I’ve been thinking about reaching out to Vin Scully for a couple of weeks or so to see if he’d be interested in chatting about the game of baseball for my blog. I don’t know why but I kind of put it off & figured I could always talk to him once we got to the Freeway Series in late March.
This morning, I was on my way home from the car wash & for whatever the reason, I decided to call him. I never, in my wildest dreams, thought he would actually answer the phone. Don’t ask me why. I guess I thought because he’s Vin Scully and he probably gets plenty of requests that I’d be going straight to voicemail. That’s not what happened.
At 9:39am this morning, Vin Scully answered my call. I was stunned. I’m not a person that typically struggles with words but as I drove down the road and listened to “the voice” coming through the speakers of my car, I found it difficult to come up with the right words. After the standard pleasantries, I asked the question. “Mr. Scully, would you consider allowing me to interview you for my blog? I wouldn’t take up too much of your time.”
Now mind you, I was figuring I could set up a time for later this week or even next year…whatever HE wanted to do, I was going to be ok with it. Not only did he say he would do it, he asked if we could do it right then. I explained that I was driving and asked if it’d be ok if I called him back in 10 minutes when I returned home. He said yes.
So after several moving violations that no one will ever know about (unless there’s a red-light camera I didn’t see), I arrived at my house, sprinted inside and propped open my laptop.
Look, I’ve been around this game long enough where I’m not awed by any one individual…player or otherwise. That said, there’s only one person that comes to mind with whom I still get a little nervous talking with even though I’ve been around him for several years. That person is Vin Scully. He is the all-time voice of baseball.
Enjoy our brief chat.
Victor Rojas: Mr. Scully…
Vin Scully: Hey, it’s Vin.
VR: Ok, Vin…but it’s still going to be Mr. Scully. You’ve been telling me that for years & I just can’t get it out of my system.
VS: Well, we’re just going to have to work on that.
VR: That will be my focus this year so that when I see you for the Freeway Series, I’ll call you Vin.
VS: Atta boy…it’s not that hard
VR: But I know I’m going to have to go to church and confess my sins after the fact.
VS: <Laughs> Well a good honest effort is worth a lot.
VR: That’s what I hear…I really appreciate you taking the time to do this. Your off-season…how’s it going & what do you typically do with your downtime?
VS: Well, I enjoy it immensely probably because on the other side of it, I’ll be going back to do what I like to do. But in the meantime, with a large family, 16 grandchildren, there’s always something going on. We do a lot of ‘honey-do’s’ for Mrs. Scully. I like to read and when it’s warm enough, play a little golf. So put it all together, it’s a rather pleasant time.
VR: Now you’re talking my language…’play a little golf.’ You and I on a golf course as a twosome or part of a foursome would be interesting.
VS: One of the things that several of us do, and I’ve really stopped playing, but we have a thing called ‘9 & dine’ and I’ll go over sometime around 10:30-10:45am. We’ll play 9 holes and have lunch and then I’m back out on my own…on my way home. It doesn’t take up the whole day and of course the numbers no longer mean anything at all out on the course, it’s strictly camaraderie and just to relax and take a little walk.
VR: I like how you think…I might have to implement that myself.
VS: There was a time a long time ago when the numbers were very important and I was trying & working hard to improve my handicap but that’s a long time ago. So now it’s strictly, maybe once every three weeks or so I’ll go over & bang it around a little bit.
VR: That’s fantastic…I saw the other day where you received the Bud Selig Executive Leadership Award at the annual Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation gala. Is it still moving for you to receive honors & awards such as the one you received Saturday night?
VS: You know, I think they’re all relative. You just appreciate all of them but when there’s something like the Commissioner of baseball, who takes the time and the trouble to attend the dinner and then to personally hand you the trophy, that’s kind of overwhelming. And as the years go by, naturally, you’re deeply touched but that one meant a great deal to me because it came from the Commissioner himself.
VR: I want to ask you, from talking about the scout’s dinner & honoring gentlemen that work in the game & seldom get the recognition for putting in the time they do in scouting talented players…let’s talk about the Hall of Fame ballot. If Jeff Idelson, President of the Baseball Hall of Fame, called you tomorrow & said ‘we would like for you to vote on the Hall of Fame,’ what would your reaction be?
