 65.) Vinnie, as we called him as kids, is one of the last ties to many, many childhoods, mine included. For tens of thousands of Angelenos, baseball fans or not, Vin Scully is the parent who didn't get old, whose voice is the same now as when they were 5 and 15 and 25. Available to hear just about every day during the spring and summer — all of our lives. There's no way a fan should begrudge the man a summer at home with his wife and grandkids.
Nor can we allow him to go without finding a way to say thanks. For the memories, for everything. In 1958, when he got here, almost every Los Angeles home came with a trash incinerator in the yard. There was one tall building. Ancient Red Cars still rattled along rails. Eric Garcetti had not been born. Think about the city Los Angeles has become. Vin Scully has been there for the whole ride.
Meanwhile, check out this in places lovely new Q-A between Scully and Daily News columnist Tom Hoffarth. "I go to the ballpark, I do the game, I go home," Scully says. He didn't care for Sen. John McCain's moronic tweet about the Dodgers going for a swim in the Phoenix stadium pool:
With all the troubles going on in this world, where we are relying on his judgment and ability to maintain relationships, staying calm . . . the only thing I could think of was as a politician forever trying to please his constituents, perhaps he responded so he could say, ‘See, I’m one of you. I’m mad too.’ It still concerned me that a man of such high authority and overwhelming responsibilities in this mad-house world could possibly make the statement he made. It was shocking. If that’s his best judgment, to say that (via Twitter), then I’m really scared.
Previously on LA Observed:
Vin Scully video of the night: 'It Takes Two' opening
Scully and Elizabeth Montgomery promo the Rose Parade in '66 (video)
Vin Scully's career put in perspective
Even the umpire loves Vin Scully (video)
Visiting blogger: A legendary voice deserves a voice
If it seems that Vin Scully repeats himself, well he does
Vin Scully to do fewer games, less travel