LOS ANGELES — The greatest sports broadcaster in history is beginning his final season with the Los Angeles Dodgers and the whole city seems to be getting involved in the farewell to Vin Scully.
Scully began calling Dodgers games in Brooklyn eight years before the Dodgers left New York for Los Angeles and here he is, 58 years later, still calling Dodgers games.
This writer, along with thousands of other Southern California youngsters, grew up listening to Scully’s radio broadcasts back in the days when the Dodgers were rarely on television. As a young boy, I remember my grandfather sitting at the dining room table at night playing solitaire and listening to Scully and the Dodgers.
Thirty years later, my grandmother on the other side of the family was still listening to Scully, keeping score as he called the games.
I wasn’t listening when he made arguably his most famous call — Kirk Gibson’s game-winning home run in the first game of the 1988 World Series — because I was there at Dodger Stadium, but Scully was a major part of my youth and, as I’ve grown older, he’s become a fixture of my adulthood, too.
It’s a shame in the last years of his career that Scully’s work hasn’t been available to everyone because of the Dodgers outlandish television contract that made satellite service providers balk at paying Time Warner’s rates.
Scully could probably make reading names from the phone book sound interesting. God knows he has a way with baseball. He also was an accomplished broadcaster in football and golf before his desire to cut back on travel made the Dodgers his lone employer 20 years ago.
It was Scully on the play-by-play on CBS when Dwight Clark made a leaping catch of a pass from Joe Montana in the end zone for a game-winning touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys in an NFL playoff game in 1982 that is now simply known as “The Catch.”
Everyone needs to hear Scully describe a ballgame in a manner that makes you think you are there at the ballpark. That’s what Scully has always done for me, and that’s why he is appreciated by so many and will be missed by so many next year when he is no longer calling Dodgers games.
BULLPEN WOES: Scully may want to retire early if he has to keep watching the Dodgers’ bullpen implode.
After eight games, the Dodgers are 4-4 and three of the losses can directly be blamed on the bullpen. I’ll blame Sunday’s 9-6 loss to the Giants on starting pitcher Scott Kazmir. Any starter staked to a 5-0 lead in the first inning who gives it all back too soon, deserves the blame for that loss.
The other three losses for the Dodgers can rest on the sagging shoulders of the bullpen. We should have expected as much, but the Dodgers’ front-office decision to pretty much stick with last’s year relief pitchers doesn’t look like a very sound decision.
Yimi Garcia and Pedro Baez are young hard throwers who haven’t learned how to pitch in pressure situations yet. I think they should be learning in Oklahoma City, where the Dodgers Triple A minor league affiliate plays, not in major league ballparks.
After a horrible start followed by two months on the disabled list last year, Chris Hatcher pitched well for the Dodgers out of the bullpen in August and September. This year, he’s horrible in April again.
Even J,P. Howell, the most reliable reliever after Kenley Jansen the last two years, hasn’t gotten anybody out in his last two appearances. He has faced six batters and all six have reached base and scored.
The Dodgers have a good supply of strong, young arms in the minors. It’s time to find out how many of those guys can get out major league hitters because Garcia, Baez and Hatcher don’t appear to be capable of doing it on a regular basis.
PLAYOFF POSSIBILITIES: If the Clippers win their first-round playoff series, which begins this weekend against either the Portland Trailblazers, the Dallas Mavericks or the Memphis Grizzlies, they will most likely face the Golden State Warriors.
So much for the Clippers advancing to the Western Conference finals this year. There are some people who feel the Clippers match up well against the Warriors, but I’m not one of them.
Maybe with a healthy Blake Griffin. Maybe with a younger Paul Pierce.
But not with this year’s Clippers against the Warriors who had a chance to achieve the best single-season won-loss record in NBA history if they managed to defeat Memphis April 13.
The Warriors have three all stars in guards Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and swingman Draymond Green. They have a skilled big man in Andrew Bogut and a solid shooting forward in Harrison Barnes.
Off the bench they have Andre Iguodala, Marreese Speights and Shaun Livingston.
A healthy Griffin and Pierce from 2008 might be able to match that, but not these Clippers.
Of course, I don’t give any other team a chance to stop the Warriors, either. San Antonio, who the Warriors figure to face in the Western Conference finals, has the best chance but I don’t see anything standing in the way of the Warriors and their second straight title.
KINGS KONNECTIONS: Another Staples Center tenant, the Los Angeles Kings, start there run to the Stanley Cup title April 14 against an always tough San Jose Sharks. The Kings made things tougher on themselves by letting the Anaheim Ducks pass them for the best record in the Pacific Division in the last night of the season.
Personally, I’m looking forward to a Kings-Ducks playoff series. That will turn up the heat on the local rivalry and for a couple of weeks flash the sports spotlight of Los Angeles on ice hockey for a change.