Oct 30

‘The Dodgers Won!’

It started 13 years before I showed up. A nine-year-old boy — born in Pasadena and growing up in the San Gabriel Valley and Orange County — saw Major League Baseball move to Southern California in the spring of 1958 and fell in love. A year later, the Dodgers — quite magically, as is their wont — won a World Series. Two more followed in a six-year span, and that boy grew into a teenager and then young adult idolizing and dreaming of the names: Maury and Tommy, and Don and Sandy — and on and on. In 1969, he married. In 1971, he had a son: me.

With my sister Jenny around 1980.

What makes you fall in love with a baseball team? Real, active, always-present-tense love? The first time I remember (vaguely) attending a game is in 1976 against the Padres. I definitely remember having my Hitachi radio next to my bed every night, falling asleep to Vin Scully, Jerry Doggett, or Ross Porter. And I fully remember those crushing losses of 1977 — Reggie Jackson’s three-homer game — and 1978 — Reggie sticking his ass end into a throw to flip the series on its head.

Baseball, with its day-in-day-out routine, has a rhythm unlike any other sport. And it’s that rhythm that ties my family together in those years, from April through September — and, in the best years, October. My dad brings us to the Dodgers. My mom helps nurture the love affair. And my sister and I fall right into it.

Love is listening to my dad’s vinyl record of highlights of that 1959 Dodger championship team (“Hodges scores! We go to Chicago!” exclaims Vin.) Love is laughing along with Danny Kaye’s “D-O-D-G-E-R-S” song from the 60s.

Love expands when my dad starts buying tickets for me for my birthday each year. He and I go to a game in the week or two after my mid-May birthday. Dodger Stadium is a cathedral. Love is hearing those familiar sounds from my radio — the organist Helen Dell, the fans roaring — IN PERSON. Love is a Dusty Baker three-run homer in the bottom of the eighth to beat the Cardinals in 1980. Love is a win over the defending champion Phillies in 1981, in which both Pete Rose and Larry Bowa are ejected after a close play at third base. And on and on.

If we go to a second or third game in a season, it’s a real treat. The Dodgers televise 50 road games each season on KTTV, Channel 11. Then something called ON TV comes around — a still-odd, one-channel precursor to basic cable — and the Dodgers add 20 home games there.

With my dad on my 40th birthday on 2011.

That’s still less than half the games televised — love is that Hitachi radio getting a regular workout, both bedside and in the backyard as I play along with games on Dodger road trips to the east coast. Love is those 4 p.m. Pacific starts! I am Garvey, Lopes, Russell, AND Cey — depending on what’s happening. I am Reggie Smith, Dusty, Steve Yeager. I am Don Sutton and Burt Hooton.

Love is building a makeshift Dodger Stadium scoreboard out of a large cardboard box, anchoring it to a wall in the backyard, and posting the line score on it every morning with chalk. Oh yes, that’s love.

Time rolls on, the memory bank fills up. Love is the big weekend sweep against the Astros in 1980 (only to be foiled in the NL West playoff game on Monday afternoon). Love is the first championship in 1981, the unforgettable year of “Fernandomania.” It’s staying home from school on a Monday to watch Rick Monday hit a home run in frozen Montreal to put the Dodgers into the Series. Love is jumping off the couch when they win said Series against the hated Yankees and inadvertently clocking my dad’s friend Harold in the chin. Love is getting the Dodgers’ holiday card in the mail — the one with the championship trophy on it.

Love is Opening Day 1982: raising the flag and Dusty walking off the Giants. Then it’s wandering the stadium until — right before they tell us to leave — we see Danny Kaye (“Well, I say D … I say D-O …”) talking to a friend and spot pitcher Bob Welch walking along the field level concourse. I think my sister and I scare him off with how excited we are.

Opening Day 1993 in the left field pavilion.

What’s love? That Opening Day begins a long personal string — broken less than 5 times by work travel, a move east, and now the pandemic — of attending Opening Day, a springtime Christmas of sorts.

Love grows during twin pennant races with the Braves in ’82 and ’83 — listening on the stereo in the living room in the dark to one come-from-behind win after another as a new generation of Dodgers comes along. Near the end of the 1983 race, the Dodgers add a couple home games to the Channel 11 schedule (as happens almost every September). Love is a 4-run ninth-inning rally capped by squeeze bunt by a rookie named RJ Reynolds on a warm Sunday afternoon.

In 1985, my dad and I get tickets to our first playoff game — the first game of the NLCS against the Cardinals. Love is Fernando spinning a gem. Love, too, is being crushed a week later, watching helplessly on TV as Jack Clark sends a pitch screaming through the sunny October haze and into the left field pavilion.

The dream season comes around in 1988. Love is Kirk Gibson appearing as if from the ether — but really, just Detroit — and demanding the team follow his lead. They do, and then near the regular season’s end, love becomes Orel Hershiser going on just about the best two-month streak you’ll ever see from any pitcher.

In August of that year, my dad and I go to the stadium on back-to-back Saturdays — two of the most memorable nights of my life. On the first, we sit in the left field pavilion as a rookie call-up named Ramon Martinez baffles the second-place Giants for seven innings and then — after three Dodgers are ejected for arguing various calls in the 11th inning — pitcher Tim Leary must pinch hit because the Dodgers are out of position players. Love is Leary’s walkoff single, of course!

The following Saturday, we sit in the right field pavilion as the Dodgers fall behind Montreal, 3-0 after six. One in the seventh, one in the eighth, and one in the ninth ties the game, with Gibson standing on second base with two outs in that ninth inning. Love is one wild pitch and one mad dash by Gibby giving the Dodgers a 4-3 win, with more than 45,000 going screaming and celebrating together. Love is connection.

