I finished teaching at a men’s retreat yesterday and left the mountains heading for San Diego. I’d been given a backroads way to travel, which was both beautiful and sparse; horse ranches and orange groves, hillsides in full bloom with spring wildflowers, all with the snow clad higher peaks reflecting the afternoon sun, off to the east. I love these kind of drives. They’re a ripe environment for pondering.
I turn on the radio and start fiddling with the AM little realizing what’s about to happen. “Good afternoon!” says the familiar voice. “It’s a great day for baseball in Dodger stadium.” It’s Vin Scully, the voice of the Dodgers. You have no way of knowing what his voice does to me, because you didn’t grow up in my family – a baseball family everywhere. I heard Vin at my grandparents farm because they were Dodger fans, their farm being just far enough south of Fresno to push them into “Southern” California. My aunt was a Dodger fan too, and so we listened to games in San Luis Obispo, on the coast, when we vacationed there. Later I’d listen with her when I was going to college there. Later still, in Los Angeles, while I was attending seminary, my wife and I would listen to Dodger games, announced by Vin.
Yesterday was Vin’s 60th anniversary as the ‘voice of the Dodgers’, and as I’m driving and listening to the game I close my eyes (metaphorically of course, I’m driving!) and can see me as an 8 year old playing baseball in the backyard of my aunt’s house, with the voice of Vin in the background. There I am, on the beach with my grandparents for a picnic. We’re listening to Vin as the Giants play the Dodgers. There I am, in the peach orchard during the harvest. It’s the Dodgers and the Giants, and Vin is calling the game, his voice painting word pictures of baseball. There I am, married, in a hot apartment in LA, listening to the Dodgers, and Vin, on the radio, while get ready to go to evening class. And now, here I am, with grown kids of my own who are scattering the globe these days, driving to San Diego and Vin is calling the game on the radio, just like it’s 1966 again and I’m 8. Talk about nostalgia.
Baseball was a thread in our family. It’s one of the reasons I love “The Brothers K”. Sometimes yesterday, I was thinking about how much the world has changed since I was eight. I’m driving past malls as I get closer to San Diego, and these malls could be anywhere: Target – Bed/Bath – Red Robin. We’re global now, not local. We’re big now, not little. We’re so deeply interconnected that a volcano in Iceland means unemployment for a flower picker in Kenya. The voice of the Dodgers is still the same, but the times, they’ve been a changin’.
When the mall disappears though, I return to thoughts of my family, and say a prayer of gratitude for the legacy of faith, farming, and simply values rooted in Christ, that is my heritage. All of it was tied together with baseball, and few voices embody what that means for me more than Vin. Fittingly, yesterday’s game was against the Giants, my favorite time, and the classic California rivalry. Just as I pulled off in San Diego, the Dodgers hit a two run home run, to win it 2-1. I’ve lived this drama of a close Dodger Giant game easily over a hundred times in my life, and it was refreshing to live it again yesterday – with Vin – even though the Dodgers one.
Congrats Mr. Scully. You’ve been a guest in my family for decades, and I’m grateful.