Sunday, October 2, 2016

How Long It's Been: Vin Scully Was Not Part of the Dodgers' Broadcast Staff

The Los Angeles Dodgers play their last regular-season game today, against their arch-rivals, the San Francisco Giants.

It is the last game behind the microphone for Vin Scully, who has been broadcasting for the team since 1950, when it was still in Brooklyn. He has said he won't be broadcasting any postseason games. He closes his 67th and final season for the team.

To put that in perspective: Phil Rizzuto broadcast for the Yankees for 40 seasons, 1957 to 1996, and was on the club's payroll since signing with them as a prospective player in 1937: 60 seasons. Connie Mack, baseball's touchstone for longevity, was involved with the Athletics for their entire run in Philadelphia, 1901 to 1954: 54 seasons. Mack's 1st season in the major leagues in any capacity was as a player in 1886, making his total 69 seasons, but he was removed as manager and operating owner by his sons after 1950, so his real total is 65 seasons, 2 fewer than Scully's.

Casey Stengel, like Mack known as "The Grand Old Man of Baseball," first put on a big-league baseball uniform in 1912, and was last actively involved in the game in 1965, 54 seasons. Don Zimmer, in the last few years of his life, famously wore as his uniform number the number of seasons he'd been involved in professional baseball, his last being 66. Scully has topped even that.

Scully has been with the Dodgers for 17 postseason appearances, 13 trips to the World Series, and all 5 of their World Championships. He had called games for 11 Hall-of-Famers. He had seen 9 National League Most Valuable Player awards, 12 Cy Young Awards, 14 Rookies of the Year, 43 Gold Gloves, and 15 no-hitters by his team and 13 against it. He had called games during the Administrations of 12 Presidents (nearly 13), 2 British monarchs, and 9 Commissioners of baseball.

He has been there for Carl Erskine's 14 strikeouts against the Yankees in the 1953 World Series, and Sandy Koufax's 15 against them 10 years later. He had been there for Koufax's perfect game for the Dodgers and Don Larsen's, Tom Browning's and Dennis' Martinez's against them.

He has been there for legendary home runs by Bobby Thomson, Reggie Jackson, Rick Monday, Ozzie Smith, Jack Clark, Kirk Gibson and David Justice -- all but Monday's and Gibson's against the Dodgers. He saw Black Friday against the Philadelphia Phillies and Blue Monday against the Montreal Expos. He saw Fernandomania, Nomomania and Mannywood.

He watched Jackie Robinson and Maury Wills redefine baserunning, and Sandy Koufax, Mike Marshall and Tommy John, each in their own way, redefine pitching. He saw Edwin Snider, whose hair turning white early got him nicknamed Duke; Don Sutton, with his 1970s perm; Steve Garvey, with his 1970s helmet hair; and Manny Ramirez, with his greasy dreadlocks.

He broadcast for the Dodgers in Brooklyn and Los Angeles; against the Giants in New York and San Francisco; against the Braves in Boston, Milwaukee and Atlanta; against the Expos in Montreal and after their move as the Nationals in Washington. He broadcast World Series games in Brooklyn, The Bronx, the South Side of Chicago, the suburbs of Minneapolis, Baltimore, Oakland, and, of course, Los Angeles, first in South Central at the Coliseum and then downtown at Dodger Stadium.

He broadcast games at Shibe Park and Forbes Field, which opened in 1909, and at Marlins Park, which opened in 2012 and is one of several ballparks that could, conceivably, still be used in 2109. He broadcast at a time when Connie Mack, who was born in 1862 and first played in the major leagues in 1884, was still managing; and he broadcast games pitched by Julio Urías, who was born in 1996 and, if he becomes a star, could still be pitching in the late 2030s.

And while he won't be broadcasting any postseason games, the Dodgers will be in them. Who knows what could happen? He might even be invited to throw out a ceremonial first ball.

The last time the Dodgers played a game without Vin Scully as part of their official broadcast staff was Game 5 of the 1949 World Series.

October 9, 1949. That's 67 years. Two-thirds of a century. How long has that been?

