College Prep Professional Sports

SPORTS DIGEST: Vin Scully and his fans bid farewell to each other

LOS ANGELES — The city of Los Angeles said farewell to an icon last weekend, an icon that — more than anybody in the history of this huge metropolis — has been the voice of Angelenos.

For 67 years, Vin Scully has announced Dodger baseball games, the last 58 years here in Los Angeles. Through those 58 years, Dodger fans have grown accustomed to the way Scully calls a game, interspersing his description of the action on the field with his stories, stories that could be about one of the players on the field, but just as often were about something else.

Scully has a way of bringing the listener into the story the way an artist brings a viewer into a painting or a songwriter pulls a listener into the lyric or melody of a song.

It’s a talent that few in the sports announcing business have and nobody has the talent Scully has.

So the city that he has served for 58 years and the team he has served for 67 years said thank you over the weekend, the last three home games of the Dodgers 2016 schedule.

To say it was a love fest is an understatement. His fans love Scully. And Scully loves them back.

The weekend began Sept. 23 as Vin Scully Appreciation Night, with an hour-long pre-game program paying tribute to Scully.

It began with Mayor Eric Garcetti presenting the key to the city to Scully. Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred announced that baseball was presenting a $50,000 check in Scully’s name to the Jackie Robinson Foundation, linking Scully to the man who broke baseball’s color barrier three years before Scully arrived on the scene in Brooklyn in 1950.

Sandy Koufax represented Dodger players from the past. Clayton Kershaw represented the current roster.

And then actor Kevin Costner — who has made some of the best baseball movies of the last 30 years — represented the fans with a presentation that rambled at times but summed up the emotions of most of the 50,000 people inside Dodger Stadium and the thousands more watching on television or listening on the radio. I doubt there were many dry eyes in the stadium when Costner finished

The drive home from work that night seemed to fly by as I listened to the ceremony.

Scully, always a humble gentleman, thanked the fans (he also distributed a letter he had written to all the fans in attendance that night).

He once again told the story of being a young boy listening to the radio at home and being drawn into the sound of fans cheering at a football game.

The next day was a lighter load for Scully. He only had to put up with a 50-minute press conference with local media three hours before the game. Reporters from newspapers, radio and television stations packed the Dodgers media room for a chance to listen to more of Scully’s stories.

I asked if there was a moment or a game that stood out the most in his 67-year career. Scully went back to 1955, the year the Dodgers finally broke through and won the World Series against the New York Yankees after five losses over 15 seasons.

“I was so much younger, more emotional, when the Brooklyn Dodgers won their first World Series (in 1955),” Scully answered. “I was close to the same age as a lot of those players. … I understood the anguish, the frustration they felt. Then, coming out here there have been so many.”

On Sept. 25, Scully called his last game ever at Dodger Stadium. He hung a sign outside his booth giving a message to the fans. “I will miss you,” it said.

The Dodger players honored him by turning to the press box and tipping their hat to Scully before batting the first time through the lineup.

During the game, his family visited him in the booth, filling the cubicle he calls the game from.

At the end of the game, which reserve infielder Charlie Culberson won with a walk-off home run in the 10th inning that clinched the Western Division title for the Dodgers, Scully addressed the fans again and added a special treat, a recorded version of him singing “Wind Beneath My Wings.”

The Voice of Los Angeles has a singing voice, too.

Sports fans in Los Angeles have been blessed for years with great announcers. Scully, Chick Hearn, Dick Enberg, maybe the most versatile of all who brought us UCLA basketball, Rams football and Angels baseball for years; and Bob Miller, as good a hockey announcer as you will ever hear.

Scully is the king and he will be missed next season. It won’t seem like spring next March when the Dodgers begin playing spring training games in Glendale, Arizona, and Scully’s voice won’t be coming out of the television or radio any longer.

But 67 years is a long and wonderful ride. And I was lucky enough to be along for most of it.

