Vin Scully took the pen in his left hand and turned his wrist in a way so that he could shepherd his cursive signature, careful not to smudge. He paused, perhaps for dramatic effect, and saw a teachable moment, using the opportunity to explain how he was purposefully going to sign the “sweet spot” of the baseball – that horizontal swatch of horsehide uninterrupted by the stitches. That is a prime piece of real estate, as much for its aesthetic beauty as it is providing space below to continue writing.
For it is below the signature that Scully could add a little something more than the modest request for an autograph and actually personalize a message — “TO TOM – GOD BLESS” in all capital letters.
It was the same way he composed email correspondence, those that tumbled into our in-box from Red@LADodgers.com, appearing as if he could never figure out how to escape from the “Caps Lock” function.
That particular signed ball sits in an alcove on the office shelf, in what over the years almost has become the Shrine of Scully, the Reliquary of the Bard, for relics such as bobbleheads and bobble-microphones, a terracotta piece of stone from his original Hollywood Walk of Fame star that was eventually rebuilt, and remembrances of special importance.
A lit candle and the new black VIN player sleeve patch has been there since his passing on Aug. 2, and it continued through his funeral Mass said Monday at St. Jude The Apostle Catholic Church in Westlake Village.
Just as the Sunset Blvd. entrance to Dodger Stadium has had its own public shrine assembled with various religious artifacts — we captured some of them after our latest visit — we need a place to honor and remember:
So there we were on the steps outside our church following last Sunday’s Mass, and an innocent question came from a friend: What would it take to get Vin Scully canonized by the Catholic Church?
You mean: Put him on track to becoming a saint?
Is that kosher?
Talk about coming out of left field. Or was it the perfect pitch?
According to the Catholic Church, a saint can be anyone in Heaven, whether recognized on Earth or not, who form the “great cloud of witnesses” (from Hebrews 12:1). These “may include our own mothers, grandmothers or other loved ones (cf. 2 Tim 1:5)” who may have not always lived perfect lives, but “amid their faults and failings they kept moving forward and proved pleasing to the Lord.”
Hmmm. St. Vincent?
There’s a sweet movie from 2014 with that same title, starring Bill Murray as vice-filled Vietnam vet who ends up as a father figure to a young kid who just moved into his neighborhood with a single mom. The boy has a class assignment to do an essay about a Catholic saint that inspires his everyday life based on commitment, dedication and showing sacrifice. This student picks Murray’s character, Vincent MacKenna, character flaws and all. To him, all the boxes were checked. It was actually based somewhat on a story about a girl who attended Catholic school in Van Nuys and had a similar interesting choice for this assignment.
In some ways, canonization is similar to the induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame, as there is a traditional waiting period — five years – before there is petitioning to a tribunal (a request that must explain how the person lived a life of holiness, pureness, kindness and devotion), naming someone a “Servant of God,” perhaps some documentation of miracles performed in one’s name, beautification, papal approval …
The process can take decades. Even centuries. Longer than a Yankees-Red Sox game in October.
We don’t have that kind of time and patience, no matter how Scully taught us that’s the perfect two elements of a baseball broadcast.
Not to just cannon-ball this idea simply to see a big splash in the holy-water filled pool. But we believe in miracles, and saw Scully describe plenty of them: The Brooklyn Dodgers’ 1955 World Championship. Kirk Gibson’s 1988 World Series Game 1 home run. He was there for the 1951 Miracle at Coogan’s Bluff, for heaven’s sake.
If we are to start a list, columnist Ray Ratto may be the first to point one of Scully’s greatest earthy achievements:
What’s more, Ratto explained Scully’s miraculous existence:
“He was the poet laureate we, even those who hate poetry, all needed but maybe didn’t earn. He was America’s lyricist. He was broadcasting’s Switzerland, the one voice everyone agreed gave dignity and grandeur to the spectacular and the shambolic. Without him, the Dodgers might as well have been the Angels, the NFC Championship Game the Pro Bowl, and the Masters the Waste Management Open. He was God’s own larynx.”
The master, Jim Murray, also wrote long ago: “He can make you forget you’re watching a 13-3 game … He is like a marvelous raconteur who can make you forget you’re in a dungeon. He can make baseball seem like Camelot and not Jersey City.” Murray added in 1990: “Vincent Edward Scully meant as much or more to the Dodgers than any .300 hitter they ever signed, any 20-game winner they ever fielded. True, he didn’t limp to home plate and hit the home run that turned a season into a miracle — but he knew what to do with it so it would echo through the ages.”
It was all about projecting credence, certainty and care, plus having a sense of what you represented. The Los Angeles Times Magazine in 1998 named Scully the most trusted man in Los Angeles.
If you scan this story by Dodgers team historian Mark Langill — among the many things he did over the years to document Scully’s impact — you can make the case that Dodger Stadium is “The House That Vin Built.” A house of devotion and worship. As Tommy Lasorda said, blue heaven on earth.
