“The Battle of Chavez Ravine” pgs. 273-274
Copyright © 2009 Michael D’Antonio and Riverhead Books
The Dodgers’ success was based in part on novelty but it was also built on the voice of broadcaster Vin Scully, whom O’Malley brought to Los Angeles from Brooklyn. O’Malley had been encouraged to hire a local announcer, but he had confidence in Scully. Before the season began, the two men discussed the tone of the broadcasts and O’Malley wondered, “Don’t you think you ought to root for the team?”
“I was trained to go down the middle,” answered Scully.
“I appreciate that,” answered O’Malley. “That’s what the people like here, so you stick with it.”
From opening day Scully served as a reliable guide to the game’s nuances, characters, and history. He taught millions who listened in cars, homes, and workplaces, to appreciate good play and strategy. Dogged in his pregame research, he always had a tidbit to tell about a player coming up to bat and an anecdote about the relief pitcher warming up in the bullpen.
Because most Dodgers away games were played in later time zones, Scully had a huge audience of commuters who tuned in on the drive home from work to catch the first innings of night games played in the Midwest or East. Drivers became so enraptured that when they got to their homes they remained in their cars until the end of an inning. Others raced inside to switch on radios that played through the dinner hour. All across Southern California, the genial Scully became a virtual guest in dining rooms and kitchens.
Scully had his greatest effect on fans in the stadium who brought transistor radios – a rather recent invention – and listened as he narrated the game they were watching. While most knew the stars on the field, Scully helped them to know every player and to grasp the flow of the game. The sound from thousands of tiny speakers could be heard by players on the field and feedback “gave the engineers fits,” he would later recall. And all the eyewitnesses put extra pressure on Scully to be accurate. He quickly grew comfortable with the relationship and sometimes played with the crowd. Once he organized them to shout “Happy Birthday” to an umpire at the end of an inning.
The bond Scully created with Los Angeles fans helped them to make the Dodgers their own, even though they arrived with a deep history. The connection also helped the broadcaster through a tough year and the first losing season in his Dodger broadcasting career. “We had a choice to come out with fresh new faces or the old familiar team that people had heard about,” said Scully. “We came out with that recognizable team, but a lot of them turned out to be over the hill. Still, the people supported us. And I never saw Mr. O’Malley really discouraged. Instead I could see his mind working all the time, working on the solutions to the problems.”