Introduction

Opening Day



    On September 15, 2006, Vin Scully gave three separate introductions to the same Dodger-Padre game that opened a four-game series between the two teams. The Dodgers were in first place with a half-game lead over the Padres. The two teams would end the season tied for first place. By the middle of September every game was significant, and especially this game with the Padres; if the Dodgers lost, they would fall into second place. The starting pitchers were two outstanding and veteran pitchers. Greg Maddox pitching for the Dodgers, certainly a future Hall of Famer, was 40 years old and was pitching in his twenty-first year in the major leagues. David “Boomer” Wells was 43 and pitching in his twentieth major league season. Minutes apart, separated by commercials, each Scully introduction to the game is unique, while being for the very same game. Working with a “variation on a theme” his language stays fresh and original without repetition, typical Scully.

 

Intro One.


"They play 162 games each season and many baseball people will tell you that each game counts the same, and yet for the next four days the Dodgers and the Padres will play with everything to gain and everything to lose.

 The meaningful distance between Los Angeles and San Diego reduced from 120 miles to a mere half game.

 Oh yes, many baseball people will tell you that each game counts the same, you just won't find any of those people on the field tonight.

 Game One is next.

 

Intro Two


    It's time for Dodger baseball. Live from Dodger Stadium...

    Hi everybody and a very pleasant Friday night to you and here we go big time. The numbers are pretty simple, the Padres have beaten the Dodgers 11 out of 14...takes your breath away...They've beaten them 11 out of the last 12 and for good measure they've won all five straight played here at Dodger Stadium. The Dodgers on the other hand have won 16 of the last 19 games they've played at home, so it is a collision of major sorts with a half game separating the two teams, and the icing on the cake, you have Greg Maddox on the mound for the Dodgers and you
have David Wells going for San Diego. Put them together and you have a total of five hundred and fifty-nine victories. Maddox having won three thirty. So, the stage is set and they'll roll the dice, the beginning of a four game series. It is a collision. Baseball’s answer to push against shove.

 

Intro Three.


Hi everybody and a very pleasant Friday night to you wherever you may be. We are certainly in the eye of the storm. It's the Dodgers and the Padres at Dodger Stadium. Game One of the four game series and kind of a dream matchup as Greg Maddox strides to the mound to go up against David Wells

Tonight is the night, Josephine.



Vin Scully.

More prolific than Picasso, as great a storyteller as Homer, as eloquent as Shakespeare, as honest as Walter Cronkite, and with a little Norman Rockwell thrown in, Vin Scully, like all classics, does not need our praise. But connoisseurship of his work can be enhanced.

The many tributes to Vin Scully are filled with praise for him as a broadcaster, but how little attention has been paid specifically to his work. How is he a poet, a wordsmith, a storyteller?


Like a sculptor he lets what's in the clay reveal itself, unlike the sculptor his material is constantly changing.

Like a painter, especially an impressionist painter, he assembles dabs of paint that together suggest an integrated whole, unlike a painter his meaning is more direct.

Like a narrator he is describing events, like an omniscient narrator he intuitively has perspective on the events that transpire.

Like a novelist he works with plot, setting, character, theme, but he finds rather than conceives the story.

Like an improv comedian he makes it up as he goes, but he is much more dependent upon the events transpiring and emerging in front of him.

Even "reality shows” are shaped into stories for television by editors after the fact. Scully is always live, always spontaneous, always real.

Like many poets he uses imaginative language, but in describing specific events he is always bound by the facts transpiring on the baseball field.

 

What other artists might be seen as similar to Scully? Looking for parallels from other fields lends some perspective. A limited parallel suggests itself between Scully and Andy Warhol in that both have raised popular art to an art form. Scully's improvisational skills rival that of comedian and Tonight Show host, Johnny Carson. Both with uncanny abilities to think on their feet. This skill at improvisation is also found among jazz musicians, especially, for example, in the work of Dave Brubeck, who has also maintained a genuine passion for performance for approximately the same six decades that Scully has worked. Like Michelangelo with his statues, Scully seems to find the form in his work material that "wants to be released." Parallels between Scully and Norman Rockwell and their common democratic values are so instructive that much of the ninth chapter elaborates those parallels.

The British country veterinarian and author, James Herriot, is a kindred spirit to Scully. Something written on the book jacket for Herriot's Every Living Thing could readily be said about Scully's broadcasts: "...as cherishable a companion as can be found…he possesses a vast capacity for joy, a full embrace of life…the voice, the spirit, the heart – these are the soul of a durable and delicious body of work."

How do those parallels combine to best characterize Scully? Gary Kaufman, a writer and editor at Salon.com, says that, "the real metaphor for Scully is painter." However, "painter" is in fact too limited a view. The truer metaphor for Scully is Artist. He has integrated the artistic qualities of story-telling, composition, rhetoric, painting, music, poetry, improvisation, into ‘performance art’ and a ‘body of work’ that can be characterized by a transcendent 'flow' of energy. Scully has transcended the role of broadcaster. Like Picasso, even his modest efforts hold interest because of their contribution to his full body of work. Each game is a work of art. All the greater because he has made it a unique form, neither novel, poem, painting, sculpture, neither limited by its broadcast medium, nor its place in popular culture. How has he done this?

