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Commentary: Vin Scully’s voice was like another parent

Vin Scully, with his wife Sandra Hunt, waves to the crowd after his final broadcast from Dodger Stadium on Sept. 25, 2016.
Vin Scully, with his wife, Sandra Hunt, waves to the crowd after his final broadcast from Dodger Stadium on Sept. 25, 2016.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

There is no better way to begin an appreciation of Vin Scully, who died Tuesday at age 94, than with his own words:

“There’s 29,000 people in the ballpark and a million butterflies. ... I would think that the mound at Dodger Stadium right now is the loneliest place in the world.”

That was Scully’s call of Sandy Koufax’s perfect game in 1965. I wasn’t yet born then, but I can hear his comforting voice well.

So with apologies to you, Vin: Right now, there are 10 million of us in L.A. County and a hundred million tears, and this city feels like the loneliest place in the world without you.

To say Los Angeles has lost its voice doesn’t begin to describe our grief. We’ve lost a presence, a singular unifying force for an unwieldy city of countless disparate parts and vast distances, a place home to innumerable traditions, beliefs and ways of life.

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What I knew about Vin Scully was only from what he chose to tell us; I never met the man in person, but in many ways his voice helped raise me as a kid in the 1980s.

Scully’s vivid prose — “play calling” doesn’t do it justice — was the soundtrack of my childhood summer evenings just as they were cooling off. It was as if his voice found us wherever we were on the block, emanating from enough TVs and radios to make each Dodger game come to life out on the sidewalk.

With seemingly every home’s windows and front doors wide open, his exclamations of a “high fly ball, deep into center field,” would beckon me drop what I was doing and rush into whatever living room or kitchen with an open door nearby, oblivious to any concerns over private property or safety. When my elders informed me — on multiple occasions, and always in vain — that peering through windows or yanking open screen doors to catch the game just wasn’t supposed to be done, I never blamed Vin.

But in this state of raw emotion, of contemplating what everyone in L.A. knew would come one day but couldn’t bear to think about, I confess to blaming Vin — or at least feeling abandoned — when he finally retired. There would be no more pleasant evenings listening to his banter or his conspicuous silence as the crowd was in thunderous applause (one of his broadcasting ticks that, I think, says a lot about the man’s humility). Young children like me, lonely from divorce and bouncing between mother and father, found that reassuring presence in Vin Scully, a reminder that everything might be OK. After his retirement, other L.A. kids who could use a friend wouldn’t be so lucky.

But at 88 years old in 2016 and with 67 years of service, Vin earned his rest. His retirement was like the departure of a loving father — the more you’ve come to rely on him, the more he’s given you, the greater the hurt without him.

And now, at 94, with a life spent making ours that much more pleasant, Vin Scully has once again earned a break.

Rest in peace, Vin, wherever you may be.


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