Yes, the year is improbable, and Gibson delivers the impossible in Game 1 of the World Series — still the greatest single moment I’ve ever seen as a Dodger fan. But it’s all of a piece, so that when Hershiser strikes out Tony Phillips to end the World Series in Oakland, the feeling isn’t so much shock as it is wonder. Love is still wondering how they did it. How did it all work out just so?

Until earlier this week, there are times I think we used up all of our fan karma that year.

The 32-year separation from Hershiser then to Julio Urias Tuesday does not dim love. No, it anchors it deeper. Once I am out of the house, into college, living in LA, and into my adulthood, I take every chance I can get to go to that stadium. Love is soaking it all in five, eight, 10, 12 times a year — good teams or bad — during those early lean years.

Even the worst Dodger season in my lifetime — 1992 — brings back strong memories. Love is sitting with maybe 6,000 people at the start of an early July, midweek doubleheader vs. the Expos, made necessary by the cancellation of games during the riots. Love is lucking into a couple of free tickets late in the season — and seeing Kevin Gross toss a no-no vs. the Giants.

The next generation begins to take hold in 1993, as a very average Dodgers team led by Eric Karros and future Hall of Famer Mike Piazza memorably derails a 103-win Giants team on the season’s final day. Love is my dad and I sitting in the loge level and relishing the moment. And though a couple of playoff berths result, the Fox era of Dodger ownership is, mostly, a stain — proven no more clearly than by the joke of a trade that sends Piazza to Florida on my birthday in 1998. Love is still being mad about that.

But that’s nothing compared to the McCourt era. It starts promisingly enough, with the Dodgers’ first playoff game win since 1988 when Jose Lima shuts out the Cardinals in the 2004 NLDS. Another playoff appearance in 2006 is, again, brief — following the famous back-to-back-to-back-to-back home run miracle against the Padres on my dad’s birthday that September. Love is remembering both that marvelous night — and also two Dodgers, laughably, being thrown out at the plate on the same play in an NLDS game in Shea Stadium weeks later.

That doesn’t mean I don’t have fond memories of certain players from the early 90s through the aughts. The aforementioned Karros, Piazza, and Lima. And there’s Raul Mondesi, Hideo Nomo, Paul LoDuca, Eric Gagne (GAME OVER!), and future Hall of Famer Adrian Beltre.

With my friend Brent after a great comeback win in Game 2 of the 2009 NLDS.

Before McCourt’s bleeding of the Dodgers’ finances for his personal gain, though, the team begins to usher in a new crew, many of whom would be part of the Dodgers’ current run. Names like Russell Martin, James Loney, Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, AJ Ellis, and — of course — Clayton Kershaw are the youth on a pair of division title teams that win playoff series in 2008 and 2009 — the MANNYWOOD era. And when my dad both retires AND turns 60 in 2008, there’s no question where we celebrate those milestones: Dodger Stadium. Love, indeed.

By 2012, though, when Guggenheim Partners — which brilliantly lets LA icon Magic Johnson serve as its initial face — purchases the Dodgers, many fans are in outright revolt. The McCourts had sullied what we love, they’d used all of us, and they weren’t subtle about it.

That changes almost instantaneously, as new ownership makes bold moves to create a contender in 2013. Then, in early June, a sort of magic happens — Yasiel Puig. The buzz he creates with his immediate success is incredible, and the Dodgers follow, blowing through a 42-7 run in the middle of the summer to bring back excitement and joy to a stadium that had grown quiet in recent years.

With Caitlin in June 2011.

That summer happens to coincide with the purchase of a 30-game ticket pack, made possible by the agreement of my now wife. Never in my life did I think I’d be so lucky to go to the stadium so many times in one season — but Caitlin is up for it, and I think that’s the summer we bring her into the fold for good. Love adds one more Dodger fan to the family.

Love is Puig running madly from first to third or gunning down another runner. Love is another walk-off hit by Ethier or Adrian Gonzalez. And love definitely is Juan Uribe’s game-winning home run in the NLDS vs. Atlanta. Though the season ends with a tough NLCS defeat to the Cardinals (Love definitely is NOT the St. Louis Cardinals), it’s so much fun that talking Caitlin into full season tickets isn’t really a “talking into” at all.

We could never know that 2013 is the first of eight consecutive divisional title seasons. What a time to fulfill that lifelong dream of owning season tickets. While we never really top going to more than 30 regular season games, going to that many games in a given summer — and then into the playoffs every year — takes love to a different place. The routine weeknights in the early season, with the smaller crowds, OR the big weekend series in late August — it doesn’t matter. Each experience is its own, and just how tied I — we — feel to the team only grows.

Caitlin and me on a Friday night in 2014.

Love is teaching your soon-to-be wife how to keep score. It’s watching her learn each player’s quirks and come to love (or hate) in the same ways you do. Love is the “rhythm and the ritual of the stadium and the game and the season,” Caitlin says.

Love is her loving Joc Pederson and my dad disliking him — while I just enjoy the homers. Love is her being … uninspired … by the persona of Max Muncy and my dad having a massive man-crush on him — while I just enjoy the homers.

Love is sharing a bevy of jokes about Uribe’s or Zack Greinke’s scoreboard photos. It’s also jokes about Jamey Carroll taking Dee Gordon out for ice cream after the game. It’s grabbing two Dodger Dogs and a beer before you sit down each night. Love is going from hating Chase Utley to loving him. Love is getting there early on Kershaw Day to watch him go through his full warmup routine. Love is both of us singing along to “I Love L.A.” and “Touch The Sky” after big wins.

