From Josh Getlin’s The voice is familiar, but the man behind it proves ever elusive (Los Angeles Times, 6/6/09):
In the summer of 1974, Eric Neel was a 6-year-old kid going through hard times: His parents were divorcing, and he was living with his grandfather in Los Angeles. The only thing that gave him solace was sitting on a small kitchen stool, listening to Vin Scully announcing Dodgers games.
“He’d say ‘Hi again, everybody, and a very pleasant good evening to you, wherever you may be,’ and my life would come back on line,” said Neel, now a senior writer for ESPN. “I swear the way [his] smooth, round Irish lilt wrapped itself around me, it promised, almost every summer night, to keep me safe.” Such is the primordial bond that Scully has forged with millions of listeners during his nearly 60-year career behind the microphone, and it is one of many poignant anecdotes in Curt Smith’s “Pull Up a Chair: The Vin Scully Story.” Smith, who wrote “Voices of the Game,” a well-received history of baseball broadcasters, shows how Scully’s legacy goes well beyond calling balls and strikes, and amounts to a special relationship with fans who can’t imagine the game without him.
What a heart-wrenching story—a little boy caught in his parents’ divorce hell, seeking comfort from a stranger over the radio–OUCH. Every couple filing for divorce should have to read those first two paragraphs before filing… As for being a young boy finding comfort in Vin Scully’s voice, I can relate… My parents moved to California shortly before I was born, so for many years I did not see my grandfather very often. He reappeared in my life when I was about 10 and he moved closer to us. He and I really connected, and I was crazy about him. I loved to go over to his house, and I was so happy to have re-discovered him. Then, it seemed like almost right away, he contracted cancer, and he died. I can still remember my mother telling me about it, and not believing that it could be true. It is also interesting to think back on how a child process all of this. I really did not believe he was dead, I kept thinking he was going to come back. When we had the funeral and there was an open casket, he looked very life-like, which reinforced my belief. I can still remember my mother telling me that they had replaced his blood with embalming fluid. It was at that moment that I finally, finally understood that my grandfather was not coming back. After that, for whatever reason, I began having a fear of ghosts and I used to think they were going to get me at night. I used to have a transistor radio that I would keep near my bed and I would keep it on, thinking that as long as the radio was on the ghosts could not come. On those nights I used to listen to Vin Scully announce Dodger games whenever I could. Like little Eric Neel, I found his voice comforting. I’d also listen to Angel games, even scratchy nighttime broadcasts of Oakland A’s or San Francisco Giants games, just so the radio would be on and the ghosts could not come. I remember waking up one time at three in the morning and seeing that the radio was off and feeling terrified because that meant that ghosts were now going to come. Of course, all that had happened was that the radio battery had died. Still, the best I felt during all of this was when I could listen to Vin Scully. There was something reassuring in his voice. Scully is pictured at the top right. The other picture is of Davey Lopes, my favorite player when I was a 9-year-old Dodgers’ fan… Read the full Los Angeles Times article here. Thanks to my always generous friend Don Barrett of www.LARadio.com for the story.