Monday, September 19, 2016

Mondays With Murray: Scully Handles a Mic Like Ruth Did a Bat

Jim Murray and Vin Scully were two-thirds of a sports media triple threat in Los Angeles since the early 1960s, the third being Chick Hearn.
This week we will watch (or listen as the case may be) to the last piece of that puzzle retire from the
Old friends Jim Murray (left) and Vin Scully.
broadcast booth as Scully calls his last Dodgers games.
Jim and Vin, or Kell and Murph as they referred to each other, weren’t only close in the media world but were good friends beyond the booth. They traded quips and jabs like two brothers. When Jim passed away, it was only fitting that Scully address the crowd at the memorial ceremony at Dodger Stadium.
Vin was the last of six speakers who spoke at Jim's memorial tribute at Dodger Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 26, 1998, attended by more than 2,500 fans.
Here are Vin's reflections:
“This is not an overcast day, nor is it a gloomy day. The Irish would call it a soft day. And considering the man whose memory we honor today in this hardhearted world, it's a perfect day. A soft day. I wear a smile today like so many of us because I smiled whenever I saw Jim. I smiled whenever I talked to Jim. And I will smile whenever I think of him.
“And yet for me this is a very precious and poignant moment. You know, for many of us, looking back over our lives, there is a period of time where it honestly took courage to live. Courage and strength and hope, and humor. But courage and strength and hope and humor have to be bought and paid for with pain and work and prayer and tears. Jim Murray had all of those virtues during his lifetime. And he also had those crosses to bear. There was a decency about him that was glorious to behold. There was an indomitable spirit. And he gazed upon life and the world with somewhat of a bemused sense of humor.
“I once introduced Jim at a dinner, and I said this from the heart. I said that if I ever had to be stranded on a desert island with a man, he would be the man. And I meant it. He was a great raconteur, especially of Irish stories. He was literate and well read without being stuffy. He had a God-given talent that was out there for the world to enjoy whether he was covering the fields of entertainment or sports. And yet, with all the honors he received, he remained ever humble, somewhat shy and self-deprecating.
“Jim Murray was my dear friend, and I sincerely thank God for the gift of his friendship. You know, the great use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it. And Jim Murray used his life to the extent that he has indeed outlasted it. Wherever and whenever there will be sporting events, and wherever and whenever the media will gather to cover those events, Jim will live on as an icon to emulate. 
“About 35 years ago, Jim and I were playing golf at Riviera — it was his favorite golf course. And somehow we got on the subject, he had just been starting to write the column, and he was talking about mail that you receive. And I told him I would always remember the first letter I ever received, and it was addressed to Mr. Ben S. Kelly. From that moment on, I was always either Kell or Kelly.  And to go along with that feeling, he then became Murph or Murphy.  And we would meet in crowded pressrooms and press boxes at all-star games and World Series and a voice would cry out, "Kell!" And I would turn around and say, "Murph!" And everybody would look at each other as if to say ‘The poor devils don't even know their own last names.’
“You know, Shakespeare said it best, as he usually did, and when he wrote it, he might very well have been writing about Jim Murray. He wrote, ‘His life was gentle, and the elements so mixed in him that nature might stand up and say to all the world, This was a man.
“And in closing, I have one personal request and I hope you don't mind me doing it. 
“Hey, Murph! It's Kell! Save me a seat!”
In 1983, Jim Murray took to his column to discuss the man, Vin Scully, and his ability to describe the game of baseball like no other. We all will miss hearing the voice that has graced the airwaves of Dodgers baseball since 1950 when he called his first Brooklyn Dodgers game at the age of 22.
JULY 8, 1983, SPORTS