During his final game in 2016 at AT&T Park in San Francisco, a group of fans under the broadcast booth unfurled a banner reflecting the upcoming election: “Vin Scully For President.” Scully laughed at that and said on a live mike to his producer: “That kind of shows you were the country is right now.”
You probably don’t even know Scully’s political bent. That’s on purpose. That, he avoided revealing. His Catholic faith, he did not.
What the gesture possibly revealed is how we, as a collective body, want someone trustworthy, someone who knows how to use a moral compass, and can be an exquisite, relatable orator — like his good friend, Ronald Reagan — to act like a leader. Not just a savior figure who can pull some strings.
Listen, if he could get a bunch of vegans in Southern California or one square block of a Jewish neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley to even consider consuming a Farmer John-related product — braunschweiger, liverwurst, or the “delicious shank or butt portion” — that’s Red Sea-parting-type stuff by the notable redhead.
When he canonized 10 new saints last May, Pope Francis said this group of individuals all embodied holiness in everyday life. He said the church needs to embrace this idea rather than an unattainable ideal of personal achievement.
“Holiness does not consist of a few heroic gestures, but of many small acts of daily love,” he said from his chair on the altar before a crowd of more than 45,000 in the first canonization Mass at the Vatican since before the coronavirus pandemic.
Holy moley. That was Vin Scully.
The personalized signed baseball to me has become something of a holy grail in this household. It represents a man of honor who lived a Catholic life in a way that inspires, teaches and makes one want to know his faith journey even more so. And knows how to stamp that blessed message it on a piece of horsehide.
When Charlie Culberson hit a game-winning home run to clinch the NL West for the Dodgers in 2016 – Scully’s final broadcast from Dodger Stadium – the infielder took the bat he used and had Scully sign it. Scully used the words “GOD BLESS” again.
Nice calling card to have before you drop the mike.
Was once down on the Dodger Stadium field talking to Orel Hershiser and he cut the conversation short. Looking up at the press box, the Dodgers pitcher who performed to the organ playing “Master Of The House” simply said: “Gotta go. The Pope has arrived, gotta run up and get a blessing.” He was joking about the nickname he had for Scully, but it made perfect sense.
Our Shrine of Scully sits opposite our line of vision in the office space from a line of books collected over the years written by Fr. Greg Boyle and his Homeboy Industries, Fr. Jim Martin’s series of his life with the saints and learning to pray, and Catholic Worker stalwart Jeff Dietrich’s reflections about life lessons learned by bring hospitality to Skid Row in L.A. There is a leather-bound dictionary of saints, and a “Lives of the Saints” book. For now, they are on the one side, and the Scully objects of affection are on the other.
There is no “official” book written by or about Vin Scully. Those done are “unauthorized” in Scully’s eyes, because he did not feel they were necessary. But as a public figure, they are documentations of his work, his impact, and how others have embraced his existence.
The 2009 book “Pull Up A Chair” by esteemed baseball broadcast historian Curt Smith was something a cringe moment for Scully, who told us at the time he resisted participating in its completion and, in the end, simply asked it not be published. But it was.
Scully said it was a “very helpless feeling” to have the book done. He added context by saying he more disappointed because he had turned down requests by local writers for years to do a book.
“Now all my pals I turned down will think less of me. … It’s a terrible feeling when your life doesn’t belong to you. Very, very sad.”
As we struggled with that idea that Scully was hurt by something and we couldn’t fix it, we noticed Jon Weisman posted a comment on his DodgersThoughts.com blog at the time: “I wish those weren’t Vin’s feelings on the matter, but he wouldn’t be Vin if they weren’t, would he?”
Because that is part of the Vin Scully story — a man whose name literally means storyteller.
The amplification of Scully’s Catholicity resonates in essays like this from Angelus News’ Mike Nelson. And from Robert Brennon. We did a Q&A with Scully in ’19 to try to capture more. We also wrote about the Catholic Mass that would take place at most all MLB stadiums on Saturdays or Sundays, for players and team personnel. Much of that is now included in our own Angelus News appreciation story.
Scully would often lector at the ballpark Mass. After Scully’s reading from the Book of Wisdom one morning, one sportswriter in the congregation turned to the other and whispered: “I think this is the voice God meant for it to be heard.”
He wasn’t the only one thinking that:
James Keane at American Magazine admires today how in 2012, as San Francisco Giants pitcher Matt Cain threw a perfect game en route to their World Series championship, Scully captured this rare feat with a biblical reference. Scully noted that there are days when every pitcher could be touched for a hit or a run, “but today,” Scully said, “Cain is able.”
And while we’re on the Walk of Fame, there’s a clip of Scully on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” giving the host a call of a lifetime – and bringing up his altar boy status as well:
The beauty of Scully was when he was amidst a group of people — especially those a bit star struck — his warmth, kind eyes and genuine interest in what was being said, and what he could add to the conversation by something that sparked in his mind, lifted everyone and made them feel like a million bucks. All the while, he was a dapper and fit and trim as someone who looked as much a million bucks himself right down to the pocket square in his suit.