Love is remembering the drunk couple sitting behind us who eventually starts a fight — between themselves — and laughing about it. It’s being on a first-name basis with fellow-U2-lover Josh, the bartender in the Stadium Club who’s originally from New England and always puts my tab under “Tommy Brady” once he finds out Caitlin is, too. Love is being able to take your dad to as many games as he wants, including a World Series game.

Love is watching “The Lego Movie” from the Stadium Club on the scoreboard after a Saturday afternoon game and laughing like madmen with the lone usher/security guard whose job was to stick around. Love is hitting the Short Stop before 6 p.m. Saturday games and downing a couple of boilermakers — and then, on one of those Saturdays, almost missing the message that you won Dugout Club seats because of said boilermakers … and a couple more beers after you got inside the stadium.

Won those Dugout Club seats in 2016.

Love is getting lucky enough to have a pregame margarita with Mickey Hatcher in the Stadium Club. Love is taunting the D-backs bullpen from the right field bar as they fritter away a 4-run ninth-inning lead. Love is watching Pedro Baez give up a 450-foot home run one night and coming back with hope for something better the next.

Love is Kershaw dominating the Giants to clinch the division in 2014. Love is Charlie Culberson walking off the division title on Vin Scully’s final call at the stadium. Love is listening to your own vinyl LP of 1981 championship season highlights the morning of Vin Scully’s final-final game behind the mic, just a week later.

Love is Chris Taylor homering on the first pitch of the World Series. It’s Rich Hill holding a handmade cardboard sign in the dugout exhorting the crowd to get louder. Love is watching Puig and Hanley Ramirez feed Uribe a banana after a home run — and it is Kiké Hernandez dressing in a banana costume on the bench late in games.

On-field for BP with JT in 2017.

Love is Ethier hitting an opposite field home run to tie the game in the ninth and Gonzalez walk it off with a double in the 12th. It’s watching Puig double home two for a walkoff win against the White Sox. Love is rising in unison when Kenley jogs in to “California Love.” Love is hating the “social media highlights” and “in-game hosts” between innings on the scoreboard.

Love is all the familiar faces behind the food and beverage counters and getting to know and re-know them every season. It’s the lucky Dodger Dog lady — every time I got in her line for my pregame dogs one season, the Dodgers seemed to win! Love is getting on the field for batting practice and having Puig and Dave Roberts (among others) take pictures with you and the Dodgers onesie jersey you bought for the son you’re expecting a few months later.

Love is keeping your season tickets even though you move 3,000 miles away in 2018, just so that you can go to a few games when you’re in town — and you can otherwise share the experience with friends and family who are up to go to all those other games. Love is flying back those 3,000 miles, three-and-a-half weeks after the birth of your son, to introduce him to his grandpa and great aunt — and to take him to his first two World Series games.

And love, from 2013-2019, is also about the pain of coming so close every single time. Love is the silence of the home crowd at the end of Game 5 of the NLDS in 2015 … and Game 7 of the World Series in 2017 … and Game 5 of the World Series in 2018. It’s flipping your TV off at the end of Game 6 of the NLCS in 2013 … and Game 4 of the NLDS in 2014 … and Game 6 of the NLCS in 2016 … and Game 5 of the NLDS in 2019. Love is, within a couple weeks, being oh-so-ready to do it all over again the next spring.

Only, this spring, there’s nothing to do. The pandemic puts the season at risk — a season that looks so promising after the Dodgers steal Mookie Betts from the Red Sox. For months, we wonder if there will be baseball. And then, even when it starts, the empty stadiums and positive tests around the league are strange and cause concern about how they can possibly finish the season.

But love is watching on Opening Night (even that sounds weird) on ESPN, and then tuning in regularly with MLB.TV as the Dodgers march powerfully through the 60-game schedule. Love is finding solace in the regularity of a baseball game — a Dodger baseball game — in the craziness that is 2020.

When the extended playoffs start in late September, Dodger fans are ready but wary. Love is worrying about a best-of-three series vs. Milwaukee. And love is relief when they ease through it in two. Love is seeing the Padres show up for their every-other-decade bout of relevancy, and then dispatching their upstart crew in three straight. Love is definitely being so fed up as the Dodgers fall behind Atlanta three-games-to-one that you turn off Game 4 in the seventh inning just for your own sanity.

But love — as noted earlier — is coming back the next day, putting on your “In This Together” t-shirt that you bought earlier in the summer to support the Dodgers Foundation, and hoping against hope for something different.

Something different happens. Love is Mookie’s shoe-top catch turning the tide in Game 5, and then Will Smith homering off Will Smith to force Game 6. It’s Corey Seager and Walker Buehler pushing it to Game 7. Love is Justin Turner’s incredible rundown double play, Mookie stealing one homer, and Kiké and Cody Bellinger hitting a pair of big-time bombs to win the pennant.

Love is starting to believe this is finally the year, and then having Mookie boost that belief in Game 1 of the World Series with a virtuoso performance. It’s shrugging off a Game 2 loss and watching Buehler throw like a modern-day cross of Drysdale and Koufax in Game 3.

And, yes, love is thinking all hope is lost for a few hours after the mindboggling, reality-bending, soul-crushing finish of Game 4. We’ve seen that movie before. And when that movie runs in previous postseasons, it usually means curtains for the Dodgers. The feeling of dread runs well into the early afternoon hours on Sunday.

