According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American worker stays at each job for 4.4 years. But for younger workers in the millennial category, that number is cut in half. It’s a little mind-numbing to consider the number of jobs any one individual is apt to have in a lifetime — and even more stupefying to consider one man who has held down the same job for the past 67 years.
Currently in his last weeks as a professional sports announcer, Vin Scully has been the topic of myriad tributes and features, so I intend to jump the gun and get my licks in early. I will try to avoid hyperbole and adjective overkill, but for a man like Vin that is difficult. For seven decades his career has been all about two cities — first Brooklyn, then Los Angeles — and one baseball team: the Dodgers. He is a “local” sportscaster who is known, respected and revered as a national treasure.
It is not exaggeration to say I have grown up with Vin. Me and about several other million people have — and we are all the richer for it. Vin and the Dodgers were particularly well positioned to capture the heart of our dad, who had been starved for a major league baseball team since moving away from St. Louis when he was a child. The Dodgers were a perfect fit for him. A red-headed announcer with the name Vin Scully and ownership by the O’Malley family. A marriage made in 1950s Irish Catholic America. Though we were primarily a football family (i.e., Notre Dame), my dad had a love for baseball and a distinct dislike for a certain team in the Bay Area somewhere in Northern California.
Vin’s voice would come over the AM radio in our beat-up station wagon coming home from our yearly summer camping trips, and we would occasionally see him on TV during Sunday day games when the Dodgers were on the road. More tributes will start to pour in soon, and we’ll hear plenty of stories in the coming weeks about how the transistor radio played such a vital role in Vin’s development as a broadcaster and impacted his listeners.
It’s all true. I remember many a hot summer night lying in bed unable to sleep due to the heat and listening to a Dodger game on the radio, hoping for extra innings because Vin had us so entranced. Over the decades the demographics and fan base of the Dodgers ebbed and flowed, especially with the advent of “Fernandomania” and the burgeoning of Hispanic Dodgers fans, yet there was always one constant: the red-headed Irish guy from the Bronx who seamlessly enthralled them, creating a real Dodgers family of fans.
Over time the corporate world recognized what a gem the Dodgers had and Vin started pulling double and triple duty doing network baseball, football and even golf announcing. Like any gifted athlete, no matter what sport was presented to him, he mastered it and drew more fans into the sport through his efforts.
Eventually he would turn back to the Dodgers full time, and, as the unfairness of age closed in, Vin ceased to travel with the team — except on the odd visits to that Northern California location.
Now the problem with legends and icons is that they become bigger than life, and the reality is not always so bright and shiny. As a recovering television writer I have had ample experiences with celebrity types who appeared on screen as one thing, but who in reality were something quite different altogether.
A few short weeks ago the opportunity arose to see if that formula would play out in the Dodgers broadcast booth as a certain bishop I know was selected to throw out the first pitch at a Dodgers game. Our family came out to support the cause and threaten to give said bishop a robust booing if he bounced his pitch.
I’m happy to report that with the loving support from his family, he was inspired and threw a perfect strike to the catcher. But, before his epic throw, the bishop and my son, his friend and my daughter went up to the broadcast booth to see if they could meet Vin. Not only were they welcomed in, according to reports from the bishop, Vin called everyone by name, insisted that his assistant retake photos to make sure they got a “good one” and generally cemented his reputation as a man of incredible grace and gravitas.
When my daughter returned to our seats after this encounter she was visibly shaking. I thought of my dad, who was gone too soon and way before any of my own children were born. He loved Vin Scully, passed that along to me and now I was seeing it payed forward in my kids. For that gift, thank you Mr. Scully, and on behalf of the people of your adopted city who could tell similar stories, thanks for them, too.
Robert Brennan has been a professional writer for more than 30 years, including many years in the television industry.