Wide receiver Brian Quick is chased into the end zone on a 44-yard touchdown pass from Case Keenum in the Rams 37-32 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sept. 25. The 2-1 Rams are tied for first in the NFC Western Division heading into this week’s game with the Arizona Cardinals. (Courtesy photo)
Wide receiver Brian Quick is chased into the end zone on a 44-yard touchdown pass from Case Keenum in the Rams 37-32 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sept. 25. The 2-1 Rams are tied for first in the NFC Western Division heading into this week’s game with the Arizona Cardinals. (Courtesy photo)

FOOTBALL TAKES: If you would have asked me a month ago which of the teams playing in the Coliseum would be 1-3 and which one would be 2-1, I would have told you the Rams and USC, not the other way around.

The Trojans are having a rough go of it this season, losing to Utah, 31-27, on a touchdown pass with 16 seconds left to play. The Trojans didn’t help themselves by turning the ball over three times on fumbles.

Sam Darnold played fairly well in his first start at quarterback, completing 18 of 26 passes for 253 yards. He gained another 41 yards on nine carries and scored once, giving defenses something else to think about other than the traditional pocket passer SC quarterbacks have been for 15 years or more.

For Trojans fans ready to jump from the top row of the Coliseum, here is something to cheer you up. The last USC coach to start the season 1-3 was Pete Carroll in his first season. He bounced back well from that start so don’t be too hard on first-year coach Clay Helton.

If the Trojans lose to Arizona State at the Coliseum Oct. 1, then hammer away at Helton. Game time is at 5:30 p.m. and the game will be on Channel 11.

The Rams, meanwhile, are 2-1 and tied for first in the NFC Western Division three weeks into the season. Rams fans are as giddy as Trojans fans are morose.

The Rams face the Arizona Cardinals in Glendale, Arizona, Oct. 2, a week after the Cardinals were humiliated by the Buffalo Bills. I’m sure that game didn’t set well with coach Bruce Arians, quarterback Carson Palmer and the rest of the Cardinals, who consider themselves a Super Bowl caliber team.

I expect the Rams to have a return to reality this week, even if they did finally find the end zone a few times against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But then everyone finds the end zone against Tampa Bay.

UCLA will try to move its record above .500 Oct. 1 when the Bruins face Arizona at 7:30 p.m. in the Rose Bowl.

It’s hard to say what kind of team the Bruins are four games in. They held Heisman Trophy candidate Christian McCaffrey in check last week, but still couldn’t defeat Stanford.

The two teams the Bruins have lost to are both in the Associated Press top 10 rankings, Stanford at seven and Texas A&M at 9, but the Bruins have been ordinary at best in wins over UNLV and BYU. Like the Bruins, Arizona is 2-2 on the season.

Nneka Ogwumike, the WNBA’s most valuable player this season, leads the Los Angeles Sparks into the WNBA playoffs against the Chicago Sky. Ogwumike led the Sparks in points with 19.7 per game and rebounds with 9.7 per game. Both totals were third in the league. (Photo by Nick Koza)
Nneka Ogwumike, the WNBA’s most valuable player this season, leads the Los Angeles Sparks into the WNBA playoffs against the Chicago Sky. Ogwumike led the Sparks in points with 19.7 per game and rebounds with 9.7 per game. Both totals were third in the league. (Photo by Nick Koza)

PLAYOFF RUN BEGINS: The Los Angeles Sparks began their run for their first WNBA Championship in 14 years Sept. 28 when they opened a best-of-five series against the Chicago Sky. Game two is Sept. 30 at Staples Center before the Sparks travel to Chicago for games three and four (if necessary). Game 5, if necessary, is Oct. 6 at Staples.

The Sparks finished the season with a 26-8 record, second best in the league, led by league most valuable player Nneka Ogwumike. Ogwumike was third in the league in both scoring and reboudning, averaging 19.7 points and 9.7 rebounds a game. She posted double-doubles in rebounds and points 18 times in 33 games.

She is the third Sparks player to win league MVP honors, following Lisa Leslie and teammate Candace Parker.