When I was 10, I used to sit alone in a car, in a dark, strange parking lot, listening to Vin Scully.
It was my grandfather’s car, and he was a supermarket executive, who used to have to go to meetings that ran past dinnertime. But he was a fan of the Dodgers, who moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles when I was 10, and when they came west, he loved to go their games. My grandfather used to tell me that if I would wait for him in the car, while he went to his meeting, when he came out, he would take me to the rest of the Dodger game.
We were in Glendale, a few miles away from Dodger Stadium, and we could often get there by the seventh inning. That was enough for both of us. Sometimes we could even get in for free! (He always knew the value of a dollar; he grew up in a family with no car, just a mule.)
There in his car, alone, I would listen to Vin, and his sidekick Jerry Doggett, and their friendly, warm voices would help me not be afraid in the dark.
For the record, I thought Jerry was a good guy, and very underrated. When he was gone, I don’t think Vin wanted to broadcast with anyone else.
When my grandfather would come out, I would update him on where we were in the game. I learned to keep a scorebook (“If you’re keeping score at home,” Vin would say, “that’s a 5-4-3 double play…” or whatever). And regardless of the score, we’d be off for Dodger Stadium. (My dad didn’t give a rip about baseball, or the Dodgers.)
Once, when my grandfather’s meeting ran late, the radio ran the big Buick’s battery dead. My transister radio saved the day, but we had to get AAA to come give us a jump. And, miracle of miracles, when the car fired up, the game was still on! It went into extra innings, so we off to the stadium.
My grandfather would like how Scully would set up these scenarios, innings before they would happen, that if this one guy would get a hit, then that would mean such-and-such guy, hitting .325, would get another turn at bat in the ninth inning, etc. Almost clairvoyantly (is that a word?), those scenarios would often play out, to my grandfather’s endless delight.
Once, when the Dodgers were still playing at the LA Coliseum, when we were sitting behind the net in left field, my uncle caught a home run ball. My uncle died last year; I think he was buried with that ball.
My grandfather died in 1995, and I moved away from L.A. and had no way to hear Dodger games anymore. (Doggett, the unsung sidekick for 32 years, died in 1997.)
I moved back to L.A. a few years ago, and I was amazed to find Vin still broadcasting games, albeit alone now.
“I used to listen to the Dodger games,” I told my wife, “with my grandfather…”
Just then, Vin launched into a story about some player at bat: “He used to watch the games with his grandfather…”
I swear this is true.
October 2, 2016