Matt Kamlet, CBSLA.com
LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — He is much, much more than the legendary voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers and the city they represent.
His words, long spoken to the masses of both Brooklyn and Los Angeles over radio and television, assemble an enduring bridge between current generations and the remnants of a time few remember, yet many will never forget.
He has achieved more than any other broadcaster and is among the most beloved baseball personalities of all-time; although, if you ask him, he can go on for minutes naming people who are, to his humble belief, more deserving, more praiseworthy, and more admirable than his self.
Even now, as he prepares for his role as Grand Marshal of the 2014 Tournament of Roses Parade, and despite all he has accomplished, Vin Scully still cannot believe he has been given the honor.
“My first reaction (was) ‘Oh wow, no way, I mean come on, me?’,” Scully told CBS2/KCAL9’s Jim Hill. “Because I have always felt, and I say this from the bottom of my heart, I’ve spent my lifetime talking about the accomplishments of others. It’s not like I’m accomplished. And so, for them to offer me this honor, first, just took my breath away.”
As Grand Marshal of the parade, Scully, who has received the Ford Frick Award from the National Baseball Hall of Fame, a Life Achievement Emmy Award, an induction into the National Radio Hall of Fame, three National Sportscaster of the Year awards, 29 California Sportscaster of the Year awards, ASA Sportscaster of the Century (2000), a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and many, many more honors throughout his life, will receive the adoration of the people who have showered him with passion since 1950.
However, that is the last aspect of the parade Scully has on his mind.
In fact, the 63-year veteran of the booth says he considers himself lucky to have the opportunities of being in such proximity to the people who he still broadcasts to, and of giving his own gratitude to them.
After Hill points out that fans will have the chance to get as close to Scully “as they humanly-possibly can” to give thanks, the 86-year-old shared his own perspective.
“I don’t mean to correct you, but I look at it the other way. It’s my chance to say thanks to all the people that I can possibly see, and I plan to say ‘Thank You’ more times than I wave. And I’m saying thank you, not for honoring in the parade, but for all the years here in Los Angeles, to the people in Southern California. They’ve been so good to me, that was the one opportunity I thought, any chance that I got, I want to be able to thank people for being as nice as they’ve been. That’s the key.”
It is, in part, this rare combination of humility and grace that has allowed Scully to win over the admiration of his peers for so long. One practice many people may not recognize at the ball park is that before every game, prior to the first pitch, the umpires gather to turn around and honor Scully with a salute.
“It’s really a lovely thing. It started with Bruce Froemming; Bruce is retired now. Bruce lived in Vero Beach, so we would see him and two or three other umpires every time we were down there in Vero for Spring Training,” Scully remembered. “And I don’t know what possessed Bruce, but one night, he came out to home plate with the other three umpires, and they all looked up and they waved. And I really was deeply touched by that, that they would take a moment out to do that. And later, Jon Soo Hoo, the Dodger photographer, since they were doing this, he took a picture of them, the four umpires, and they had their hats raised up, looking at the booth, and I have the pictures at home. And they still do it to this day.”
It is difficult to say whether they are saluting the accomplishments and memory of legendary moments that have been called in that booth, or whether they are saluting the kind, gentle spirit of the man whose colleagues are always treated with glowing, even identical, admiration.
I recall my first time in the Vin Scully Press Box at Dodger Stadium, crossing paths with the bewilderingly amiable announcer; reminding me of talking baseball with my grandfather, and telling me to make myself at home.
This is the type of ambience surrounding Vin Scully, which, mixed with the good humor of a man who pretended to crowd-surf in an overly-packed press elevator following his bobble-head game in 2013, has resulted in the general belief that an honor as Grand Marshal in the Tournament of Roses parade, as well as other honors, will never quite recognize the impact he has had on the fans, the city, and the game.
This is a belief Scully himself does not share.
As 2014 approaches, Scully acknowledges that the future of his great broadcasting career is a combination of uncertainly mixed with optimism, but that, ultimately, he looks forward to returning to the booth.
“I will only say that I’m hoping to work in 2014, and I firmly believe next year is in God’s hands. After that, we’ll see. The power of prayer has gotten me this far, but I also know it might not move the mountains. So, I’m just just looking forward to 2014.”
And so are we.