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The Dodgers were based at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn. Their starting lineup in that game was as follows: Harold "Pee Wee" Reese, shortstop; Johnny "Spider" Jorgensen, filling in for usual starter Billy Cox at 3rd base; Edwin "Duke" Snider, center field; Jackie Robinson, 2nd base; Gene Hermanski, filling in for Carl Furillo in right field; Gil Hodges, 1st base; Marv Rackley, left field; Roy Campanella, catcher; and Rex Barney, pitcher. (Jackie batting 4th instead of 1st? Campy batting 8th instead of 4th or 5th?) Their manager was Burt Shotton, who had previously started Don Newcombe, Elwin "Preacher" Roe, Ralph Branca and Newcombe again on the mound.
The only ballparks still in use from the 1949 season are Fenway Park in Boston and Wrigley Field in Chicago. There were 16 major league teams, none further west than St. Louis, nor further south than St. Louis, Cincinnati and Washington. Robinson had become the 1st black player in modern MLB history only 2 1/2 years earlier. Minnie Miñoso had just become the 1st black Hispanic player.

There was a National League team in Boston, and American League teams in St. Louis, Philadelphia, and Washington. Milwaukee, Baltimore, Kansas City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Minneapolis, Houston, Atlanta, Oakland, Seattle, San Diego, Montreal, Dallas, Toronto, Denver, Miami, Phoenix and Tampa were all minor-league cities then, and are all major league cities now.

Arlie Latham of the 1885 and '86 World Champion St. Louis Browns (the team now known as the Cardinals), Ledell "Cannonball" Titcomb of the 1888 World Champion New York Giants, Harry Howell of the 1890 World Champion Brooklyn Bridegrooms (Dodgers) and the original 1903 New York Highlanders (Yankees), and Hugh Duffy of the 5-time Pennant-winning Boston Beaneaters (Braves) of the 1890s were all still alive.

Of the defining players of my childhood, Carl Yastrzemski was 10 years old, Willie Stargell was 9, Pete Rose was 8; Tom Seaver, Steve Carlton and Rod Carew were 4, Reggie Jackson was 3, Nolan Ryan was 2,  Johnny Bench and Carlton Fisk were nearly 2, and Mike Schmidt was 12 days old. The only current manager or head coach of a New York Tri-State Area team who had been born yet was Terry Collins of the Mets, and he was 4 months old. There was, as yet, no Mets, no Jets, no Nets, no Islanders, no Devils. The Knicks hadn't yet celebrated their 3rd Anniversary.

The Yankees dethroned the Cleveland Indians as World Champions. The defending Champions in the other sports were the Philadelphia Eagles, the Minneapolis Lakers and the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Indians, the Eagles, the Leafs, and a basketball team in Minnesota. That's how long ago this was. The Heavyweight Champion of the World was Ezzard Charles

The Olympics have since been held 5 times in America, 3 times each in Canada, Italy and Japan; twice each in Norway, Australia, Austria, France, Russia; and once each in Finland, Mexico, Germany, Bosnia, Korea, Spain, Greece, China, Britain and Brazil. The World Cup has since been held in Brazil, Mexico and Germany twice, and once each in American, England, Switzerland, Sweden, Chile, Argentina, Spain, Italy, France, Japan, Korea and South Africa.

There were 48 States. The President of the United States was Harry S Truman. The Governor of the State of New York was Thomas E. Dewey, of New Jersey Alfred E. Driscoll (who had already passed a new State Constitution and gotten the New Jersey Turnpike approved, and was now working on the Garden State Parkway), and of California, to which the Dodgers would move after the 1957 season, Earl Warren, future Chief Justice of the United States. The Mayor of the City of New York was William O'Dwyer, and of Los Angeles Fletcher Bowron.

There was no award for the Nobel Peace Prize the year before, in tribute to the assassinated Mohandas K. Gandhi, because the Prize cannot be awarded posthumously; and the Prize had not yet been awarded for 1949. Therefore, the Friends Service Council, the Quaker group that received it in late 1947, was still the holder.

The Prime Minister of Canada was Louis St. Laurent, and of Great Britain, Clement Attlee. The British monarch was King George VI, father of current Queen Elizabeth II. Hampshire club Portsmouth won the Football League title, and would win it again in the 1949-50 season now underway, but would not win another major trophy for 58 years. Wolverhampton Wanderers were the holders of the FA Cup, and would be the defining English team of the 1950s.

Major novels of the year included Nelson Algren's The Man with the Golden Arm, Paul Bowles' The Sheltering Sky, Graham Greene's The Third Man, George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, Harold Robbins' The Dream Merchants, Nevil Shute's A Town Like Alice and Edward Streeter's Father of the Bride. Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman was first staged. Joseph Campbell published The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Simone de Beauvoir The Second Sex, and Audie Murphy his wartime memoir To Hell and Back.

J.R.R. Tolkein had published The Hobbit, but not, as yet, any of the books in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. And C.S. Lewis was putting the finishing touches on The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Ian Fleming was foreign manager of the London-based Sunday Times, and hadn't yet created James Bond. Gene Roddenberry was a traffic office with the Los Angeles Police Department. George Lucas was 5 years old, Steven Spielberg was about to turn 3, George R.R. Martin had just turned 1, and Douglas Adams and J.K. Rowling weren't born yet.

