Although football has always been my passion, I also love the game of baseball. The late Bart Giamatti, Major League baseball’s former commissioner and a clear romantic of the sport, did too. He once lamented the end of the season in near-poetic terms. Here is what he wrote:
It [baseball] breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops.
Such prose might seem a bit over-the-top for the non-fans among us, but if you, like me, have cherished the game since childhood, his words probably resonate with you.
Scanning yesterday’s news, I was reminded of this when I read that the legendary Los Angeles Dodgers play-by-play announcer, Vin Scully, just announced he’ll be back in the booth for his 60th season with the team in 2010. Sixty years! Growing up in Southern California, the sound of Scully’s voice—easy and smooth and intoxicating, even musical at times—was the sound of summer. I enjoyed listening to him.
Since my childhood was often chaotic and much of the time laden with sadness, fractured even, Vin’s voice was a steady bright spot. It was predictable, too, a quality I longed for in my life. Attending Dodger games was a real and rare treat; my first game was a doubleheader against the Cincinnati Reds. In fact, on that memorable day, I was able to get Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Ron Cey, Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes and Dave Concepcion to sign a ball. The event left a lasting impression on me.
It’s easy to watch an accomplished man like Scully from afar and assume he’s had a career of ease and good fortune. Always impeccably and elegantly dressed, polished and articulate (he sometimes quotes Shakespeare in the midst of a game), a gentleman of gentlemen, someone might conclude he’s lived a charmed and carefree life. After all, Vin Scully has been elected to several Halls of Fame, is generously compensated for his work and enjoys good enough health to work into his 82nd year.
We all might be so fortunate. But like Giamatti’s reflection of baseball, a look at Vin Scully’s life is a reminder that nobody is free of grief and woe this side of eternity.
Yesterday’s article mentioned that Mr. Scully and his wife, Sandy, just celebrated their 36th wedding anniversary. What it didn’t mention was that in 1972, Vin’s first wife, Joan, died tragically, leaving him a widowed father of three. He would marry Sandy a year or so later and before long was a father of five.
Life went on. He continued his work with the Dodgers and the television networks. Fame and fortune followed. But in 1994, Vin’s eldest son, Michael, was killed in a helicopter crash while on the job. Fifteen years later, Scully says the death haunts him still.
Vin Scully credits his faith with giving him the strength to carry on despite the nearly overwhelming burden of grief that accompanied the losses and disappointments. He added that the people around him helped him carry on through his tears. The consummate professional, many listeners never knew of his pain and troubles, that’s how smooth and controlled his emotions were.
During a question-and-answer session this past week, Scully was asked to comment on a high-profile divorce that’s occurring within the Dodger organization. “As someone who holds a great sanctity for marriage, it only breaks my heart,” the classy announcer responded.
Bart Giamatti got it right about how baseball can break the heart, at least metaphorically speaking. But Vin Scully’s life reminds us that the twists and turns of life can do so, too.
Is there someone around you, maybe a coworker, a neighbor or even a relative who at least by all appearances seems to have it all together? Remember, things are not always as they appear. We would be wise to exhibit a greater degree of tenderness to those within our circle. Watch for the signs, ask questions and be prepared with an encouraging word. You might have an extraordinary opportunity, even today, to minister to someone who, at least inside, is lost and alone.
Happy 36th anniversary, Mr. & Mrs. Vin Scully! Thank you for sharing your gifts with us these many years, and I look forward to hearing you again come spring, when the green grass returns and life begins anew.