The eternal one

The Dodgers won their 13th straight home game to start the season last night, breaking the previous MLB record of 12 set by the 1911 Detroit Tigers. Not only does it mean the boys in blue were on a tear (I’ll get to that later), but also that Vin Scully has now seen everything.

For those of you who don’t know, Vin Scully is the Dodgers’ play-by-play commentator. He’s been calling their games since 1950…when the team still played at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn!

I’d never heard of Scully before moving to SoCal. The first time I watched a locally called Dodgers game I was at my aunt’s house. When I saw him I said, “Who is that guy? He looks old as hell.”

“Vin Scully?” my aunt replied. “You’ve never heard of Vin Scully? He is old as hell, but he’s a legend.”

He is a legend. A Dodgers and Los Angeles icon, Scully’s still in the broadcast booth at 81. Though he no longer calls away games east of the Rockies (Charley Steiner, of SportsCenter fame, and analyst Rick Monday have that job), Scully is still a fixture for home games and NL West match-ups away from the City of Angels, announcing at the start of each game, “It’s tiiiiiiime for Dodger baseball.”

Some people like him and some don’t. I’m one of those who do. Scully has an unmistakable lyricism, cadence, and delivery. Like a public radio announcer, his voice is calculated, soft, and even; it’s soothing and understandable. Once you’ve heard him you can read something he said and hear his voice clearly. He’s also a minimalist. His calls are spot-on accurate.

His broadcast longevity boggles my mind. Think about it: he called double-play combinations involving Jackie Robinson and Gil Hodges; he proclaimed on air “Ladies and gentlemen, the Brooklyn Dodgers are the champions of the world” in 1955; he provided play-by-play for Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series, and Sandy Koufax’s perfect game in 1965; he called Hank Aaron’s record-breaking 715th homer in 1974, Bill Buckner’s bobble in 1986 (“Little roller up along first…behind the bag!”), and Kirk Gibson’s ninth inning heroics in Game 1 of the ‘88 Series. For years he also did NFL play-by-play for CBS, and called the NFC Championship Game in 1982, notable for “The Catch” (though Jack Buck’s call on CBS Radio is more memorable). Scully’s first season with the Dodgers coincided with the last of Connie Mack’s 50-year reign as manager of the Philadelphia Athletics. (I learned this the other night: Mack holds the record for games won (3,731), lost (3,948), and managed (7,755). Those numbers are INSANE!, and will never come close to being threatened.)

And now add to Scully’s list of experiences last night’s 13th straight win, which is one of those gratuitous statistics baseball is all about. Every night it seems a major leaguer or team does something that hasn’t been done since 1903, so I’m sure Scully has now witnessed just about everything possible in baseball.

Triskaidekaphobia was the theme of the top of the ninth as the Nationals were being put to bed. Scully began talking about the number 13 and its unfortunate image as the unluckiest number. Judas was the 13th disciple to sit at the Last Supper, some tall buildings skip 13 when numbering floors, and blah blah blah. Well, the Dodgers got the last out to seal the 13th win and this morning I saw Manny Ramirez, the Dodgers’ star outfielder, was suspended 50 games for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs. On top of that, the boys in blue blew a six run lead and were beaten for the first time at home tonight, 11-9.

Caulk up another Scully experience: the wrath of 13.

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