VS: Well, I would not jump at the opportunity. I would like to gather my thoughts for it. One of the thoughts I’ve always had about the Hall of Fame is I wish, somehow, they could settle on the parameters of exactly what you need in order to qualify. It’s really wide open. There are some fellas, let’s say there’s Pitcher X, who’s won 230 games and he’s in the Hall of Fame. And then there’s a pitcher like Tommy John, who won 282, and is not in the Hall of Fame. So in my mind, the first thing, you have to have the credentials to qualify, not because you’re a very good player but because you truly are a great player to go in. So, until they tell me what are the credentials necessary, I think I’d be inclined to say, ‘thank you but no thank you.’ I just think it’s too wide open. There should be something, and I think it would help baseball a great deal. For instance, if it takes 300 victories…when a fella gets to 290 or 295, every time he goes out to the field it becomes an extremely important personal goal, which will draw the fans. Same with a hitter…he has to hit, whatever, .300, .320…pick the number. Number of homeruns. Number of RBI’s. Number of stolen bases. There ought to be something to help to judge out, as opposed to just saying, ‘well, I liked him as a player, so I’ll vote for him.’
VR: It makes sense & to a certain extent, may be similar to how writers today have to deal with the steroid era. Were you surprised that no players were voted in?
VS: No. I was not surprised. In fact, there was a sense of gratification that baseball stood up and made a declaration. So, no. I can’t say that I was happy that these players are being denied but I did feel deep inside, ‘good for baseball…good for the writers…I’m glad they stood up.’ Now, when it comes to just some kind of a suspicion, I’m wondering about several players who didn’t make it this time but maybe over the years they eventually will get in. And I specifically think of somebody like Mike Piazza, who had an incredible career. There is suspicion but perhaps that will disappear over the years.
VR: That has to be the most difficult part for someone that’s casting a ballot…dealing with the suspicion with no hard evidence & just voting your conscience for the time being until they feel comfortable enough to cast a ballot for someone like Piazza or Jeff Bagwell.
VS: Right. You know, it’s the American way; you’re innocent until proven guilty. So to deny a man just because someone said, ‘I think he might’ve,’ to me, is not enough…we need more than that. S0 I think as the years go by, some of those who have had a cloud of suspicion, it’ll be removed and they’ll get in.
VR: Let’s talk a little bit about baseball in the Southland. The Dodgers made the big trade last season & acquired Zack Greinke this off-season. The Angels go out & sign Josh Hamilton plus add some depth to the pitching staff. It seems like exciting times in Southern California…a little rivalry on & off the field…
VS: You’re right, the two teams have improved dramatically & probably two of the most exciting players in the game. Each team has at least one…the Dodgers have Matt Kemp & of course the Angels have Mike Trout. Now they’ve added Hamilton & the Dodgers are hip-deep in pitchers, so they both start the year with high expectations I’m sure.
VR: Speaking of the Dodgers, have you seen the renovation project that’s going on at the ballpark?
VS: Not really…I was only over there once and they had just torn out the seats behind home and down the baseline, so I haven’t really seen it. I do know (I’ve been told) that they have spent over $100 million to refurbish the ballpark itself for the fans, that means the restrooms as well, and the clubhouses are being done over and of course the big thing are the two message boards, one in left field and one in right. So I think they’ve really spent a lot of money on the field and off the field to provide fans a greater experience. And when people ask me, ‘how do you think the Dodgers are going to do this year?’ I now have a stock answer and the answer is, ‘I hope they get their money’s worth.’
VR: <Laughing> Priceless. Want you to know, I could just sit & listen to you talk all day.
VS: Ah, you’re very kind. I just jabber away…some of it makes sense, some of it doesn’t.
VR: Ha, I know that feeling. Let me ask you about working alone in the booth. You clearly have the resources around you to bring in whomever you’d like to work as your analyst. Have you thought about it recently? Why continue to take on, if you will, the added pressure of calling a game by yourself at this stage of your career?
