By Jon Weisman
At the end of the street formerly known as Elysian Park Avenue, we witnessed today what happens when an unstoppable force meets a moved city.
In the driveway of his home away from home at Dodger Stadium, a broadcaster without equal acknowledged the formal dedication of Vin Scully Avenue, thanking the grateful fan base that has hung on his words since 1950.
“In all honestly, if you asked me this very minute, ‘How do you feel about what’s going on?’ I would honestly say to you, ‘Overwhelmed,” Scully said. “I really am.”
Broadcast colleague Charley Steiner emceed the ceremony under rich, unthreatening clouds, in front of one of the signs that marked the new address of the ballpark, and set the tone of appreciation that followed.
“Unlike most of you here, I grew up in Brooklyn,” Steiner began. “When I was 7 years old, on WMGM radio, the very first time I heard Vin’s voice, I immediately knew what my career path would be. Sixty years later, the path to my career is about to be renamed.
“Vin, you had me at ‘Hi everybody, and a very pleasant good afternoon, wherever you may be,'” Steiner continued. “In a city of stars, we can make a pretty compelling case that Vin is the biggest and most popular star of all. No last name required.”
Los Angeles mayor Gil Garcetti and city councilman Gil Cedillo, who helped spearhead the avenue renaming from the government end, waxed over Scully, not only for his brilliance but also his importance.
“Vin, this is what you did,” Cedillo said. “You united our city, and the various communities and the various generations.”
Dodger president and CEO Stan Kasten marveled at the breadth of experience that Scully represents.
“In my first year on the job, I was discussing with Vin a nuance about baseball, a point about baseball strategy, and I was sure how I felt about it because I read about it in a book written by Branch Rickey, 70-80 years ago,” Kasten said. “And Vin said, ‘That’s exactly right. Branch and I used to talk about that exact thing.’
“Now before Branch was an executive, he was a Major League player. He broke into the Major Leagues with the St. Louis Browns in 1905. Vin Scully used to talk baseball with people who had been playing baseball in 1905 — and every year since. Is there anyone on the planet who has been talking basebaall with people who played in 1905 — and yesterday?”
When it came time for Scully to speak, he began first by thanking God and second by thanking his wife Sandi, for her unwavering support during all the time he was at Dodger Stadium or on the road. Then, Scully told a short story about his own baseball background.
“When I was in New York growing up, I was a street kid,” he said. “We did not have big parks to play in. We played in the street, with a broom handle and a tennis ball, and we had manhole covers for the bases. And at one time, I was known in my neighborhood as ‘Two-Sewer Scully.'”
Scully also joked about his success, quipping that “when you say ’67 years doing the same job,’ I also think, ‘Sure, sure — no advancement?'”
But then, at length and “from the bottom of my heart,” Scully sought to really articulate what the fans meant to him.
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“I don’t know you, and I miss you, believe me, each and every day. You have been so kind and so gentle, that again, as I said in my opening remarks, I’m overwhelmed. Just to hear your enthusiasm, the voice that comes roaring up out of the stands, there’s nothing like it.
“When I was about 8 years old, we had a big radio, on four legs, and I used to crawl underneath the radio, and the loudspeaker was directly over my head. And the only thing on the radio in those days was a college football game on a Saturday afternoon. There was no television. Heck, it was shortly after the discovery of fire.
“But I would listen to the college football games, and I really wouldn’t know anybody playing. It might be Tennessee-Alabama, and here’s a kid in a fifth-floor, walk-up apartment in Manhattan. But when the crowd roared — (when) someone scored a touchdown, and that roar came out of the speaker — it literally and figuratively was like water coming out of a shower head, and I would get goosebumps all over. And then I thought, ‘I’d love to be there.’ And then I thought, ‘Maybe I’d like to broadcast.’ And it all came true, thank God.
“But what happens is when you folks are at the ballpark and something happens and you let out a roar, I sit there in the booth and I don’t say a word. For during that 40-second whatever, I’m 8 years old again.
“So when people say, ‘You know, Gee, you still have a little bit left at your advanced age,’ I always think this crowd is a big reason. I mean, how many times can you go back to when you were 8 years old? And that’s what you do to me with your enthusiasm. And I thank so very, very much to you and each and every one of you. I mean, I’m surprised you’re here today.”
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After that story, the crowd gathered at the front porch of 1000 Vin Scully Avenue began to chant, “one more year.” But Scully demurred.
“I’ve given it a lot of consideration, and no thank you,” he said. “No, I’ve done enough. I’ve said almost everything. I still have this year left, again, God willing. Maybe on the final day of my final broadcast, I’ll somehow come up with the magic words that you deserve. As for now, I have only two magic words: Thank you.”