The Baseball Desert

Friday, June 24, 2005

Music to my ears

I wanted to watch the Tigers and the Twins last night, but was late getting home, and by the time I'd eaten, the game was pretty much over. A quick check of the schedule showed that the Dodgers were playing in San Diego, so I clicked over to that, if only because I thought I might get a rare glimpse of #31 (OK, so he wears #10 now, but in my head he'll always be wearing 31).

As the game loaded I figured that I would be watching the home feed (although I've come to realise that there is neither rhyme nor reason to's choice of feed - the Red Sox games in Cleveland this week were on FSN Ohio twice and NESN once). I was wrong, and for about the only time in my life I found myself happy to be watching Fox, since it meant I got to listen to Vin Scully call the game.

I've posted previously about Vin Scully, but watching yesterday's game and letting his prose wash over me made me realise where his genius lies. I can't listen to Vin without thinking of how I fell in love with the game of baseball, nor without thinking about For Love Of The Game. Just as Bob Uecker's irreverence was tailor-made for Major League, so Vin Scully was the ideal fit to call Kevin Costner's perfect game - that slow, measured delivery, interweaving the details of the game with the details of life. What is interesting is that someone who isn't a fan of baseball would probably say that they wrote a great script for Scully and found the perfect voice to convey the magnitude of what Costner is going through. However, it was only when watching last night's game that it occurred to me that it isn't something that is exclusive to the movie - all of Vin's commentary sound like a movie script.

Since starting to watch games on MLB.TV I've come to appreciate good announcers (and run as fast as I can from the bad ones). As a Red Sox fan, my allegiance clearly lies with Remy and Orsillo - I know that they're the home-town guys and all, but that doesn't give them a free pass, as I can think of several cities in which the announcers, even if I were rooting for the home team, would seriously get on my nerves. They call the game well, they're funny and insightful without being intrusive (Sam has some good recent examples), and they tend to steer away from the blatantly stupid questions and observations I hear elsewhere [FSN Ohio broadcasters to Kevin Millwood during an in-game interview the other night: "Kevin, do you change your strategy when you face hitters two or three times in a game?" No guys, I'm sure that if David Ortiz launches an inside breaking-ball into the right-field bleachers, he's gonna throw him the same pitch next time up, maybe see if he can hit it clean out of Jacobs Field...].

I digress. Where were we? Oh, yeah, Vin Scully. Well, Vin is an artist. There's a reason that he's been calling games for about 120 years now, and that reason is: he's damned good at it. I'd been watching for about five minutes last night when he quoted Benjamin Disraeli - not in an "Oh, look at me, quoting Disraeli" kind of way, just a simple "Hey, this seems relevant to the situation" kind of way. Vin is the icing on the cake, but he's smart enough to know that it's the cake that we came for.

Since I was rooting for neither team in particular, I was happy to just take in the game in the company of a couple of cold beers. If you're interested, I can tell you that the Dodgers pulled off an unlikely comeback, but you've probably gathered by now that I wasn't really watching - I was enjoying the sound of summer.