Friday, August 18, 2006

If you could have lunch with anyone . . .

(Before you read this, please note that I've made it so that you can leave your comments. I'd really like to encourage you to share your thoughts.)

If you could have just one chance to have lunch with anybody alive, who would it be? There’s some things like to say to George W. Bush, but he won’t be in office long enough for me to waste my one opportunity. I’m so disappointed with politicians and most world leaders that I probably wouldn’t believe anything they would say.

Celebrities don’t excite me a bit. Sports heroes aren’t really heroes — they’re overpaid, over-rated and seem to have forgotten that they should be role models. Of course, I’ve always wanted to talk with singer Michael Jackson, just because so many people have asked me if I was able to interview him when I discovered the police were investigating him.

But he’s insignificant when it comes to adding anything meaningful to the world. That’s a sad commentary considering he’s probably the most famous human alive.

O.J. Simpson? I doubt if he’d give me the answers I want. Heck I already know the answers, but I’d love to hear him say it.

There’s one person, however, who I feel like I’ve known for nearly 50 years — 48 to be exact and still counting. He’s been in every house or apartment I’ve lived in and in every car or truck I’ve owned. He’s mentioned in my favorite book (The Quartzsite Trip). I’ve seen him from a distance — I even took a picture of him when I was a kid, but you wouldn’t be able to recognize him without someone telling you that that’s him in the picture.

He taught me a lot. The most important thing I learned from him is how to be as absolutely fair and unbiased as I can be.

Fairness.

He taught me fairness. In a world of “us v. them,” he’s the exception. He’s an observer but not an endorser. He knows his profession better than anyone who ever lived, I believe. He’s had a gazillion chances to leave his job and move into the really big time and make even bigger bucks. I have no idea what he makes now, but I’m certain he could have quadrupled it a long time ago.

Loyalty.

He’s the best example of loyalty I’ve ever seen — except for maybe some dogs I’ve had. Everyone knows that no human can be as loyal as a good dog.

When I think about it, he’s been there for me longer than anyone in my life, except for my mother and my sister. My father was only around for 10 years. My stepfather joined the family for 15 years. Mom passed away when I was 48. Don’t get me wrong, nobody can compare to Mom. We’re just talking statistics here — number of consecutive years of influence.

He spoke to me the other day when I went into Santoro’s Submarine Sandwich shop in Burbank. I’ve been going there for way more than 40 years. The television was on when I walked in and, just like 40 years ago, Vin Scully’s soothing, friendly voice filled the room as he provided play-by-play during the Dodger game.

I waxed nostalgic for a moment and said to the young man preparing my meatball and cheese sub, “You know, I couldn’t name a single Dodger, but if Vin Scully is announcing the game, I’m captivated.”

“Yeah,” he said. “There’s nobody better.”

It was amazing because Vin Scully was at the microphone for 30 years before the young man was born.

You don’t have to be a baseball or Dodger fan to appreciate Vin Scully. He can describe what’s going on down on the field as quickly as it’s happening. What makes him different from all of the others is he names all of the players while the action takes place.

Other announcers might identify the position of the fielder involved in a play — even I could do that — or speak in the passive voice to buy time to remember or look up the name (“It’s caught by the shortstop, Henson, and thrown to the first baseman, Garcia”).

While the player for the other team is wiping the dust off of his uniform after sliding into second base, Vinny will tell you about the time the runner fell out of a tree when he was six years old. He’ll tell interesting stories between pitches and, even after an amazing homerun, he’ll complete the story.

But it’s when there’s a dispute or a rhubarb that Vin Scully shows his stuff. In all of these years, I’ve never once heard him talk as if he’s on the side of the Dodgers. He’s always neutral. Always.





(The photo is from the www.dodgers.com.)

And he doesn’t talk bad about people. If a player screws up badly, Vinny won’t rub it in. In fact, he seems to have something positive to say about everyone — even the umpires.

He’s never at a loss for words. Back in the black-and-white days of the late 1950s or early ‘60s, I remember a time when Vinny was doing a telecast from a game in San Francisco that was delayed because of fog. There was no back-up programming while everyone waited for things to clear up, so Vinny had to keep talking. When it seemed that he’d run out of things to say about the game and the players, he gave the viewers a tour of the broadcast booth and even demonstrated the “cough button” that would mute the microphone.

And when the fans would get out of control and streak onto the field or throw things, Vinny would refuse to give them any exposure or play-by-play. Anyone who grew up listening to Vinny knows he wouldn’t approve.

For a few years, I’d take my transistor radio to the game so that I could listen to Vin Scully tell me what I was seeing. He’s that addictive. But after a while, I quit taking the radio because there are always enough people nearby with radios that you never missed a description.