Scully Handles a Mic Like Ruth Did a Bat

It took baseball in its wisdom 10 years to turn Babe Ruth, the most perfect hitting machine of all time, from a pitcher into a slugger.
It took football seasons to figure out Marcus Allen wasn't a blocking back and to hand him the football.
And it took network television forever to get the message that Vin Scully should do major league baseball and stop fooling around.
It wasn't that Scully was inept at other sports. It was just that he was miscast. It was like Errol Flynn 
playing a faithful old sidekick. Scully could do golf and do it well. Rembrandt could probably paint soup cans or barn doors, if it came to that. Hemingway could probably write the weather. Horowitz could probably play the ocarina. But what a waste!
Nobody understands baseball the way Vin Scully does. He knows it for the laid-back, relatively relaxed sport it is. Scully is the world's best at filling the dull times by spinning anecdotes of the 100-year lore of the game. He can make you forget you're watching a 13-3 game, as we were Wednesday night at Chicago, and take you with him to a time and place where you are suddenly watching Babe Ruth steal home. He is like a marvellous raconteur who can make you forget you're in a dungeon. He can make baseball seem like Camelot and not Jersey City.
He knows baseball fans are ancestor worshipers, like the British aristocracy, and he can invest a game with allusions to its gaudy past that give meaning to the present. We suddenly see knights in shining armor out there carrying on a glorious tradition instead of two rival factions of businessmen trying to land the order.
Football requires screaming. "They're on the five and it's second down and goal to go!" "They're on the three and it's third down and there's 29 seconds left to play!" Baseball requires humor, deft drama, a sprinkling of candor, mix well and serve over steaming hot tradition.
Scully knows the sport as few do. He learned it at the knee of Branch Rickey at the time he was most impressionable, a young, ambitious, career-oriented student out of Fordham. Scully will tell you why a batter should try to hit to right with a man on first and none out. ("The first baseman has to stay on the bag to keep the runner close. The second baseman has to cheat a step toward second in the event of a steal or a double play. There's a hole there you could dock ships.”)
But finally, the pairing of Scully with Joe Garagiola was an inspired piece of casting, not quite like Burns and Allen or the Sunshine Boys but a matchup quite as important to baseball as Ruth and Gehrig or Tinker and Evers and Chance.
I originally thought that was a lot of ego for one stage, or one microphone, but the two have locked into place like tongue in groove, or in this case, tongue in cheek.
Garagiola is the locker-room wit, the jokester from the team bus. Scully brings out the best in him, and he brings out the best in Scully. When the ballgame starts with the pitcher throwing two baseballs out of the infield and the third baseman following suit in the bottom half of the first, Garagiola pronounced it "a real Halloween inning" and later suggested that the ritual disclaimer, "This game is the property of major league baseball," be waived since presumably nobody in the big leagues wanted to claim this game.
Later, when Scully noted that a certain pitcher had "retired 53 of 58 batters who faced him," Garagiola wondered, "Why wouldn't you try to sign those five guys?”
When a pitcher built along the general lines of King Kong took the mound, Garagiola observed, "He's an 8 on a seismograph. His birthday is Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday." Later, Joe said of a pitcher with a roundhouse, hanging curve, "He throws an American Legion curveball.”
Later, when Scully said that a bearded infielder "looks as if he fell off a box of cough drops," Garagiola noted: "If he shaves, he only weighs 91 pounds." When a pitcher wearing more gold chains than a wine clerk appeared, Scully noted that "he looks as if he just came from Westminster Abbey.”
It was all good clean fun. They brought out the best in each other. No one noticed the game was boring. Because it wasn't in the broadcast booth. That's one of the things that made this game great all along.

Reprinted with permission by the Los Angeles Times.

Jim Murray Memorial Foundation, P.O. Box 60753, Pasadena, CA 91116
What is the Jim Murray Memorial Foundation? 

  The Jim Murray Memorial Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, established in 1999 to perpetuate the Jim Murray legacy, and his love for and dedication to his extraordinary career in journalism. Since 1999, JMMF has granted 104 $5,000 scholarships to outstanding journalism students. Success of the Jim Murray Memorial Foundation's efforts depends heavily on the contributions from generous individuals, organizations, corporations, and volunteers who align themselves with the mission and values of the JMMF.

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