One sidelight for those living in Japan this season is we will get to see more Los Angeles Dodgers games on TV. NHK and J-Sports will no doubt be televising live the Dodgers games when Japanese pitcher Kenta Maeda is the L.A. starter. When the team is at home, and we choose the sub-channel audio for the English play-by-play, we should get to hear Vin Scully in his 67th and final season at the microphone.
The 88-year-old Scully, arguably the best major league broadcast game-caller of all time, has said he will finally retire after the 2016 season. According to various media reports, he plans to work Dodgers home games and a few other games in California. He called the April 4 opener with the Dodgers at San Diego and plans to do interleague games against the Angels in Anaheim May 18-19.
He will say “sayonara” and tell his final entertaining stories when the season ends Sept. 30-Oct. 2 at San Francisco. That is, unless the Dodgers make the playoffs. He is said to be considering an extension of his work through the post-season, in that case.
Having grown up in northern New Jersey in the New York area, I first heard Scully calling Brooklyn Dodgers games from Ebbetts Field in the mid-1950s on WOR-TV Channel 9. That’s when the Dodgers games were sponsored by Schaefer Beer and Lucky Strike cigarettes in the “Boys of Summer” era.
A still-young Scully moved to southern California with the Dodgers in 1958, continuing what turned out to be a most lengthy and remarkable career. He had a national following and his personality acquired an international flavor later when the Fernando Valenzuela Mexican phenomenon hit Dodger Stadium in 1981 and Hideo Nomo’s tornado blew into LA in 1995.
Scully’s colorful anecdotes sometimes included words in Spanish or Japanese, and he visited Japan on a few occasions, such as when the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1956 and the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1966, managed by Walter Alston, embarked on postseason tours of several Japanese cities.
He took a final trip to the Orient in 1993 when the Dodgers, led by manager Tommy Lasorda, made a postseason journey to Asia, playing first in Taiwan, then two games in Fukuoka Dome against the Daiei Hawks.
There was a night game followed by a day game in Fukuoka when the dome was opened to let in the early November sunshine which made it uncomfortable for Scully to watch from his box seat behind the third base dugout. The sun shone right into his face, with its reddish complexion, and it was too much, so the tour officials moved him to a much better place in the shade from where he could watch the action with no problem.
After the game, there was a farewell party in the Fukuoka Dome’s Big Life sports bar. Scully wore a souvenir happi coat with the Dodgers logo on the right sleeve, and he was just as gracious intermingling with the party attendees as he sounds on the air delivering the play-by-play and telling those wonderful stories.
Among my favorite Vin Scully-invented phrases is his description of the 1960s era of a Philadelphia Phillies double play combination with second baseman Cookie Rojas and shortstop Bobby Wine, calling it the “Days of Wine and Rojas,” obviously a take-off of the popular 1962 movie, “Days of Wine and Roses,” starring Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick.
Scully will leave behind a host of memorable calls, from the time the Brooklyn Dodgers won their first — and only — World Series championship in 1955, to the Sandy Koufax no-hitters, to the Don Drysdale and Orel Hershiser consecutive scoreless inning streaks, to the Valenzuela happening, to the dramatic Kirk Gibson come-from-behind walk-off home run off Oakland’s Dennis Eckersley in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series, to the Nomo debut, and a lot more.
A Los Angeles Times readers poll, published on June 5, 2015, listed Scully as the third greatest Dodger of all-time, behind only No. 2 Jackie Robinson and No. 1 Koufax.
Even in Japan, we got to hear him on occasion during the Nomo years with the Dodgers, and also when other Japanese pitchers started games for Los Angeles — Kaz Ishii (2002-04) and Hiroki Kuroda (2008-11).
Be sure to tune in whenever Mae-Ken is throwing in L.A. this season — or any time a Dodgers home game is scheduled to be telecast in Japan. Unless the audio feed comes from the visiting team’s broadcast outlet, we should get the last precious chances to hear Vin Scully spin those fascinating tales and paint those brilliant descriptions of the play-by-play action on the field.
From Japan and all who love baseball — Dodger fans or not— we say to Vin, “O-tsukare sama deshita” and “Domo arigato.”
Finally this week, our condolences to Jim Marshall on the death of Beverly, his beloved wife of 64 years. Bev was 85 and died in Arizona on Feb. 29. She supported Jim with the utmost devotion throughout his career as a major league player and manager and as a player (1963-65) and later coach (1981-83) with the Chunichi Dragons in Nagoya.
She loved living in Japan and later visiting with Jim in his most recent job as a Pacific Rim scout for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Contact Wayne Graczyk at: Wayne@JapanBall.com