There has to be a Guinness World Record for Most People Who Thought The Same Person Was Their Actual Grandfather/Father/Favorite Uncle.
In 2016, he was given the Gabriel Personal Achievement Award from the Catholic Academy of Communication Professionals. The group said Scully “epitomizes what the Gabriel Awards represent: positive, upbeat, soulful, kindhearted and conscientious,” said Susan Wallace, chair of the Gabriel Awards. “For nearly seven decades, Vin Scully has been the reassuring voice of honesty and optimism in sports broadcasting, enthralling viewers and listeners with his limitless knowledge of baseball and illuminating lessons on life.”
Check another box.
When he played himself in the Kevin Costner movie, “For Love of the Game,” Scully ad-libbed, and came up with some lines that connect baseball and church in only he could pull it off without sounding too Hollywood cornball:
Check another box.
There exists a “Vin Scully Map Guide to L.A.” for heaven’s sake – a physically rosary of places one can go to feel part of Scully’s journey from the Coliseum and Dodger Stadium, to his residence in Westwood (neighbors with John Wooden), Pacific Palisades, Sherwood Country Club and now in Hidden Hills, his star on the Walk of Fame, even the Costco in Westlake Village where he lost his 1988 World Series ring.
Maybe the only other places to add this are his home parish, St. Jude the Apostle in Westlake Village, and other houses of worship around Southern California he has visited.
Get the plaques ready to check off more boxes: Vin Scully Prayed Here.
In a 2013 interview with the National Catholic Register, Scully was asked: There are many saints named Vincent — Vincent de Paul, Vincent Ferrer and Vincent of Lerins, for example. Do you have a favorite?
“I’m not one to alienate any saint who could help me, especially those who share my name, so I’ll take the intercession of all the Vincents. In addition to the Vincents, St. Jude’s prayers are known for packing a wallop, so I’ll take his help as well.”
Heaven help us, too.
We’ve often felt helpless, but hopeful, being able to occasionally orbit close to this intergalactic force of nature, on many occasions marveling at his gravitational pull. He lived life in many ways with baseball and faith intersection. We found that to be worth documenting in several columns, such as this one before his final call. And this one about a man who lived up to his beliefs. And this one, talking to several important people in Hollywood and beyond about Scully’s impact on their lives and careers.
He inspired art (and just wait until you see the cover of the upcoming Angelus News):.
Vin has inspired music.
From Dan Bern’s song, “The Golden Voice of Vin Scully”:
Tonight I feel so far away, so far away from you
What did you do tonight
I’m drivin my truck up and down the coast
From north of Seattle to the Mexico line
Right now, I’m in San Bernardino
All day long it was 95 degrees
But at least tonight I get to hear
The golden voice of Vin Scully
We also can gather plenty of examples how Scully, whether through his Catholic aura or not, wanted us all to be better people.
A collection of letters to the L.A. Times published last Sunday in a glorious two-page spread including phrases such as:
“To hear Vin’s voice coming from every direction at Dodger Stadium, to a 5-year-old boy, was like having God Almighty doing play by play.”
And a time when a USC student and his friends were driving to Dodger Stadium and suddenly realized they cut off a car – one driven by Scully.
“(We) waved at him to try and demonstrate we had not meant it. Scully literally gave us the sign of the cross like the pope and absolved us of our sins.”
There was also this winner:
They follow along the lines of an appreciation column that longtime radio personality Doug McIntyre was inspired to write recently about all the times they ran into each other over the years and the impressions left:
“He wasn’t just ‘old school,’ he was his own school, polite and well-mannered to the very end. As America grew angrier and crasser, Scully’s relentless politeness was a nine-inning reminder it doesn’t have to be this way. Sadly, manners are too frequently interpreted as weakness. For Vincent Edward Scully, they were the source of his strength.”
The Dodgers promoted his wholesome home life in the early 1960s when promotional booklets from sponsor Union Oil showed him with his family and mother:
Hershiser, the former Dodgers pitcher and World Series hero who was known for his religious conviction giving him strength during the rough-and-tumble 1988 playoff run, has said about Scully: “He will remind us about who we are supposed to be, still. Because that’s what he taught us … how to be gentlemen. How to have integrity. He taught us how to hold this place up in the highest esteem and live your life accordingly. That’s what I’ll miss, that example.”
Also consider when Scully retired, all religions and creeds were heeding his impact. In early October, St. John’s Episcopal Church in Corona updated the “welcome” message on its street corner marquee. In addition to reminding worshipers about the times for the Sunday services, the clip-on letters spelled out a reminder: “Be Like Vin Scully … Notice And Praise The Good In Everyone.”
Can we get an Amen?
And now, for the rest of the Vin Scully Marching and Chowder Society: