That new hit cable show Masters of Postseason was on last night, starring the venerable Carlos Beltran and narrated — if you didn’t mind mixing and matching your media — by the dynamic Vin Scully. Or is Scully venerable and Beltran dynamic? Actually, I’m pretty sure both are each.
You didn’t need to listen to KLAC via the MLB At Bat app to get what our former franchise player was up to in Friday’s marathon Cardinal win over the Dodgers at Busch Stadium. All you had to do was stare in awe at TBS and you could easily observe Carlos Beltran being directly responsible for all three runs his team gathered on offense and actively defending against a critical run via vintage defense.
He doubled in a pair of runs off Zack Greinke (8 IP, 10 K) in the third to even the score at two.
He nailed Mark Ellis at home on a 9-2 twin killing in the tenth (never mind that Yadier Molina didn’t exactly make a tag…and that sending Ellis may not have been the swiftest move imaginable).
And in the bottom of the thirteenth, he drove in Daniel Descalso from second to give St. Louis a 3-2 victory and the definitive early edge in what one wag is calling the Smug vs. Smog NLCS.
Beltran came up for that last swing with a runner in scoring position, and the runner scored. Typical Beltran, give or take…well, you know. His lifetime postseason batting average with runners in scoring position is .429 and he owns a bunch of other numbers that are comparably impressive. He’s helped push three different franchises to the seventh game of a league championship series. Maybe this year he nudges this one a little further.
That would be sort of a shame, even if you don’t find inevitability wholly unlovable, because if the Cardinals go to the World Series, then the Dodgers don’t. And if the Dodgers don’t, neither does Vin Scully.
I took the advice of several savvy people and did for last night’s Game One what I did for a bit of the 2006 NLDS’s Game Three. I turned the sound down on national television and turned the sound up on whatever device would welcome me to Scully letting me know it was time for Dodger baseball. I don’t necessarily seek Dodger baseball most late nights from L.A. but Dem Erstwhile Bums is half of all we got left in the N.L. If it’s going to come down to Smug vs. Smog, give me the voice that’s been coming in crystal clear and free of pretension since about ten minutes after Abner Doubleday didn’t invent the Grand Old Game.
Don’t take this as a rooting interest, per se, but if the Dodgers wind up playing the Red Sox in the World Series, Game One will feature an announcer who’s been describing baseball forever describing baseball in a ballpark that’s been hosting baseball since 15 years before that announcer was born. Not many active entities have remained precisely in place since I became enamored of this sport in 1969. Yet in my baseball lifetime, Vin Scully has always announced Dodger games and Fenway Park has always been the home of the Red Sox. Each has withstood progress’s army of steamrollers to not so much “remind us of all that once was good,” per Field Of Dreams, but to continue to represent the pinnacle of the American experience — National Pastime division.
Scully began his broadcasting career reporting college football from frigid Fenway in 1949. He broke into the big leagues as Red Barber’s and Connie Desmond’s junior partner at Ebbets Field in 1950. He shifted west to keep doing what he was conceived to do in 1958. He was recognized with the Ford C. Frick Award in 1982, the sixth announcer to be so honored by the Hall of Fame. The NBC gig that eventually crossed his path with that of a little roller up along first didn’t materialize until 1983. Before that, Vin Scully did the Dodgers, took on myriad postseason radio assignments, called the NFL on CBS and spoke into who knows how many microphones for who knows how many different events, yet it wasn’t until he was 65 that he went truly national as baseball’s undisputed lead voice. He was the sound of NBC for seven seasons, encompassing Bill Buckner’s error, Kirk Gibson’s homer and much more.
NBC lost baseball to CBS in 1990. Vin Scully kept going. He was at his job, on the air from St. Louis last night, in 2013. I listened as I have a few dozen times since I’ve had the technology available to me. The TBS announcers, the Cardinal announcers, the ESPN Radio announcers, even the other Dodger announcers for the innings Vin takes a break…none of them makes a postseason game as special as Scully does.
And you know why he makes it special? Because he treats every game as special. In a sense, this could have been a Dodgers at Cardinals game in the middle of the “regular year,” as he terms it (except he wouldn’t have made the road trip east of the Rockies at this stage of his life). If I were a Dodgers fan, I’d be close to expert on every Dodger opponent because for all his implicit advocacy on behalf of the team he’s personified for 64 seasons, Scully is best when the opponent is at bat. Vin told a story about David Freese in Game One. It wasn’t a big deal, just some background on how he had to share an apartment with a college buddy when he was a rookie, but damned if I wasn’t caught up in David Freese’s prior living arrangements. He gave me the same kind of skinny on Molina, on Beltran, on every Cardinal.
There’s something so respectful about that. I’ve been hearing him do that since the first time I heard him in his native habitat, on 790 KABC in 1996 when I was visiting L.A. I don’t remember what he was telling me about Astro third baseman Sean Berry, but I remember being struck that he took the time to inform me and that he wove it so seamlessly amid the balls and strikes. It was and is a small thing, but what are a baseball game and a baseball season and a baseball postseason are nothing if not a billion small things arranged in a dazzling mosaic?
As last night plowed into extra innings and past 1 AM Eastern, Vin Scully didn’t miss a beat. The giveaway towels made it “look like a snowstorm in the grandstands”. The clothing of choice in those seats? “When you come to St. Louis, it’s like an internal hemorrhage in the ballpark, nothing but a sea of red.” Conference on the mound? “Ellis covering his mouth with his glove and Wilson covering his mouth with his beard.” Yasiel Puig not coming through with a big hit? “He looks so frustrated — on one of these swings he’ll break the laces in his shoes.” Not a second of annoyance that this game wouldn’t end in his team’s favor.
“It’s a four-hour game,” Scully, 85, remarked with innings to go before he slept, “and well worth every minute of it.”
All of those pithy descriptions were transcribed courtesy of @VinScullyTweet, a “tribute” account dedicated to a man you can have fun affectionately imitating but even Twitter knows enough to not mock. When Beltran came up with the winning run on second, it felt as if not just Carlos had set the stage for his unfolding moment, but Vin had, too. During every at-bat Beltran had all night, Scully smoothly and hypelessly discussed the hitter’s great knack for producing in October. With him facing Kenley Jansen, it felt as if a narrative Scully started writing a dozen innings and close to five hours before was poised to reveal its final chapter.
Never mind that I had the television on and it was two to three pitches ahead of the app. I saw Carlos Beltran’s walkoff hit with my own eyes but I couldn’t swear it happened it until I heard it through Vin Scully’s mic. It was well worth every second.