Vinathon: ‘Welcome to my Thanksgiving’: In moving ceremony, Los Angeles begins its final farewell to Vin Scully
By Jon Weisman
We might need time. We might need 67 years to get over this one.
Emotionally charged from the opening video salute to the final blue-carpet walk lined by Dodger players and coaches, tribute was paid to Vin Scully tonight, in an hour-long ceremony infused with heartstopping thoughts from guest speakers and heartwarming words from the man himself.
It was a valediction for Vinny, and a validation of our love.
In an evening that would conclude with John Williams conducting members of the Los Angeles Philarmonic in the National Anthem, so many moments played like perfect notes in a symphony.
“Vin is that favorite sweater of yours that you can’t wait to put on on a chilly day,” said Dick Enberg in the video.
Buoyantly self-deprecating during this year-long farewell experience, Vin remained composed throughout the night, but his eyes, large and moist, betrayed a deeper twist.
Tonight, the goodbyes turned visceral.
Appreciation was fundamental to the evening. Dodger broadcaster and ceremony emcee Charley Steiner noted that Vin’s career has spanned nine of the 10 commissioners MLB has ever had. Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti awarded Vin what he’s always metaphorically had — a key to the city.
Jamie Jarrín, the Dodger broadcaster whose relationship with Vin dates back nearly 60 years, spoke about the “triumphs and tragedies” the two have shared.
“I pray his retirement is as blessed as I have been to have him as my friend all these years,” Jarrín said. “Vin, vaya con dios.”
Two bits of happy business followed: MLB commissioner Rob Manfred announced a $50,000 donation by MLB to the Jackie Robinson Foundation in Vin’s name, and Dodger owner Mark Walter announced that Vin would be honored along the row of retired numbers that grace the balcony — number (or icon) as yet undisclosed.
Then came the two great left-handed complements to Scully: Sandy Koufax and Clayton Kershaw. Koufax told a story, unfamiliar to most I suspect, that spoke volumes about the southpaw announcer.
“Before the World Series, Vin would go to church and pray,” Koufax recalled, “not for a win, but so that there would be only heroes, not goats.”
Kevin Costner, who bears the honor of being Vin’s co-star in the movie “For Love of the Game,” took the podium next. He spoke by far the longest, by far the most intensely and by far with the only instrumental soundtrack, but his words were deeply well-crafted.
“We will miss you on our radio, in our cars and in our backyard. You’ve been a gift to Los Angeles and baseball itself.”
“The game will not lose its way, but it loses its perspective, a singular voice.”
“We couldn’t be Kirk, and we couldn’t be Sandy, but you found a way to put us all in the batter’s box and on the mound.”
“You’re our George Bailey, and it has been a wonderful life.”
“Thanks for always giving it to us straight. Instead of being above the magic, you chose to marvel at it with us.”
“You can’t blame us for trying to hold onto you as long as we can, and you can’t stop us from saying we love you.”
It was Vin’s turn. He let go of his wife Sandi’s hand for nearly the first time since the ceremony began, stood and immediately endeavored to suppress the overflowing ovation, saying, “Come on, it’s just me.”
“Hi everybody, and a very pleasant good evening to you,” he offered, in trademark style. And then: “Welcome to my Thanksgiving.”
He spoke of his respect for every Major Leaguer ever to put on a uniform, how hard it was for them to earn that uniform and how hard it was to keep it. He wished them all long, fruitful careers: “Wouldn’t that be nice?”
For fueling his career, he thanked the fans, for “your enthusiasm, your passion for the game.”
He answered the question of what he plans he had for his retirement, in a way that you can imagine he hoped would avoid making God laugh.
“When you’re 89 and they ask you what your plans are,” Vin said, “I’m going to try to live!”
And soon after that, he finished.
The anthem played, and the camera honed in on Vin, singing every word. Then the uniformed Dodgers moved from the dugout to the carpet. A healthy throw from Vin Scully Avenue, this was now the most hallowed path in Chavez Ravine, suddenly, brilliantly … briefly.
Vin walked through and disappeared down the tunnel.
It was almost impossible to imagine that there could actually be a baseball game to follow an experience that transcended the game. But Vin himself has never allowed himself to be bigger than the sport. Mere minutes later, he was back to work.
“The ceremony has concluded,” he said to his TV and radio audience. “It’s been quite a night — I never thought in a million years I would see my name on the field … but enough of that!”
In the space between the ceremony and the game, I took a brief walk from my seat in the press box to let my muscles exhale. For an hour, for the entire day, for weeks and months, I have been trying not to shy away from the notion that this was the final year of work for the broadcaster who inspired me, as much as anyone outside my family, to try to be the best I could be. I have kept calm. I have focused on gratitude for the time, the unbelievably extended and rich time, Vin has given us.
But suddenly, the sound of Vin’s voice in my head rolled blissfully into an intersection of my mind, crashing into the imminent finality of his departure, debris flying everywhere. I convulsed, and pounded a wall with my fist.
His voice will never leave me, but how I’ll miss hearing it anew.
Originally published September 23, 2016