Our beloved, flawed hero — Kershaw — is to take the mound in Game 5 under immense pressure to right the ship. So many times during the past seven seasons, the Dodgers put it all on Kersh — and then try to put even more on him. Worse, Kersh has a tendency to put it all on himself, and his striving for perfection — plus the Dodgers’ constant desire to see him get just one more out, no matter the situation — too often leads to disaster.

Love is putting on my Kershaw jersey that evening and deciding to believe, one more time. On Sunday night, he does the job — not with his Cy Young stuff, but not trying to be perfect. Grinding through 5 2/3 innings, catching the tying run at the plate trying to steal home, and retiring the last seven batters he faces, Kershaw gets the biggest win of his career.

This time, the Dodgers stand strong in the face of the most baffling adversity at the worst time. They remain steadfast in that 4-2 win in Game 5. It’s different. Love is the strange calmness that comes — something I’ve rarely felt in all my years as a Dodger fan.

Love is understanding how that sense of calm remains, even as Rays pitcher Blake Snell tosses 5 incredible innings to start Game 6. But Tampa loves its analytics, and five Dodger pitchers keep the deficit at just one run. Love is believing that this championship is just one break away. When Snell goes out after an Austin Barnes single in the sixth, love and Mookie and Julio win.

32 years gone. When last the Dodgers call themselves champs, I’m a senior in high school, my sister a sophomore, my dad nine years younger than I am right now, and my mom not even 40. So much changes. We grow apart and come back together — some of us more than once. We move on, and create different lives, and add wonderful people to our circles, and find ourselves in different parts of the country.

But, when Urias fires that 97 MPH fastball down the middle to Willy Adames on Tuesday night — and I sit with Caitlin to my left, our son Theo on my lap, and my dad on FaceTime on my iPhone — we’re all together. Not just Caitlin, my dad, and Theo, but also my mom, my sister, my aunt, and my friends with whom we spend so many days and nights at the stadium.

There we are: standing in the left-field pavilion on Opening Day in 1982; dancing around the living room on a Sunday afternoon in 1983; screaming in the right field pavilion in 1988; jawjacking Giants fans in 1993; sitting in the ballpark on a chilly April night in 1995 just because we loved it there; watching Raul Mondesi’s two miracle home runs on Opening Day in 1999; celebrating Lima Time in 2004; cheering a Matt Kemp walk-off homer against the Nats in 2012; roaring after JT’s walk-off homer in Game 2 against the Cubs in 2017; feeling the stadium shake after Puig’s 3-run bomb in Game 4 against the Red Sox in 2018.

The Dodgers are a part of the fabric of my life, of our lives. I love them when they fail at the end, and I most certainly love them when they finally win it all. But most importantly, I love them because I mark time with them. I love them because I see who was then and who I am now. I love them because they are a thread that runs through everything I’ve done and everything I’d like to do (insert James Earl Jones’ “Field of Dreams” speech here).

They are that thread because my dad hands it to me in the 1970s and lets me run with it. Love is getting to see my dad watch the Dodgers win the World Series again. Love is my dream-maker Caitlin being with me in that moment. And, finally, it’s that Theo is there to lean into the phone screen a few moments after the last out to tell my dad: “The Dodgers won!”

Yes, buddy. Yes, they did.

Oct 04

Guest Post: Bob Haire’s Letter to Vin Scully

As noted in my piece about Vin Scully on Oct. 2, with my dad’s permission, I wanted to post his letter to Vin Scully here as a guest post. Well, I received that approval. So, without further ado, here’s the outstanding note that he penned on Sept. 22:

September 22, 2016

Dear Vin,

In 1958, I was 10 years old. That year, the Brooklyn Dodgers moved to Los Angeles and I fell in love with a baseball team by listening to a magical voice on the radio. It was to play a huge role in saving my life. My sister and I grew up in a rough situation. My mother had a severe mental illness and my father was an alcoholic. My childhood consisted of isolating myself from my parents and taking care of my sister, who is four years younger than me. I include this information for context and not as a sob story. At 68, I have lived a life filled with joy, family, and great friends.

However, in 1958, playing baseball and listening to the Dodgers were the activities that helped give my life balance, normalcy, and contentment. The Dodgers became my escape and my passion – and that magical voice my passport to so many things more important than baseball. For the past 58 years, I have eagerly listened to my entertainer, my mentor, my storyteller, my philosopher, my inspiration, and my friend Vin Scully. The games were always entertaining but the education about life that elevated each broadcast to a higher level made every broadcast compelling.

I have so many fond memories of the greatest games. I can hear the “big bouncer over the mound” in the playoff game against the Braves that propelled the Dodgers into the 1959 World Series. I remember playing pool in my garage the night the Dodgers handed Elroy Face his only loss (18-1) in 1959. I can still visualize Sandy Koufax, in Yankee Stadium, striking out the side in the first inning of the 1963 World Series. His curve ball that day is still the best I’ve ever seen. In 1965, I was a junior in high school when Koufax pitched a complete game on two days rest to win the World Series. I was in Spanish class that day, with a transistor radio in my pocket and an earphone running up inside my shirt, because my parents wouldn’t let me stay home that day. I was at Dodger Stadium the night Don Drysdale broke the scoreless inning record. Last but not least, there’s the greatest moment in the history of Los Angeles sports: Kirk Gibson’s home run in the first game of the 1988 World Series. I mark your broadcasts of these moments as milestones in my life because they have brought so much pure joy.

