Putting our Heads Together

Putting our Heads Together
I don't think he sees me

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Passing of the Torch

Today marks the closing of Vin Scully’s 67 years in broadcasting and as voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers.  Tomorrow, he begins retirement.  It is the magic of baseball that such a sad moment will also bring to countless individuals even more smiles as this event slips us into the past.  You see baseball more than any other sport not only embodies its present, but cannot exist without its past.  In baseball our tribal elders that pass along the stories and legacies of our clan are the announcers, and Vin represents the finest qualities of our elders.

The Dodgers during this last weekend of calls by Vin, are playing my Colorado Rockies in Los Angeles, and it has been both pleasure and honor to listen to the ceremonies, deserved tributes, and most of all the stories that surround the career of Vin Scully.  Baseball is all about the stories, and with each telling I not only learn a new tale, but I recall tales of my own.

I remember the bedroom I shared as a kid with my big brother Chris.  I don’t even have to close my eyes to feel the warmth of Southern Summer nights, see the grainy shadows of branches cast by street lights through the open window, and hear the coo of doves and hoots of owls as background noise to the call of baseball.  Chris and I each had our own twin bed, and between our beds was a nightstand on which a small box shaped AM radio softly glowed tuned to WDIX in Orangeburg bringing us Braves baseball from far off Atlanta.  Then it was Earnie Johnson and Milo Hamilton making the calls, telling the tales, bringing the likes Hank Aaron, Phil Niekro, and Dusty Baker to life in our dark and shadowed room.  Nationally televised games couldn’t compete as the stoically neutral announcers shared their experiences somehow watered down and sterile when compared to the familiar voices we listened to almost every night of the season.

Now an adult, I live in Colorado and follow most closely our Colorado Rockies.  They came into existence in 1993, just a year after I had met my future wife Jean-Marie and discovered she was a fan as well.  The story of the Rockies for me begins with the announcers.  I think Colorado did it right by bringing in the voice of the wonderfully experienced announcer Charlie Johnson on TV to gently gather the fans into the fold of the Rockies, familiarizing us with the collection of players assembled for the new expansion team.  When Charlie left, Drew Goodman took over the play-by-play reins accompanied first by George Frazier and now by Jeff Huson and Ryan Spilborghs on color (all former ball players).  On the radio, there have only been four announcers and I can still hear all their voices in equal proportion.  It started with Jeff Kingery and Wayne Hagen, and now the games come courtesy of Jack Corrigan and Jerry Schemmel.  I can enjoy the game as easily on radio as on TV thanks to all these fine voices.

Really the point is, baseball is a family made up of players and fans in equal parts with the announcer seated at the head of the table introducing one to the other and uniting all.  As Vin Scully retires, we say goodbye arguably to the greatest of our tribal elders that have included Jack Buck, Harry Carey, and the legendary Red Barber.  Baseball in large part is a sport that is passed on to generations as an oral history, and Vin Scully has done it better than anyone else.  Through his humility, knowledge, skill, and uncompromising respect for the sport and the characters that populate it, Vin has become a mentor to generations of announcers and the nation’s home team announcer.  Broadcast booths everywhere are a little emptier after today.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

20 Years in the Making

Taking off from Denver is not a completely easy experience.  The air is thin here, and the plane seems to lumber for a long time down the runway, its wings scraping and clawing for anything that resembles lift.  There is almost a sigh from the plane as it gives a brief shudder when it leaves the earth to return to the sky it was made for.

Today my wife and I head to St. Thomas by way of Charlotte, Miami, and long hours in the air.  To ease the stress of travel a bit, the first leg is spent in first class.  The sun is toward our nose, and my wife is to my left.  The horizon like the future awaits.

It has been twenty years since we have set foot on St. Thomas.  Then it was for our honeymoon, now for our anniversary.  Then we left teenagers in our wake, now we leave adults with mortgages and pets, and a couple of grandchildren sprinkled amid them for good measure.  We don’t go to the island to recapture anything.  We go to celebrate, both a milestone and a future.

That is the brightest spot in this trip for me, the sure knowledge of a future with this exciting woman who is also my best friend.  Her love for me has always been a gift, a wonder, and a surprise.  Her hand will always feel both new in mine, and as if it had always been there.  Its love’s dichotomy that causes me to smile, and causes me to look at her and see new love and life partner.

I won’t bore you with stories of the twenty years.  Most of it is simply space, passage of time.  The rest an accumulation of moments, a private collection of joys and pain that are ultimately our cement.  We share these memories in our eyes, in touches and caresses.  And that is all the reminiscence we really need.

For now we fly, as the last twenty years have seemed to.  St. Thomas awaits as it did then, as do burgers and rum drinks at the Duffy’s Love Shack.  Thank you to all our family and friends who were there at our start and who have joined us along the way.  Thank you, Jean-Marie, for saying yes, for giving me children, for sharing your love, and for giving me a life.  All the years we have had, and all the years before us will not be long enough for me to repay that thrill, but I will keep trying.