Major films of the year included Adam's Rib, All the King's Men, the original version of The Blue Lagoon, Bing Crosby in Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, the 1st film version of The Great Gatsby, I Married a Communist, I Was a Male War Bride, In the Good Old Summertime, The Inspector General, Kind Hearts and Coronets, Knock On Any Door, A Letter to Three Wives, the Elizabeth Taylor version of Little Women, Ma and Pa Kettle, the Jennifer Jones version of Madame Bovary, Mighty Joe Young, My Friend Irma with Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis making their film debuts, On the Town, Red, Hot and Blue, The Red Pony, Samson and Delilah, Sands of Iwo Jima, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, Streets of Laredo, They Live by Night, The Third Man, Tulsa, Twelve O'Clock High, White Heat, and the baseball films It Happens Every Spring and The Stratton Story.

Network television was in its infancy. Howdy Doody Time and Kukla, Fran & Ollie dominated for kids, Kraft Television Theatre and Milton Berle's Texaco Star Theatre for grownups. There wasn't really TV news like we now know it; that was still the domain of newspapers and radio. There was no "reality TV." Robert Kardashian Sr. was 5 years old.
Scully at Ebbets Field in his 1st season, 1950. He was 22.
That camera should read "WOR-TV," Channel 9.
That's a bottle of Schaefer beer, and a carton
of a sponsor you would never see on TV now: Cigarettes.
"L.S./M.F.T." = "Lucky Strike Means Fine Tobacco."

The Number 1 song in America was "That Lucky Old Sun" by Frankie Laine. The Big Band sound was the thing if you were white, bebop jazz if you were black (or were in the Beat Generation, not that anyone had yet heard that expression). Birdland was about to open. Les Paul and Mary Ford were about to get married. Frank Sinatra's recordings were not being reviewed well, and it looked like, approaching his 34th birthday, he was in decline.

There was rhythm & blues as we now understand that term, but not rock and roll. Hank Williams was riding high. Elvis Presley was 14 years old, John Lennon and Ringo Starr 9, Bob Dylan 8, Paul McCartney 7, George Harrison 6. Billy Joel was 5 months old, Bruce Springsteen 16 days old. Michael Jackson wasn't born yet.

A first-class stamp cost 3 cents, and the fare on the New York Subway was 10 cents. The average price of a gallon of gas was 23 cents, a cup of coffee 5 cents, a hamburger 20 cents, a soda 10 cents, a movie ticket 35 cents, a new car $1,650, a new house $7,450. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was 185.36.

Computers still took up giant rooms in big city buildings. Alan Turing was teaching at Victoria University in Manchester, England. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Tim Berners-Lee hadn't been born yet. The idea of a space program was ridiculous. Jonas Salk had just gotten involved in the fight against polio. Willem Johan Kolff had only recently performed the first human dialysis. Organ transplants? At that point, a nice idea, but well into the future.

In the Autumn of 1949, civil wars ended with Communists victorious in China and defeated in Greece. The Soviet Union successfully tested an atomic bomb for the 1st time. The Federal Republic of Germany (a.k.a. West Germany) and the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) were officially founded. Iva Toguri D'Aquino was convicted for her "Tokyo Rose" broadcasts during World War II. The Canadian steamship SS Noronic catches fire in Toronto Harbour, killing 118 people. Former Middleweight Champion Marcel Cerdan was killed in a plane crash. And Nathuram Godse and Narayan Apte were convicted of assassinating Gandhi.

Richard Strauss, and Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, and Frank Morgan, who played the title role in The Wizard of Oz, died. Celebrity 1, and Celebrity 2, and Celebrity 3 were born. Gloria Gaynor, and Twiggy, and Sigourney Weaver were born. So were Benjamin Netanyahu, and Ilich Ramírez Sánchez, a.k.a. Carlos the Jackal. So were sports figures Joe Theismann, and Ahmad Rashād, and Larry Holmes, and Peter Shilton, and Arsène Wenger, and Boston Red Sox owner John W. Henry. And Bruce Jenner, now Caitlyn Jenner.

October 9, 1949. The New York Yankees won the World Series over the Brooklyn Dodgers. It was the last time the Dodgers played a game without Vin Scully being a part of their broadcast team.

Today, he broadcasts his last game. It's been 67 years, full of change, celebration, mourning, excitement.

The game goes on. But for Dodger fans, it will never be the same.

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