When I go to Dodger Stadium now, I always cry tears of happiness during the National Anthem because it is my cathedral and one place where I feel a true sense of belonging and contentment. From my son’s season seats, I have always been able to look up into the press box and see the man that made this all real for me as a child – and every year since.

Vin, I know from reading so much about you and seeing you interviewed, that you are a kind, humble man who feels blessed to have been able to do the job to which you aspired. I can tell all the adulation makes you uncomfortable. When people say that you are the greatest sports announcer of all time (which you are) they are being complimentary and kind. However, some of them miss the reasons why you are so beloved by millions of people in Southern California and around the country. It is not just your technical ability to announce a game. Rather, it is your humility, your humanity, and your incredible ability to tell a story (your D-Day commentary from this year being a prime example). It’s also your ability to be funny and profound, to know when not to speak, and how you weave all of these elements into a single broadcast.

To me the pantheon of sports in Southern California consists of only four men: Sandy Koufax, Magic Johnson, John Wooden, and Vin Scully. I’ve only met one of them. I had the honor of meeting Magic Johnson when he was the keynote speaker at an event produced by my son. I was able to speak to him personally and found that he was an even better person than he was a Hall of Fame basketball player. I truly believe the other three men on my list fall in to the same category. The massive outpouring of love being directed your way is because we all know that Vin Scully, the great announcer, is dwarfed by Vin Scully, the man.

Vin, I want to wish you and your lovely wife Sandra the very best in retirement. You have been my friend for 58 years. You have lifted me up, calmed me down, thrilled me, taught me the meaning of grace and humility, and eternally entertained me. Even though we have never met, I feel both a need and an obligation to thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for everything you have done to make my life richer and happier. For my son Tom, my daughter Jenny, my sister Susan, we send you all our love and best wishes for a blessed retirement. This time the roar of the crowd is all for you!


Robert Haire


Oct 02

“Hi Everybody, and a Very Pleasant Sunday Evening to You, Wherever You May Be …”

“But watching Rigney’s reaction, it looks like Gorman is gonna call it foul! And Rigney is about ready to eat his glasses. Alston has walked away like a Philadelphia lawyer who has just won his case. Rigney slams his hat down! And the grey hairs glistening under the lights. Bill is now goin’ jaw-to-jaw with Boggess … now he kicks at the dirt. Hands on his hips. Left hand thrown high in the air!”

— Vin Scully, May 30, 1959

My lifetime with Vin Scully actually started years before I was born. Let me explain: I was born into a Dodger family. My dad was 10 years old when the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles and they became his everything. He wrote an amazing letter to Vinny last week that — if he’s so gracious — I’d love to share on TomRants as a guest post.

Just above my computer monitor in my home office sits this shelf, which includes: a 1981 World Series official ball, given to me by my aunt in 1981; a Vin Scully bobblehead; and a ball signed by Garvey, Lopes, Russell, and Cey — a birthday gift from my wife this year.

Just above my computer monitor in my home office sits this shelf, which includes: a 1981 World Series official ball, given to me by my aunt in 1981; a Vin Scully bobblehead; and a ball signed by Garvey, Lopes, Russell, and Cey — a birthday gift from my wife this year.

Anyway, before I can even remember, I was a Dodger fan. And, therefore, I was a Vin Scully fan. The first game I remember attending at Dodger Stadium was in 1976 — when I was five — against the Padres, in all their brown-and-gold glory. Of course, we took a radio to the ballpark that day.

I really started consciously tuning into the Dodgers in those pennant-winning years of 1977 and 1978. We would listen to every game — and watch the 50 games they showed on KTTV Channel 11. The personalities seemed so big to me: manager Tommy Lasorda; the infield of Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, Bill, Russell, and Ron Cey; and, of course, Vinny — the voice I associated with the Dodgers, probably from before I could speak.

About that time, my dad introduced me to an album from his vast collection: “Dodgers 59,” it was called. It contained audio recordings from the Dodgers’ second year on the West Coast, when they’d become the first team in baseball history to go from seventh place to the World Series the very next year, and then beat the Chicago White Sox for their first championship in L.A.

I sat, transfixed, as Vinny’s calls from that memorable season flowed from the speakers. There was Roy Campanella Night at the Coliseum, with 93,000 fans lighting candles in support of the famed Dodger catcher who had been paralyzed in a car crash in January 1958. There was a record-setting 18-strikeout game from a young fireballer named Sandy Koufax. That same game featured a three-run walk-off home run from Wally Moon to beat the hated Giants. There was Vin calling two games at once during the pennant race — with the Coliseum crowd listening in on transistor radios and reacting to every pitch of the Giants-Phillies game up the coast. And, of course, there’s the famous call of the moment the Dodgers clinched the National League pennant in a playoff against the Milwaukee Braves on Sept. 29, 1959:

Dodgers 59

Click the album cover to visit the YouTube link for the Side 1 audio of the Dodgers 59 album. The audio is broken up into sides one and two.

“Big bouncer over the mound, over second base. Up with it is Mantilla, throws low and wild! Hodges scores! We go to Chicago!”

While all of those moments were incredible — Vin weaving tales and descriptions of the happenings on the field for an audience listening strictly on the radio — there was one nearly 10-minute clip on the record that stood above everything else. It’s the one that made me a fan for life. On May 30, 1959, the Dodgers were playing the Giants at the Coliseum. In the sixth inning, Willie Mays hit a Don Drysdale pitch high down the left field line where it struck — depending on who you believe — the foul pole or one of two guide wires that helped hold up the 40-foot-tall left field screen. That foul pole was just 251 feet away from home plate due to the Coliseum’s layout as a football and track stadium. The heated argument — first by the Dodgers after the ball was initially ruled a home run, then by the Giants when it appeared the umpires had reversed course and called the ball foul (before splitting the difference and awarding Mays a ground-rule double) — was, as described by Vinny, a dramatic stage play. The quote at the top of this story is from the middle of the rhubarb and is my favorite turn of phrase, but there were others.