VS: Well, in all honesty I don’t feel any pressure at all. The same pressure, of course, that anyone broadcasting feels & that is to be as accurate as possible. We go way back to Brooklyn & it was a philosophy that I have followed from Red Barber. It’s not an ego thing at all because in all honesty, in some ways, it’s a lot easier to have somebody else in there with you. However, I’ll put it as simply as possible: If I want to sell you a car, is it easier for me to talk directly to you or is it better for you to listen to me telling somebody else about the car? Well our philosophy has always been we would speak directly to the viewer or listener. Now I’ve done the networks where you have the analyst with you. But the networks are interested only in that particular broadcast…it’s like the circus; they set up the tent, they do the game & then down comes the tent & they move on. But with us, the local broadcaster, one of our prime objectives is to get people to come to the ballpark…to sell the team. And that’s why I’ve always felt, going way back to when Red was the one calling the shots, that it’s much better for one man to identify with the listener as opposed to more. It doesn’t mean the other fellas are wrong. It doesn’t mean your set-up is wrong. I don’t mean that at all. It’s just been a very comfortable fit going all the way back over 60 years and we’ll let it go that way until I pack it in.
VR: Isn’t that the beauty of broadcasting, especially baseball? There’s not one definitive way of calling or presenting a game, especially on television.
VS: Oh, I agree and I also have thought about the fact the city usually gets from the announcer what it wants. If the announcer is not pleasing the city, his career in that particular city will be short-lived until he moves on to another community that accepts him. So I’ve always felt the announcer is important only in the sense of his relationship with the viewer and the listener and it comes in all sizes, shapes & colors. There’s no one, definitive way at all.
VR: I’d like to ask you, if I may, what is it about the game today that you like that perhaps were not in play back in the day? And conversely, what do you dislike about the game?
VS: Well, that’s kind of a tough question in the sense the length of the answer. One of the things that I like is the fact they have not monkeyed with the basic rules of the game in the sense the bases remain the same, mound to home plate, etc. The dimensions in the ballpark have also changed a bit and in some ways, that’s a plus for the fan. Because the fan…you have to remember, back in New York we had some big fights. Who was the best player? Mays, Mantle or Snider? Well, they played in three completely different ballparks and the same when they went on the road and that made it difficult for the fans to really equate one against the other. Today, the ballparks are basically or very close to being reasonably the same, so I think that’s helped the fan. I must say that I have never liked the designated hitter. Although I understand why they have the designated hitter, the American League before they had it, realized they were losing very popular players and it was hurting their attendance and whomsoever came up with the idea, ‘well, he can’t play anymore but we can use his bat cause he can still hit.’ And so it was a smart move, it was a move made out of emergency but I’m glad that the National League has stayed the way it has always been. And I do understand the World Series, whereby you use or don’t use the designated hitter depending upon the ballpark. But again, it’s too much of an edge, I think, in the most important series of all.
VR: If you were the Commissioner, is that something you would do away with?
VS: I can’t say I would do away with it but I would certainly ask a board of directors or whomsoever to re-consider whether it should be done. But again, for the industry itself, the most important number is paid attendance and with the salaries going the way they are and the economy very shaky, I’m sure they don’t want to mess with the Christmas tree right now…they will leave the ornaments on there the way they’ve been for the last few years.
VR: Agreed…it just seems archaic the game is still being played under two sets of rules.
VS: I agree.
VR: How much longer do want to continue to do this?
VS: Well, I give people the same answer and I mean it from the bottom of my heart. If you want to make God smile, tell Him your plans. And so I’m going day to day, both in my job and in my life. When you have reached the number that I have reached, you don’t take tomorrow for granted at all. I do know that I have spent a great number of yesterdays; I know my tomorrows are limited and we will just treasure them one at a time and see how it plays out.
VR: How incredible would it be to see an Angels/Dodgers World Series & let that be the white horse upon which you ride off into the sunset?
VS: That would be a lot of fun but at the same time, you know as well as I do, that the networks take over the World Series. So if the Dodgers and the Angels played in the World Series, the chances are probably 1000 to 1 that I would be out there amongst the spectators and not working.
VR: That being said, it really would be great seeing the Angels beating the Dodgers in the World Series…
VS: Whatever! <We both cracked up laughing>
VR: On that note, thank you so much. I know I took a little over 20 minutes…I appreciate your time & truly respect your opinion.
VS: That’s all right, Victor. It was a good time to do it and was happy to chat with you and look forward to seeing you soon.
VR: Take care, Vin. (I said I’d work on calling him Vin)
As always, I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Livin’ the dream…