By Cary Osborne
All of my baseball memories begin in 1986.
I recall my older brother Ryan’s baseball team that year — the Pinto Astros. It was his first year playing organized baseball. I remember opening my first pack of baseball cards, those unimaginative Topps cards with the black and white border that carried the scent of a chalky stick of stale pink gum with them. And I can actually pinpoint my first memory of listening to Vin Scully.
It was October 25, 1986. I was barely 6 years old, but the memory has stayed with me for 30 years. I can hear it now …
Little roller up along first. Behind the bag! It gets through Buckner! Here comes Knight, and the Mets win it!
Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. Mookie Wilson’s grounder went between Bill Buckner’s legs, but Vin’s voice elevated the moment, capturing the excitement and cruelty of a game I would soon fall in love with.
I remember the next year as well. My budget for baseball cards went up and Dodger baseball started to creep its way into my heart. My brother, father and I used to visit my Uncle John at his home, and I remember every time we went over to his house, he had the radio on. Vin was calling Dodger games. I used to sit on the carpeted floor or on a seat and listen to the games with my uncle. And I remember hoping every time we went to Uncle John’s house that Vin would be there, too.
I remember where I was on October 15, 1988. My dad and brother were in the living room watching Game 1 of the World Series. At 8 years old, I was already superstitious so I decided to watch the game in my parents’ bedroom with my mom. I sat at the foot of the bed when Kirk Gibson came up. I recall Gibson coming up so vividly. I remember the lighting in my parents’ room being yellowish and the comforter on my parents’ bed being so thick. The TV rested inside of an unstained entertainment center. My mom was on the phone — her favorite hobby.
I tried, unsuccessfully, to pull her away.
“Mom. He’s going to hit a home run. Watch,” I said.
“High fly ball into right field, she is gone!”
To this day, I swear I still get goose bumps when I hear that call.
That cemented it. Vin Scully became my favorite Dodger.
Years later, I went to a Kirk Gibson autograph signing. You could have paid a little more money and Kirk would inscribe something like: “ ’88 MVP” or “WS Champ.” I had him inscribe something else.
“She is gone!”
Through a 99-loss season, when Don Drysdale died suddenly, through the string of Rookies of the Year in the 1990s and through division titles. From elementary school to college. Through heartache, heartbreak and heartwrench. The voice I’ve heard more in my life than my closest family members is the warm, gentle, emotive voice of Vin Scully.
I can’t remember if I had reached college yet, but I asked my dad one time: “Do you think Vin has an intern? I’d take his trash out for him if that were the job.”
I was serious. I would have ironed his shirt for him, and I loathe ironing.
My memories of Vin will always be the stories. But also his subtleties. He always calls his listeners “friends.” The way a child can make him melt is one of the most heartwarming things I can think of. And then when he narrates what he believes the child is thinking — you got me, Vin. He’d turn the most hardened man into marshmallow.
A couple of weeks ago, Vin had trouble pronouncing the name of Chicago Cub Rob Zastryzny and he asked his listeners if they minded that he just call the relief pitcher Rob.
“My pal Rob,” Vin referred to him as a couple of times.
It was such a sweet moment and I almost got emotional thinking: “I’m going to miss this.”
I have to recall another Vin moment. It was August 6, 2012 when then Colorado Rockies manager Jim Tracy ran out to the field and argued with the umpires. Then this ensued …
“He caught the ball. Jim said, ‘He caught the ball,’” Vin began, reading Tracy’s lips. “He caught the blinkin’ ball. He caught the darn ball.”
Then Tracy slammed his hat on the grass and was immediately ejected from the game.
“Uh-oh, You’re gone. He’s gone,” Vin continued before resuming his lip-reading.
“ ‘That is blinkin’ fertilizer.’ I’m doing my best to translate. ‘You’ve got to be blinkin’ me. The ball! He caught the ball! Unbelievable. Blinkin’ unbelievable. No way. No blinking way. No bloody way.’”
Vin used a British accent for the last line.
Vin, you just know how to make people smile.
I was fortunate to get one short interview with him in my seven seasons working for the Dodgers. It’s a treasure in my mind. We ran a feature in Dodger Insider magazine called “Every Picture Tells a Story.” My favorite Vin photo is from his bobblehead night in 2012 where a rainbow fell over his shoulder. I walked into his booth, and he was talking about U2 playing at the Roxy Theater the night before. No lie.
“Yeah, Bono,” Vin said. “This was my night to see them, but the game.”
He then said, “This is all tongue-in cheek.”
It’s five minutes I’ll never forget.
I had one more experience with Vin, and it happened just a few nights ago. At the end of every game, he immediately makes his way to the elevator to leave the stadium. I was in the back of the elevator making my way to the clubhouse to do interviews after that night’s game, and Vin walked to the back of the elevator and stood right next to me. I had to say something.
I put my hand on his left shoulder and I said, “I don’t know if I’ll ever get this chance again, but I wanted to say thank you for everything.”
He politely responded, “Oh, thank you.”
And I thought afterward how unprofound that was on my part. I should have said what he meant to me, the smiles he gave me, the love of the game he instilled in me, the times when my dad and I weren’t getting along but we could still talk about our mutual adoration for him and then forget about what we were fighting about.
But really, it was the perfect thing to say.
It’s what everyone wants to say to him. So here it goes, one more time:
Thank you Vin.
Originally published September 23, 2016