How’s this for a description of Dodger third baseman Don Zimmer pleading his case:

“Zimmer will be hoarse in another two minutes. The veins on each side of his neck bulging out like the cable that actually holds up the left field screen.”

Or this description of Giant manager Bill Rigney and third-base umpire Dusty Boggess:

“Boggess comes over and Rigney, like a mad traffic cop now, with the right hand indicating all the umpires are mad.”

It was all magic — all of it. I didn’t want to listen to anything else. I probably gave that record as good a wearing out as my dad did when he was 11. Last week, thanks to a quick Google search, I located the audio from the album on YouTube. Both sides are linked in text above (here they are, in case you missed them: Dodgers 59 Side 1 and Dodgers 59 Side 2).

After being hooked for good, I was a lucky kid, because every April I was granted six (or more) months of Vinny and the Dodgers. Not only that, but the Dodgers were one of the best teams in baseball for almost my entire childhood. Between my birth and my 18th birthday, the Dodgers won seven N.L. West championships, four National League pennants, and two World Series. They also finished second in the N.L. West six other times.


“Griffin ready, at the belt. Delivers. Valenzuela lines it in to right field! Base hit! Dodgers lead, 1-0! (40 seconds of silence as the crowd roars.) And they are going wild at Dodger Stadium! And there’s no way this game will continue — not for a while! Valenzuela is told by Manny Mota, ‘Take your helmet off.’ So Valenzuela said, ‘Ok!’ He lifted his helmet high in the air and the crowd loved it! I swear, Fernando, you are too much in any language. Could you imagine, on this night of all nights, he’s two-for-two, he got the first Dodger hit, and he just drives in a run. The Dodgers lead one-nothing and here’s Davey Lopes. Griffin ready and delivers and it’s waved at and missed, 0-and-1. Listen to this crowd just talkin’ to themselves. Whoa-ho, what a show! Dodger Stadium, what a great place to be.”

— Vin Scully, April 27, 1981

1981 Dodgers World Champions

Click the album cover to visit the YouTube link for the audio of the 1981 Dodgers album, narrated by Vin Scully. The audio is broken up into six parts.

Vin was there for all of it. Sure, he had sidekicks like Jerry Doggett (whose radio call of Rick Monday’s pennant-winning home run in Montreal in 1981 is memorable in its own right), Ross Porter (who seemed to have memorized every baseball statistic), and Drysdale, who returned to the team as a broadcaster in 1988 (if you’ve never heard his call of the Gibson home run, give it a listen). But it was always Vinny, every night, welcoming us like a friend he’d been expecting: “A very pleasant good evening to you wherever you may be.”

By the time I was 10, you couldn’t pry me away from the Dodgers or Vinny in the summer. We usually only went to one or two games a year, but the radio and TV were always there. We subscribed to ONtv, a pay-TV service that pre-dated cable, when the Dodgers added 20 home TV broadcasts to that channel in the late 1970s. Now, 70 games were televised! And, you could always count on Channel 11 adding a few random home games at the end of the season when the Dodgers were in the race.

With my sister in the backyard in Fullerton. Homeplate for my Scully-inspired re-enactments is right behind us.

With my sister in the back yard in Fullerton. Home plate for my Vinny-inspired re-enactments is right behind us.

I was transfixed by baseball, by the Dodgers, by Vinny. Around that same time, I’d acquired the plastic batting helmets of all 12 National League teams from the local toy store. During the summer, if the Dodgers were in the Midwest or on the East Coast with an early start, I’d take my little Hitachi radio, my Dodger helmet, and the helmet of whichever team they were playing (that gold-topped, black-billed Pirates helmet was probably my second favorite) and head out to the back yard where I’d play along with the game as each hitter for both teams. Vin’s voice and descriptions made it easy for me to mimic the action.

That same Hitachi radio served as my bedtime buddy. Growing up in Fullerton, just a few miles north of Disneyland, I have three distinct memories of going to bed in the summer: bedtime was 9 p.m.; at 9:30, you’d hear the “Boom! Bam! Bam!” of the Disneyland fireworks in the distance; and trying my best to stay awake as long as I could listening to Dodgers’ home games on the radio.

(In the winter, those same “stay awake to listen” memories belong to the Lakers and Chick Hearn.)

It’s only because of Vin that — at that age — I knew names like John Ramsey (the long-time Dodger Stadium and all-L.A. public address announcer in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s) and Helen Dell (the Dodger organist from 1972 to 1987). It’s because of Vin that I knew then — and I know now — that Farmer John meats are always “the easternmost in quality, and the westernmost in flavor.” It’s because of Vin that I learned to “Go with the spirit! The spirit of 76!” when the car needed gas.

And it’s because of Vin that my family was brought together by those damn Dodgers. Because, as often as they enjoyed glorious victories, they also sustained crushing losses. The Dodgers always made things exciting — as when they won the last three home games of the 1980 regular season to catch the Astros for first place, only to lose, 7-1, in the single-game playoff against Houston in the same stadium on the next day.

Could be wrong, but this certainly looks like the same Hitachi transistor that was bedside throughout my childhood.

Could be wrong, but this certainly looks like the same Hitachi transistor that was bedside throughout my childhood.