This book's "criticism" of his Art requires a language that "will help others perceive the work more deeply." Scully has been one of America's greatest artists, not just a great broadcaster, a great artist. Such success deserves serious attention. Although Scully has said, "everything we do is skywriting; it's put up in the wind and it blows away," his work, his legacy, should be archived and preserved. At the end of Dodger pitcher Bill Singer’s no-hitter July 20, 1970, Scully said, "you’ll be able to play this one for your grandchildren." Would that be true. All of his work that still exists should be archived, and made available so that his Art and Legacy are kept for posterity. Hopefully this book will contribute to such an end.

As Elliot Eisner suggests, the need for a deeper appreciation is "to capture essences" contained in Scully’s body of work. This critique must "create a form that intimates, discloses, reveals, imparts, suggests implies their (the essences) existence." The book, organized by innings, makes a distinction between Vin Scurry as Artist, and his Art in and of itself, and emphasizes understanding the Art from a number of vantage points. The book has the “difficult task of rendering the essentially ineffable qualities constituting works of art into a language that will help others perceive the work more deeply.” Perspectives from Aesthetics, Literature, Rhetoric, Philosophy offer understandable, insightful, powerful ways of thinking about Scully's Art, that can lead to a deeper appreciation of his work. Somewhat regrettably, this effort of criticism relies upon the use of written transcripts, and much of Scully's success is in his voice, in his inflections. A limited number of Scully broadcasts are currently available for review. Samples from the past five decades suggest the observations herein do pertain to Scully's entire body of work. The critic's task is “to function as a midwife to perception, to so talk about the qualities constituting a work of art that others, lacking the critic's connoisseurship, will be able to perceive the work more comprehensively.” Hopefully fifty years of listening to Scull s broadcasts, and two years’ study has provided significant insights into Scully’s work that will aid such perception. ‘“The end of criticism,’ wrote John Dewey, ‘is the reeducation of the perception of the work of art.’ The critics task in this view is not primarily the issuance of a judgment, but rather the difficult task of ‘lifting the veils that keep the eyes from seeing.’” The following chapters seek to establish that Vin Scully has been not only a great broadcaster, but one of America’s greatest artists.

What has delayed such recognition? Surprisingly, perhaps shockingly, the voluminous Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature records only four magazine/journal articles identified as having been written about Vin Scully in the past fifty-six years (and an additional article written by Scully about Red Barber in April, 1993). An almost unbelievable lack of attention for such a highly-regarded public figure.

This “study” seeks to redress that neglect.

The approach here, then, emphasizes the independence of the art from the artist's biography. As a field, art criticism has concerned itself with both the impact a work has on its “audience” as well as analysis and evaluation of the work itself. Biographical interests in Scully are, consequently, minimal. He has done other baseball assignments, such as the Game of the Week, the All Star Game and the World Series, other Sports, and some non-Sports work on television, but he has been the Dodger announcer since 1950. This book emphasizes the quality of the Art of those Dodger broadcasts.

(Having established that, I want close with a more personal statement and emphasize that I admittedly have very limited interest in Vin Scully's personal biography. I would probably read such a book, but my interest has been about his work. I have accepted the bias of my own schooling in English Literature at Occidental College in the 1960s that a work of art has its own identity, and that knowledge of the author's background is not necessarily helpful in understanding that work. In a book about the Art and Legacy of Vin Scully, it seems appropriate to account for the basics of his professional career, but even here, as stated above, my interest is almost exclusively in his career as a Dodger announcer. As far as I was ever concerned any work he did other than the Dodger games, All Star game, playoffs and World Series was like an exhibition game. I am not justifying this preference, simply stating a limitation in the scope of this study. I think Scully’s greatest work has been related to his vast knowledge of everything Dodger. The actual Dodger game telecasts are what most capture my interest. I have listened to that work since the Dodgers’ move to Los Angeles in 1958. Thus I know his Dodger work best, think that has been his best work, and, have had immediate access to the broadcasts of Dodger baseball games that I have “collected” here and there over the past five decades. I will readily admit that writing this book has been a labor of love. I was amused at how time consuming yet, how painless it was listening, taking notes, transcribing, analyzing, organizing, observing, writing. Quite frankly I am genuinely pleased with my results, and I also have the greater hope that this introductory work will be followed by many more considerations of Scully's Art. I think I have argued persuasively here that, more than merely the Broadcaster of the Century, Scully is one of America's greatest artists.)

 

A personal footnote as well:

            I once had an opportunity to do an inning of play-by-play, broadcasting a college baseball game. Having spent a lifetime listening to Vin Scully I thought I might have been a little better than I was. I managed to get the names of the batters into the broadcast, mention the pitcher, added details like the pitcher pawing the rubber, and telling whether the pitches were balls, strikes or hit. No stats, no stories, no match-ups, no bios. I wondered why my minutes seemed to have so much less space than Vin’s. How could he fit so much more information into each minute and do so easily and comfortably? Vin’s minutes are like the magical tents in Harry Potter—outside they look very small, but inside they are capacious. I also recognized that if I said, “a dribbler to short,” it’d be imitation, it’d be false. I also came to appreciate how Scully creates his word pictures with the hints of details, that “Drysdale glaring in at Dietz,” triggered a picture without having to flesh out all the details. I was calling a game, Scully seems inside the game. I am reminded of Orel Hershiser’s comment that most fans know they couldn’t hit his fastball, but haven’t thought about the fact that they couldn’t catch it either. Similarly, I have a sense that “we” have not yet truly come to terms with the degree and extent of Scully's Art.