Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A Girl of Summer—Almost

After reading Mrs. Orel's At-Game Recap, our friend Linda Bergman kindly contributes this story of an encounter with Vin Scully.

(It's a busy time for Vin: He's getting ready to appear onstage with John Wooden and he's receiving honors left and right. And head on over to Dodger Thoughts to see a priceless photo of Vin from his Fordham University yearbook: Vincent Scully '49.)

Brava Orel's wife!!!! Her story of the oppressive heat Dodger fans willingly endure reminded me of another story that took place many years ago.

As kids and Dodger fans in the 60's, my older brother Dick and I would listen to the games on his little Zenith portable radio for hours on end to take us out of the oppressive heat of the San Fernando Valley and the torture of Mom's sticky, yellow vinyl sofa. Dick, unbeknownst to his friends (who would destroy him for hanging out with his kid sister), taught me how to score games listening to Vin Scully. He patiently showed me how to draw the baseball diamond and record the balls and strikes and errors. I was a compulsive learner and caught on fast. Mostly, I loved being close to him without getting punched or teased and I attributed his benevolence to the calm that Vinny's voice always seemed to restore to our chaotic household. In my mind, Vinny bonded us as secret friends. I can never, to this day, hear his voice and not think of brother Dick and me head-to-head in our house on Hart Street.

Fast forward to some thirty years later. It was the 90's and I had arranged with the Dodgers organization to sit with Vinny to research a script I was writing. "Toot Toot Tootsie Goodbye," based on Ron Powers' book of the same name, was about a legendary baseball announcer nearing the end of his career.

My heart raced with excitement as I took the elevator up high above the crowds to the broadcast booth and I just about melted when I sat down in front of the console and saw the vista of the park spread out before me. Vinny's Vista. The way he saw it. The view that inspired him to draw the voice pictures that transported us—the radio fans—to the park and beyond.

For me, Vinny WAS the character in the film, L.C. Fanning. Like Fanning, Vinny was a master storyteller able to give us nuanced verbal histories on every player. With a brilliant turn of phrase, he could take us to the players' hometowns, to where their mothers and grannies made homemade apple pie, to where they first threw that slider and how, with hard work and spit, they became true boys of summer. When Vinny called a game, you could smell that pie.

He was such a gentleman and made me so comfortable. I told him the story I just told you. "My brother would never believe this," I whispered. Vinny grinned and leaned back in his chair.

"Well, let's get him on the phone."

My hands shook as I dialed, praying Dick was sitting in the stands with the radio to his ear or at home listening to it. Eureka! I could barely contain myself when I heard his familiar " 'Lo" and blurted out, "You'll never guess where I am sitting!"

He guessed the usual haunts. A movie theatre? A bar? Getting your toes done? No. NO. NO.

"Where, then?"

When I told him I was at Dodger Stadium in Vinny's booth, there was a long silence. Finally, with his usual command of the English language, he snorted.

"Horseshit."

Oh boy, I had him now, I thought and handed the phone to Vinny sitting so close I could smell the remnant of dry cleaning fluid in his sports jacket.

"Hi there, Richard!" Scully chirped in that unmistakable baritone.

And so, history for this Valley Girl was made.

Sealed in the sanctity of the announcer's booth and the magic of Nancy Bea Hefley, the organ lady, not fifteen feet away, I was Queen of the May and Queen for a Day at the same time.

To top it off, Don Drysdale was also doing color that night. Resplendent in his Hawaiian shirt and bloodshot baby blues, he too got in on the act, talking game to Dick and flattering me for writing a movie about baseball.

And so I became more than a little sister.

Finally, in my older brother's eyes, I was someone to be reckoned with. An authentic girl of summer, almost, on a night that ended far too soon.

Thanks, Linda!

6 comments:

Mrs. Orel said...

Great story,Linda. We're right there with you.

Mrs. Orel

Eric Karros said...

Yes, great story, friend of the Orels. Suddenly my showpiece post doesn't seem as majestically articulate as it once did.

NinoA said...

Linda, What a memorable experience for having spent time with an icon of our time. Great story !

vines4judy said...

What a writer you are, I felt I was right there and I could see that ho........ coming right out of Dick's mouth. Bravo--you always know how to tell a great story. Love, Judy

Chuck said...

Beautifully written, or as Chick Hearn would have said it, a great "Word's Eye View" of Vinny's world.
Today, fans still listen to Vin Scully even as they are sitting in the stadium, and your word picture of that slice of life imparts that feeling to us. From Brooklyn to LA, thank you.

Steve Sax said...

This is another awesome post. Thanks Linda and stop by anytime!