The 1981 World Champions, led by the only group of Dodgers I’d ever known at that point — Garvey, Lopes, Russell, Cey, Baker, Smith, Monday, Yeager, Hooton — were simply remarkable. Not only did they produce one dramatic victory after another in the postseason (trailing Houston two games to none in the division series, Montreal 2-1 in the LCS, and the Yankees 2-0 in the World Series), but they also produced maybe the best one-player phenomenon I’ve ever seen in baseball. I don’t think we’ll ever see anything like Fernandomania again — and Vin was there to spin the tale into the tapestry of baseball history.

As the team began to change — age and the era of free agency forcing the Dodgers to make moves — the successes continued. Vin’s call of a dramatic 1983 pennant race victory over the Braves, closed out on a squeeze bunt by rookie R.J. Reynolds is a memory seared into my head: my whole family, jumping around the living room on a hot September Sunday, as Vin called, “The squeeze! And here comes the run! They squeezed it in!” (No. 13 on the Dodgers’ Top 20 Vin Scully calls as ranked by Dodger fans)

By the fall of 1988, I’d reached my senior year of high school. That summer, my dad and I fell into the magic of that Dodger team, attending a pair of memorable Saturday night games on back-to-back weekends in August. But the Dodgers also had been crushed time and again by a Mets team that had taken 10 of 11 regular season meetings. When they playoffs started, the Mets did it again, rallying from 2-0 down in the ninth inning of Game 1. There was simply no way the Dodgers were going to come back from that. But come back they did, gritting and grinding through a memorable seven-game series win, capped off by another shutout performance from Orel Hershiser.

Game 1 of the World Series, in which the Cinderella Dodgers again looked overmatched, this time by the powerful Oakland A’s, took place on a warm Saturday evening in L.A. The Dodgers looked even more overmatched because National League MVP Kirk Gibson was not expected to play in the series due to a pair of injured legs. That night, I was at a friend’s house in Fullerton, watching with a group of other friends and planning on going to a high school party later, when Gibson suddenly appeared — and a 3-2 Dennis Eckersley slider suddenly disappeared into the right-field pavilion.

“High fly ball into right field. She is … gone!”

And then, perhaps, Vin’s greatest line. After more than a minute of silence, letting the sound and NBC’s pictures tell the story, he returned to air with the perfect description of that Dodger season:

“In a year that’s been so improbable, the impossible has happened.”

A few minutes of deep breaths later, I was on my friend’s house phone, calling my dad. We proceeded to, essentially, ugly cry into each other’s ears for about three minutes before hanging up. To this day, it’s still the greatest single moment I’ve ever seen as a sports fan — and it had to be Vin at the mic.

Five days later the Dodgers won the World Series in Oakland (“Like the 1969 Mets, it’s the impossible dream — revisited,” Vin said.) Twenty-eight years later, they still haven’t been back.


Dodgers 12, Giants 1. The 103-win Giants finish out of the playoffs thanks to Mike Piazza and the Dodgers.

Dodgers 12, Giants 1. The 103-win Giants finish out of the playoffs thanks to Mike Piazza and the Dodgers.

“He hits a high fly ball to right field. Back goes Martinez. To the wall, it is gone! Miracle upon miracles, he’s hit another one! And it’s 10-1, Dodgers! They are going wild at Dodger Stadium as Mike Piazza has just put a fillip on one of the more dramatic moments of the year — and he gets another curtain call!”

— Vin Scully, October 3, 1993

You might ask: haven’t those 28 years without a World Series been frustrating as a fan? Of course they have, especially after the success I’d grown used to in the early stages of my life. However, while of course we all want to see the Dodgers in (and winning) a World Series again, there is something more to being a Dodger fan then any other team I’m a fan of. Certainly, having graduated from USC, Trojan football is right up there with it — and I do love my Kings and Lakers.

But there’s something extra special about the feeling I have for the Dodgers. What it comes down to is a feeling about life and family — those summers as a kid, playing along. Those nights with the radio nestled next to my pillow. Those times where my family would be listening or watching to an important game in the living room. Those times — limited as a child — where you walked into Dodger Stadium, smelled the Dodger Dogs, the beer, the peanuts, heard the organ, the roar of the crowd, and Vinny over the radio.

With my dad and sister at Game 5 of the 2008 NLCS.

With my dad and sister at Game 5 of the 2008 NLCS.

What all of those feelings come back to is Vin Scully. All of us can list our favorite Dodger memories — beyond those I’ve mentioned: the Fernando Valenzuela no-hitter in 1990; the Kevin Gross no-hitter (which I attended) during the dismal 1992 season; being at the park with my dad on Oct. 3, 1993 when Mike Piazza destroyed the Giants’ post-season hopes; Steve Finley’s walk-off grand slam to beat the Giants on the next to the last day of the 2004 season to clinch the division; Vin’s aptly named “Magic Castle” of 2013, when — for two months — it seemed the Dodgers couldn’t lose.

But what we can’t list or quantify is the feeling of knowing — at the end of a long day at school or work, or after a difficult argument with your mother or girlfriend, or even when you woke up on a brilliant Sunday morning with a spring in your step — that Vin would be there to let you know that “It’s time for Dodger baseball.”

For most of my adult life, I commuted somewhere between 25-45 miles to work each day. Work, you say? Well, here’s another facet to my story about Vin: I went to journalism school at USC because he (and Hearn) inspired me to be a sportscaster. While that dream didn’t quite come true, there’s no doubt that his inspiration is — in part — responsible for where I am today in my professional career.

