This column, by by Jim Murray, first appeared in the Jan. 10, 1970, issue of The Sporting News.
The Los Angeles Dodgers in recent years have begun to feel like a drowning man who keeps getting a water hose turned on him as he comes up for air.
They lead the league in executive retirements. First, though, they traded away 500 lifetime stolen bases (Maury Wills) and 280 lifetime homers (Frank Howard). But that's not when it really hit the fans. When it really hit them (all two million of them) was when the Dodgers lost 369 lifetime wins, 5,600 innings pitched, 98 shutouts, four no-hit games and nearly 4,900 lifetime strikeouts. When Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale sent in their resignations, the Dodgers lost more than a duet; they lost a dynasty.
So, would you believe Walter O'Malley is afraid to answer his phone or pick up his mail these days for fear he will lose a redhaired, lefthanded, ex-collegiate outfielder who understands the infield-fly rule, but probably couldn't catch one, who knows when to bunt but probably not how, and who can spot a slider from three decks up but probably couldn't hit one with a snowshoe?
Vin Scully has never hit a fair ball for the Dodgers on the field, but he has never uttered a foul one off it. He has seen and described almost every ball thrown or caught by hundreds of Dodgers.
Genuine Big Leaguer
He was the catalyst in the thorny mixed-marriage of Brooklyn and Los Angeles in the difficult year of adjustment (1958) when the Dodgers, psyched out by a ballpark that looked like the world's biggest bathtub and a lot of fans who pronounced their "r's" and didn't shout "Youse bums" at every error, finished seventh. Scully was almost the only thing certifiably major league about the Dodgers that year. No matter where the team finished, Scully leads HIS league.
He is without peer at making 9-0 games something you want to hang around and see how they come out. His post and pregame interviews indicate a craftsman who has done his homework because he never starts out with, "Gee, Lefty, you were great tonight, how come you were so great tonight, Lefty?" but is more apt to start out, "Lefty, in the seventh inning you threw a key pitch to Aaron, and it seems as if maybe it was a bad pitch but you got away with it? Was it, or did you make the kind of pitch you wanted when he hit that 390-foot out?
Scully is never a "homer" on the mike. The trouble is, he's one off it. But it's not the home team, it's home, period.
Fed Up With Travel
"It is no secret I am sick of the road," Scully will tell you privately — or publicly. With a growing family of three that he sees only a homestand at a time from March till October, Scully recently turned to a back-breaking homestand of his own when he took on the highly popular (30-rated) daytime television game show, "It Takes Two."
For Scully, it almost did take two. He did 190 baseball games and 165 full network TV shows last year.
He was either on a mike or on an airplane, calling a game or emceeing one. Fortunately, the Fordham Thrush has a .400 larynx. He doesn't even take cough drops.
Popular with show biz types, he has had such drop-in stars as Rowan and Martin, Johnny Carson, Buddy Hackett. Recently, Henny Youngman and Dick Smothers were regulars. Koufax came on once and Annette Funicello was asked to guess what was the most consecutive batters he retired in any of his no-hitters (rather like asking which of a guy's castles had the biggest moat) and Annette showed she was either bad at arithmetic or at baseball when she guessed "88."
"I'm trying to show I can say something besides 'ball two, strike one,'" explained Scully. "I love baseball, but I hate hotel lobbies."
The Dodgers haven't felt this gloomy since they caught Koufax and Drysdale pricing carpet slippers. Without Vin, it may be cheaper to phone the game to the listeners.