Thanks, Vin!

Flashing back to my childhood, I remember that the times were so turbulent. Racial tensions were high, there were riots in the streets, and…oh, wait. We’re still doing that.

But back when I was single digits in age, it was the 1960s, the time I started becoming aware of my worldly surroundings. I attended a private school at a Lutheran church and I mean SMALL school. As in there were two classrooms–1st through 4th grades and 5th through 8th grade. My memories of that era are scattered. Church picnics, vacations to South Dakota, playing with the neighbor kids.

This is back when there were only three television networks and–outside of the Saturday morning cartoons–what we watched on TV was pretty much determined by my parents. I remember our school once sending home a note to mom & dad, saying that the school felt the TV show “Combat” was too violent and that kids shouldn’t be allowed to watch it.  It was one of my favorites and we continued to watch it.  Well, dad & I did.

There was “Get Smart”, “The Red Skelton Show”, “Bewitched” and other gems.  Saturdays were reserved for Lawrence Welk, followed by “The Hollywood Palace.” And on Tuesday nights, after my sisters were put to bed, I remember mom sneaking into my room where the TV resided so that she could catch up on “Peyton Place.”

But what we watched on TV was all determined by one thing: what the Los Angeles Dodgers were doing.

During the early part of that decade, I remember more nights than not being spent listening to radio broadcasts of the Los Angeles Dodger games. There was the team of Vin Scully and Jerry Doggett, but it was Scully that made those games magic. He was a story-teller, a guy who knew how to transform everything that happened on the field into pictures in your mind.  This is back when only a few games actually made it to television. When they did, they were a treat. Especially after the family budget allowed us to have a color TV.

Vin Scully began broadcasting games for the Brooklyn Dodgers back in 1953 when he was just 25-years-old. He’s been providing the soundtrack for Dodger games longer than I’ve been alive.  At the age of 88, he’s seen the greatest moments in that team’s history and made sure we didn’t miss the excitement of a single play.

I got to hear them beat the Yankees 4-0 in the 1963 World Series. Sandy Koufax’s perfect game. The come from behind win in the ’65 World Series against the Twins. The time San Francisco Giants pitcher Juan Marichal took a bat to Dodger catcher Johnny Roseboro, I can still hear Vin saying something like, “You Little Leaguers at home, don’t do that!”

Mr. Scully is going to call it a career at the end of this season. In fact, while he hasn’t traveled for the past couple of years and only broadcast the team’s home games, this Sunday he’s making an exception. The Dodgers wrap up the season against their arch rivals, the San Francisco Giants in San Francisco.  Vin wanted to go full circle and make his last broadcast a Dodgers/Giants game, since that’s where his career began: calling a game between the New York Giants and the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Vin decided to go out while he still had game. He’s a perfectionist and felt that his calls were slipping a little bit. That was reason enough for him to retire, although Dodger fans would have preferred to listen to him until his last breath. He will be sorely missed and will always be the high-water mark for any broadcaster doing the play-by-play of any sport, anywhere. I’m giving him full credit for my love of baseball, for continuing to be a long-distance Los Angeles fan and for being the voice in my head whenever I think of that team I grew up with.

Thanks, Vin.

Tim Hunter


It’s How They Get You Hooked

World series

Baseball’s second season, the playoffs, begins next week.  Sadly, my current home team, the Seattle Mariners are going only if they buy tickets. It’s now been a dozen seasons since we’ve had the thrill of post-season baseball in this town.  Seattle fans who were in town for either the 1995 run or that 116-win, first-round elimination 2001 season, know what it’s all about.  But for the fair-weather crowd, baseball in Seattle is usually over by June.

It’s for that reason that people look at me strangely when I care so much about the post-season.  By now, the majority of the people I know have moved on to football–college, pro or both–and don’t understand why I’m not letting go since Seattle doesn’t have a team involved.

Of all the sports, baseball has been there all my life.  Go back to my childhood and I can recall (while I still can) having the TV off and most evenings, listening to Vin Scully and Jerry Doggett call the Dodger games on the radio every night.  Seems unimaginable with today’s standards, but there was a time when NBC had a baseball game of the week and select out-of-town series were put on TV.  Otherwise, the way you followed the teams were to go to the games or the radio.

Several things fueled my interest in baseball.  It was the only sport, as a kid, you could play.  Little League was about it, if you wanted to play organized sports.  Back in those dark days while the earth cooled, a Helms bakery truck would drive up and down the street selling freshly baked treats and offering packs of baseball cards for a nickel.  You’d get 10 cards and chewing gum that tasted like pink cardboard for just 5-cents.

Baseball was a lot like fishing to me.  One of my first-ever fishing experiences was going out on the Missouri River back in South Dakota and fishing on a boat with my uncle James and my dad.  They gave me a kiddie reel, which I resented…but when the day was done, we had caught a bunch of Northern Pike and I landed the biggest!  Needless to say, that set the stage for a lifetime of being out there on opening day every year.

In baseball, I was lucky enough to be a Dodger fan at the peak of their franchise.  As I grew up, I got to cheer for guys like Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Maury Wills and so many others.  Even eventual Seattle Mariner manager Jim Lefebvre (le FEVER) played second base back then for “the bums.”  As I grew up, they swept those nasty Yankees 4-0 in the 1963 World Series and in the 1965 series, they lost the first two games to the Minnesota Twins, but came back to win the series in 7 games.  If that kind of magic doesn’t get you addicted, nothing will.

For as long and drawn out as the regular season can be, the playoffs have that magical intensity that every pitch matters.  Every out gets you one step closer.  Every home run could be all you need.  Mr. Octobers step up or an entire team of very talented players chokes.

So, yes, I’m excited about the post-season, especially with my childhood team—the Dodgers–making a run at the National League title, while my back-up team–the Boston Red Sox–are looking real in the American League.

Oh, I’ll still be there for every second of Husky and Seahawk football.  But now it’s time for the Boys of Summer to see if they can land a few Northern Pikes of their own.

Tim Hunter

former players