Playing catch with my dad on the Dodger Stadium field, June 1, 2014.

Playing catch with my dad on the Dodger Stadium field, June 1, 2014.

Back to the commute: about four years ago, I was able to turn things around to where I could work at home four days per week and take that load off. But during the 20 or so years I was out there driving L.A.’s freeways, there was no better feeling than getting to 7 p.m. and knowing that Vin would carry me the rest of the way home: “Hi everybody, and a very pleasant Wednesday to you, wherever you may be. We’re at Dodger Stadium for the final game of a three-game series between the Dodgers and the Cincinnati Reds.”

It never had to be a big game. It just had to be a Dodger game with Vin on the call. It was like getting home while you were still on the road. You knew you’d be able to see the action through Vin’s words — and you knew you’d probably learn something, whether it was about an obscure rookie shortstop for the Reds, about the history of pirates, or about just how cute the baby was that everyone was seeing on TV. You knew that if there were two balls and two strikes on a hitter with two outs and two runners on base that the deuces were wild. You knew that Vinny would never put you on the wrong path with an overhyped call on a lazy fly ball — when he said, “There’s a high drive to deep left field …” you knew it was gone.

While we’ll all relish in the great calls — the classic calls, the historic calls, the calls only the greatest sports broadcaster of all time could make — what I’ll miss the most are those random weeknights in earlier in the season against any random opponent. The pennant race is still so far off then, the games — while not meaningless in any way — more of an exercise in languid enjoyment. Listening to Vin on those nights always brought me back to my childhood, my house in Fullerton, my family together. It brought me back to those years where I’d get a pair of Dodger tickets for my birthday and my dad and I would sit in Dodger Stadium, likely somewhere high up in the reserve level, with our radio on a late May night. One particular night — a 1980 game against the Cardinals won on a three-run, eighth inning homer by Dusty Baker — is so etched into my memory that I can nearly reach out and touch it.


My ticket from Vin Scully's final home game.

My ticket from Vin Scully’s final home game.

“O-and-1 to Charlie. Swung on, a high fly ball to deep left field. The Dodger bench empties! Would you believe a home run? And the Dodgers have clinched the division and will celebrate on schedule!”

— Vin Scully, September 25, 2016

Last Sunday at Dodger Stadium was, perhaps, the most incredible day in the ballpark since Oct. 15, 1988. More than 51,000 Dodger fans piled into the stadium for Vinny’s final home game on the air and for a chance to see the Dodgers win their fourth consecutive N.L. West title.

I was very lucky to be there with my amazing wife of 18 months. In 2013, when we were boyfriend and girlfriend, she agreed to take a 30-game plan of Dodger tickets with me. That year, she fell in love with those Dodgers — a loveable group, for sure, with personality plus from folks like Juan Uribe, Hanley Ramirez, and unreal rookie Yasiel Puig. But, as she’s wont to do, she fell in love with the part-timers like scrappy Nick Punto, as well. The next year, we took season tickets for the first time. To say that becoming a Dodger season ticket holder was the culmination of a childhood dream is an understatement. And she’s been by my side there for 25-30 games a year since, building the same types of memories I’ve had since childhood.

From the start, last Sunday was so special. Each Dodger batter tipped his hat in Vin’s direction the first time through the order. There were a series of spontaneous ovations for Vin throughout the day. And when we all sang along with his rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during the seventh-inning stretch, it was nearly overwhelming

With my wife in the Dugout Club on July 7, 2016.

With my wife in the Dugout Club on July 7, 2016.

Meanwhile: the game! Corey Seager tied it at two with an RBI triple in the bottom of the seventh. Then, with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Seager crushed a home run to tie it up at three (“And a high drive into deep right field … Seager has done it again!”).

Finally, in the 10th inning, with the team, the crowd, and Vinny about as wrung out emotionally as you could imagine, a part-timer — just the kind of guy he has the best stories about — named Charlie Culberson etched his name into Dodger history.

The celebration on the field. The celebration in the crowd. The team turning in unison and tipping their new division champion hats collectively to Vin. And Vin asking us to listen to his rendition of “The Wind Beneath My Wings.” I still have a hard time fathoming it — and I watched all of it happen from my spot in Loge 159. Maybe 45 minutes later, as my wife and I were still wandering around the stadium, dazed but thrilled, my phone rang in my pocket. It was my dad. We spoke briefly about the game. He said, “You know, ‘The Natural’ was written as fantasy. I’ve now seen the Dodgers do something better — and less believable — than that movie twice in my life.”

More importantly, as we moved to end the call, he said, “I just wanted to call you to share this moment with you. It was so special. And I love you, son.”

I blubbered out an “I love you, too,” as I fought off tears of my own. I’d already cried enough that afternoon!

The NL West champion Dodgers doff their caps to Vin Scully on Sept. 25, 2016.

The NL West champion Dodgers doff their caps to Vin Scully on Sept. 25, 2016.

You can tell me all you want about sports being silly, or about how dumb it might be to idolize another person. But, I can tell you that Vin Scully — a man I’ve never met, whom I feel I know incredibly well — puts the lie to all of that. He’s brought families together, given so many people refuge from the daily battles in tough times, and given so many people even more joy at the best times.

This is what Vin has meant to me, to us — to all of us who have been a part of those 67 years calling the Dodgers. Home, family, love, learning, life, winning, losing — and how to handle it all with grace and dignity.

Thank you, Vinny. While we’ll miss you, we’ll always have you in our minds and in our hearts — where, forevermore, it will be time for Dodger baseball!