I mean, can there be any greater polar opposites on the Superficiality Scale than Los Angeles' own poet laureate of the airwaves and the perpetually tawny male doll best known as Barbie's boy toy? And yet, there is one thing some Ken dolls have going for them that the Vin Scully bobbleheads - to be handed out to fans on August 30 at Dodger Stadium -- do not. That thing is a voice box.
Don't get me wrong. I can't wait to get my hands on a Vin Scully bobblehead. As most fans know, bobblehead likenesses can be hit or miss proposition. A Mike Scioscia one from earlier this year looks more like Ben Affleck than the former Dodger catcher (there could be worse things.) The Dodgers unveiled the Vin Scully Bobblehead to the public back in July, and it's a winner. The Hall of Fame broadcaster bears a striking resemblance to -- imagine! -- Vin Scully. In a nod to his penchant for preparation, he's perched behind a desk and a microphone with a binder of notes, which one could imagine containing obscure facts about visiting players you'll never hear elsewhere, like the fact that Rich Aurilia once worked for the Metropolitan Opera.
I know, calling Vin unique is like saying the sky is blue. So why not create a truly unique bobblehead - or just a Vin doll without the bobble — in which fans could push a button on his back to hear classic radio calls from his 63-year career? Today's Ken doll has a voice-activated speaker that will recite back, in Ken-speak, exactly what you instruct him to say. But before the modern era, the classic talking doll was string-activated, typically rotating between four or five different phrases. Since Vin is a classic, I nominate these five iconic phrases for his doll to utter, via button or string, with an explanation behind each one.
"Hi everybody, and a very pleasant good evening to you, wherever you may be."
Along with "It's time for Dodger baseball" and "Pull up a chair," this is one of the first salutations you hear when Vin goes on the air. In one simple sentence, he encapsulates the very spirit of Los Angeles - a melting pot bound by a singular love for the Blue Crew. It's as close to a signature phrase that he has, and it belongs in the talking Vin doll.
"Sandy into his windup, here's the pitch: Swung on and missed, a perfect game!"
Sandy Koufax's perfect game in 1965 is the golden-throat standard by which all Vin Scully calls are measured. Sandy was gunning for his fourth no-hitter during a late-season home game when the Cubs' Harvey Kuenn stepped into the batter's box. Vin's description of Koufax striking out Kuenn, complete with time stamps, reads like a suspense novel and still induces goosebumps 47 years later.
"She is goooone!... In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened."
In Game 1 of the 1988 World Series, a gimpy-legged Kirk Gibson (who was honored with his own bobblehead this year, complete with fist-pump) hit a pinch-hit home run to win the game -- perhaps the most famous homer in postseason history. Vin's call of this magical moment was eloquently simple, but it was this follow-up statement, after he let the crowd noise soak in, that elevated this call to art.
"If you have a sombrero, throw it to the sky!"
Every artist needs a muse, and Vin found his in Mexican pitcher Fernando Valenzuela. I would argue that Vin's calls during Fernandomania in 1981 were the best of his career over the span of a season. Ironically, this particular call came during Fernando's final year with the Dodgers in 1990. It was El Toro's one and only no-hitter, and Vin's celebratory remark was a memorable one.
"Ladies and gentlemen, the Brooklyn Dodgers are the champions of the world!"
No talking Vin doll would be complete without this call from the Dodgers' days in Brooklyn. It came after "Dem Bums" won their first ever World Series in 1955. More importantly, this call reminds fans just how far back Vin's legacy with the Dodgers goes... in this case, to the Eisenhower administration.
Truth is, Vin's calls are like ice cream - they're all great, and everyone's got a favorite. So you're excused if you'd swap some of them out for "We go to Chicago!" Or "This was not the best Fernando game; it was his finest." Or even one of his various allusions to literature, like the way he calls swinging bunts "a humble thing, but thine own." Maybe those can be included in the second Talking Vin doll.
Anyone have Magic's email?
Paul Haddad has written a book on the Dodgers that features transcripts from Vin Scully radio and TV calls. It's called "High Fives, Pennant Drives, and Fernandomania: A Fan's History of the Los Angeles Dodgers' Glory Years, 1977-1981." (Santa Monica Press). He'll be signing copies of the book on August 30 at Dodger Stadium. He has audio versions of the calls at his website.