Saturday, July 22, 2006

Zen masters

I had the privilege of listening to Vin Scully call the first three innings of the Dodgers-Cardinals game last night on XM, on my way back to Pittsburgh from a gig in Reading. Jeff Suppan eliminated one of the few of the beat-up Dodgers still capable of hitting the ball from the lineup by hitting J.D. Drew on the knee in the first inning. The Cardinals then went on to dominate the Dodgers to the extent that you can dominate another team in a 2-0 game, because despite the closeness of the score, the game never seemed close or even competitive. The Dodgers cannot hit. Garciaparra, the only decent hitter on the team who is still standing, has been in a horrible slump since the All-Star break and no longer threatens Freddy for the batting title lead.

Scully is 79 years old and has been announcing Dodgers games for 57 years. He does the first three innings all by himself with no color man, and he effortlessly spins out informative, thoughtful, articulate commentary and background information about the players while describing the game in flawless detail. He was talking about how Tony LaRussa instituted the modern-day use of closers, which began with LaRussa's use of Dennis Eckersley with the As in 1988. So, we can blame Jose Mesa and Mike Williams, among other things, on the arrogant and unpleasant Mr. LaRussa. Only in baseball would the fact that someone is a lawyer be cited as evidence that a guy is a genius. One of the few things I liked about Lloyd McClendon was that LaRussa didn't like him. When Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan referred to Lloyd and Gerald Perry as "thugs," I briefly forgot about what a bad manager Lloyd was and felt defensive. Sure they were thugs, but they were our thugs. The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

Speaking of wise men, Rick Monday later in the broadcast relayed an amusing anecdote about a wise man who got away from the Pirates, Jim Leyland. He said that he and Leyland were in the dugout talking baseball one day when one of Leyland's players--Monday wouldn't say who--came along and attempted, unsuccessfully, to contribute to the conversation. After the player wandered off, Leyland said to Monday, "The trouble with him is that he ain't smart enough to know that he ain't that smart."


Anonymous bucdaddy said...

I think I've read that Vin gets to bolt after the first three innings too. Pretty sweet gig, even for a guy who's 79. Imagine, Billy, doing the first three songs of a gig and then turning it over to the band for the next two hours while you're home watching the ballgame :-)

I can't say how much show prep Vin might do -- he probably has somebody doing the grunt work for him -- but I imagine he can do three innings in his sleep, just with what's in his head already.

11:12 AM  
Anonymous Eric B. said...

Great post about Vin Scully. As a lifelong Dodger fan who grew up in Southern California, I realize what a gift it is to hear him call my favorite team's games everyday. (Even if the team is sucking donkey lemons right now...)

But to clarify on Vin's workload -- he works the whole game alone for TV. You only hear him for three innings on XM, since they're carrying the local L.A. radio feed. KFWB simulcasts the first three innings of Vin's TV call, then switches over to its radio announcers (Charley Steiner and Rick Monday). But Vin does the whole local TV call himself. Those outside of the L.A. market should be able to hear many (but probably not all) of those games through the DirecTV baseball package.

The only concession he's made to age is that he no longer makes the out-of-division road trips with the team. He only does home games, and road games in San Diego, SF, Arizona and Colorado.

10:46 AM  

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