My Shot: Vin Scully
Sing, Vinny! An American icon brings his best stuff on Sandy Koufax, a hole-in-one, striped neckties and the delicious silence of golf
ON MONDAY the week of a long-ago L.A. Open at Riviera, several pros came over to Bel-Air to play the course. I wanted to get in nine holes that day and was playing alone. When I got to the par-3 third hole, three of the pros were on the green and waved me up. Even from a distance I could see the doubtful expressions as they watched this solitary left-hander standing over the ball with his 5-iron. There was pressure, and all I could think was, Keep your head down, and don't worry where it goes. I hit it reasonably well. The ball hit the green and rolled into the hole. There was a stunned silence. I shouted the only thing I could think of at such a moment: "Mind if I play through?"
OF COURSE the pros wanted me to join them. The next hole is the No. 1 handicap hole, a tough, uphill par 4. I parred it. The next hole is a good par 3; I just missed a putt for a birdie. As we walked through a tunnel on the way to the sixth tee, one of the pros sidled up and asked, "What's your handicap?" I told him I was a 12, and he gave me sort of a funny look. But the rest of that nine holes was a disaster.
SOME PEOPLE DIE twice: once when they retire, and again when they actually pass away. Fear of the first one is a big incentive for me to keep working. [Scully is returning for his 63rd season with the Dodgers.] Players, writers, people who work at the ballpark and front office, when I quit I know I'll never see them again. I've never been the type to come to the ballpark and hang out; I've gone to one game in the last 60 years that I wasn't working. I keep working because I don't want to lose my friends.
AS FOR GOLF, I've never taken my game seriously. I'm not much of a competitor. I'll play for a couple of bucks, but not enough to where I'll grumble if I lose. My handicap has never been lower than 12. I love to play, love the banter and the fact I get in some exercise without running, without killing myself. And if I shoot in the 40s, well, that's a bonus.
THAT A KID from the Bronx would ever play golf at all is unlikely. But golf is filled with unlikely people. I took up the game shortly after the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles after the 1957 season. I joined Riviera and then joined Bel-Air in 1970 when they conducted a drive for younger members. Which was flattering, considering I was 42 at the time.
I MISS my friend Jim Murray. Jim was a great sportswriter and an avid golfer. He thought of Riviera as his cathedral, and golf as his religion. One day we were playing at Bel-Air. There's a bridge that spans a canyon on the 10th hole there. I look back, and Jim is fussing with his bag. He retrieves a ball and drops it into the canyon. I asked him what he's doing. "I'm appeasing the golf gods," he says.
FOR AN ETERNITY my low score was 82. Then at Bel-Air one day, I hooked up with three very good golfers. It elevated my game, and I shot 77. I am not one to cling to the past, but it was Camelot, never to be seen again.
THERE ALWAYS was a great sense of anticipation at the top of the Masters broadcasts. From the tower overlooking the 18th green, I would do the opening. I can hear Frank Chirkinian, the producer, as though it were yesterday. Through my headphones I would hear the countdown, "Five...four...three...two..." and then Frank would boom, "Sing, Vinny!" and off I'd go.
WHEN JACK Whitaker referred to the crowd at Augusta as a "mob" in 1966, the club chairman, Cliff Roberts, was offended. Whitaker was let go from the Masters team, and eventually I came into the job. There definitely were guidelines on expressions you were not to use. You said "patrons" instead of "gallery" or "fans," of course, and there absolutely was no mention of prize money.
EARLY IN THE WEEK of the 1975 Masters, which was to be my first, I was in Cincinnati doing the Dodgers and Reds. I got a call from Frank. "Mr. Roberts wants to meet you before the Masters starts, and that means right away." Apparently, when Mr. Roberts was informed that Vin Scully was to work the 18th hole that year, he replied--a little skeptically--"You mean the baseball feller?" He wanted to see me for his reassurance. But there was a problem. There was no way I could get a commercial flight down to Augusta, meet with Mr. Roberts and get back in time to do the Dodgers-Reds game. That was not going to satisfy Cliff Roberts. He found out that Arnold Palmer's private jet was being serviced in Indianapolis. Frank somehow gets it over to Cincinnati. Next thing I know, I'm getting out of Arnold's plane in Augusta and meeting with Mr. Roberts, who was very affable. He didn't mention Masters do's and don'ts at all. He just wanted to meet me. And he got me back in Cincinnati in time to do the game.