Pre-game ceremonies at baseball stadiums don't usually hold any real interest or emotion, even for hardcore fans. The hour before Friday's game at Dodger Stadium will be different.
It's the Friday night of Vin Scully's final home weekend as the voice of the Dodgers, meaning that for many Angelenos, perhaps for millions of people across Southern California, it's the last inning of a relationship that has lasted their entire lives. The Dodgers have decided that Friday is Vin Scully Appreciation Day, and it should tell you something that the pre-game ceremony will be televised live on KTLA Channel 5 and on SportsNet LA's English and Spanish channels, as well as on KLAC radio (AM 570.) No blackouts, no cable fees. The starting time is billed as 6:30 p.m.
What they have told us is that NBC sports host Bob Costas will narrate a video tribute to Scully, and that Dodger broadcaster Charley Steiner will narrate the on-field proceedings. Scully and his wife, Sandra, will be on the field. Expected to speak are Mayor Eric Garcetti, baseball commissioner Rob Manfred, Dodgers broadcaster Jaime Jarrín, Dodgers owner Mark Walter and actor Kevin Costner. The capper will be Sandy Koufax, the Dodgers great whose time overlapped with Scully in Brooklyn, and who played in Los Angeles from 1958-66. This might be the last time that Scully walks on the grass at Dodger Stadium and the final time he appears in public with his pal Koufax.
As part of the ceremony, John Williams will conduct members of the LA Philharmonic in a special arrangement of the national anthem. The Dodgers are opening the stadium parking lots at 4:10 p.m. and the stadium gates at 4:40, and encouraging fans to arrive earlier than usual — and be in their seats by 6:30. Perhaps as an inducement, a letter from Scully will be handed to 50,000 of the fans as they come through the gates. Game time against the Colorado Rockies is 7:20 p.m. After-game fireworks are planned.
On Saturday there will be a last scheduled press conference under the stadium at 3 p.m., for credentialed media. SportsNet LA is providing a feed but I don't know if they will air the feed. (They should.) The Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon games are also on KTLA, and Sunday's game will also be aired to a national audience on MLB Network.
Scully intends to skip next week's road trip to San Diego, but he will travel to San Francisco to do next weekend's final three games of the season. Scully has chosen to make his final game Sunday, Oct. 2 in San Francisco — 80 years to the day from he remembers first attending a game at New York's Polo Grounds, at the time the home of the Giants.
Baseball writer Joe Posnanski posted a wonderful homage to Scully today, written in the style of a Scully broadcast — in fact, with references direct and otherwise to some of Scully's noteworthy poetics. Except in this game, with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, Scully is sent up as a pinch hitter. He faces Warren Spahn, then Juan Marichal, then Bob Gibson. Jackie Robinson is on third base. The line of Hall of Fame pitchers continues: Tom Seaver, Grag Maddux, Randy Johnson. The count goes to full.
And here we are, everyone is on their feet. It’s a full count to Vincent Edward Scully with the bases loaded and the moon dangling over Dodgers Stadium, and the Dodgers trailing by a run. A funny thing, when you see a rookie take the field for the first time, so full of life and energy and hope and wonder, you never think it will end. When you see someone in the prime of their career, in the prime of their life, doing the sorts of thing that make your heart soar, you never think it will end. But end it must.
And here we are at the end for Vin Scully. Madison Bumgarner nervously kicks at the dirt like a kid getting ready to ask a girl to the prom. Now, he looks up, and Scully digs in. The windup. The pitch.