He’s 78 years old and his mellow voice hasn’t seemed to have changed. I don’t believe there are any Dodger employees working there today who were there when the Dodgers came west from Brooklyn in 1958. He’s outlasted the players, the coaches and even the owners.

If I could have lunch with Vin Scully, I’m not sure I’d even talk about baseball. I might not even ask any questions at all. I think I’d be happy just to be sitting with an old friend.

Thanks Vinny for being there for me and for teaching me how to be a better journalist and a better person. And thanks for not abandoning all of us. Thanks for not selling out.

OK, if you could have lunch with anybody, who would it be? I believe the "comments" feature is turned on.

4 comments:

Martial Haprov said...

Don Ray, I wouldn't waste breath on Dub-ya either. I don't care for politics, and I never have -- I think you know that. I feel "they" let "us" believe we're in a state of freedom and in control of our government. This may sound like a statement coming from Captain Obvious, but I don't think they tell us the truth and I choose not to associate any of my personal being with that kind of dishonesty. BLAH! Far be it from me to say how to run the world, a conglomerate of nations, a single nation, a region, or even a city -- but, I don't think they're doing it right. Is that oxymoronic?

I would have lunch with Vince McMahon. Vince McMahon is the chairman of World Wrestling Entertainment. He took professional wrestling from territories and small comapnies to national presence and nearly-global attention. He helped create mythical icons like Hulk Hogan and the Undertaker, and he's the son of a man who discovered Andre "The Giant" and saw potential in fellas like "Classie" Freddy Blassie, Captain Lou Albano, and Bruno Sammartino. I've been fascinated with pro wrestling for most of my life, and I think a lot of it is because of the sick, twisted, yet ingenious and vivid mind of Vince McMahon.

I tell you no lies, if I could eat lunch with that man, I probably wouldn't be able to give him enough air space to return any answers. My praises would be few and far between because I would ask him every question I've come up with since the first time I remember wanting to be a Hulkamaniac. Like your dream-lunch-companion, mine has been in my house for at least 18 years, if not longer. The fruits of his professional labor are plastered all over my computer room -- posters, figures, replica title belts, mini-replica title belts (ok, there's only one of those), magazines, VHS tapes, and even books. I understand that he isn't the only person coming up with all of the propaganda that I waste my money on, but he's the guy who had a vision of professional wrestling being more that a fool's sport.

He thought it might be fun to make it more like a movie.

A movie that's more like a soap opera. It has no off-season and the characters change all the time.

Maybe I'll go watch some of that junk right now...

Martial Haprov

Chris Sisley said...

I actually met vin scully once. about ten years, i was having dinner with a friend at the 21 club in new york city, and a group of four men were seated next to us. i didn't notice them right away, but then i heard "the unmistakable voice." i knew immediately it was vin scully, and then i heard the men talking dodger talk. i told them i was from l.a., and we had a nice conversation. my father was a huge sports fan, including baseball, so i heard vin scully's voice on the t.v. and radio all the years growing up in burbank, and attending games now and then with my parents. vin scully was charming and gracious and friendly. i also enjoyed flirting with the other guys while my then boyfriend was in bathroom. all good fun and a nice memory.

Tim Harris said...

Don,



You know that a lot of the time I disagree with your opinions, I also hope you know that doesn't mean that I don't consider you a friend. We just sometimes agree to disagree, but when it comes to Baseball, I being a San Francisco Giant fan since 1958 when they came to The City, you and I agree perfectly! This article, one of the most poignant regarding Vin Scully I've ever read, is wonderful. It's raw emotion and truthfulness stings the heart and touches the soul of anyone who has ever heard his definitive voice. The article just goes to prove my point that if you give someone a chance or even enough chances, you'll find something in common with most everyone. I do happen to have a "ESPN Sunday Night Baseball" banner, the ones that hang on the fence by the dugouts, that my son and I liberated from "The Big A" about 18 or so years ago and it does have quite a few player autographs on it but there is only one announcer's autograph that I covet for the banner, that of Vin Scully...



Another good reason to go to a Dodger – Giant game…



Tim

Anonymous said...

Don Ray, I could not agree with you more about wanting to have sit down with Vin Scully. My father played in the dodger organization and said he had never met a nicer man in his life. He represents what baseball and all sports should represent and that is
" having fun " no matter what level your playing at. His announce style is unique and yes, very fair. Most announcers have people who give announcers numerous background material when they announce. Vin Scully does it all himself !! Amazing !

He also has a clause in his contract that details TV cameras getting at least 2-3 shots of cute kids in the stands because of his love for children. Amazing !

He does not travel to away games much anymore but those of us in southern california area should feel honored to listen to him.

He has seen so much in his lifetime in regards to baseball. I hope he continues on announcing for many more years. He is a true hero !

Steve