The memory echoed in his mind.
It was June 29, 1990, and Phillip Elizalde, a young man at the time, was listening to the Dodgers play the St. Louis Cardinals. Fernando Valenzuela on the mound. And, as always, Vin Scully on the call.
And what a call it was: Valenzuela, the Dodgers’ star pitcher and the pride of the team’s robust Mexican fan base, hurled a no hitter.
Even now, 32 years later, Elizalde can still hear the final call. Perhaps Scully’s voice echoed even louder as the East Los Angeles native stood feet away from a growing memorial outside of Dodgers Stadium on Wednesday, Aug. 3, a day after the legendary broadcaster died at 94 years old.
“Fernando Valenzuela has pitched a no-hitter at 10:17 in the evening of June the 29th, 1990,” Scully said after the final pitch. “If you have a sombrero, throw it to the sky.”
It was a vintage moment among so many that made Scully all the more beloved in a city and a region where his singular, ubiquitous voice — pumping through televisions and radios in kitchens and living rooms across the Southland — made him more than a broadcaster.
By now, the description is a familiar refrain, but from the coast to the Inland Empire, Scully was like family to millions.
But he was more than that.
As crowds of mourners gathered on Vin Scully Avenue outside Dodger Stadium on Wednesday, or at Scully’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame — or even in the chambers of L.A. City Hall — a theme emerged:
Scully’s was the voice, buoyed by his indelible humanity, that above all others helped stitch together Southern California’s motley patchwork of communities into a single fabric.
From East L.A. to Pasadena, from Koreatown to Riverside, and from the San Gabriel Valley to Orange County, millions of baseball fans welcomed Scully into their homes. And that created a connection not just between individual households to the voice of the Dodgers but also among each other; he was the avuncular storyteller of Southern California, around which a unified community gathered to listen and to learn.
And his play-by-play – describing Don Newcombe, Sandy Koufax, Fernando Valenzuela, Hideo Nomo, Chan Ho Park and all the rest – lured in generations of fans across the ethnic, socioeconomic, gender and political spectrums.
In a region that, in many ways, is disparate, Scully was a unifying force.
“He used the authority of his position and his words to normalize for fans players like (Jackie) Robinson, Hank Aaron, Fernando and Chan Ho Park,” said Benjamin Davis, professor of journalism at Cal State Northridge. “His warmth for them from the broadcast booth created opportunities for people to say to themselves these guys are beloved people first, ballplayers second.”
Elizalde — who now lives in Covina but grew up listening to Scully on AM radio — could sense that force early in his fandom, from Scully narrating the Fernandomania that shook the region in the early 1980s to that no-hitter 10 years later.
“He embraced Fernando,” Elizalde said. “For Vinny to embrace him, that means we were going to embrace him, too. With a big bear hug.”
His unofficial family members throughout Southern California all agreed on Wednesday that Scully may very well have been the region’s most important voice over the last 60 years.
“I think that nobody else has really had the impact that he’s had in Southern California for the last 60 years,” said Jaime Jarrín, himself a renowned and groundbreaking sportscaster, known as the Spanish-language voice of the Dodgers since he began broadcasting the team’s games in the late 1950s.
Back then, it was a rapidly growing Los Angeles, stretching outward from the city proper to new suburbs that went on for miles. But it had a new team — the Dodgers — whose broadcaster, it turned out, was a storyteller who could somehow simultaneously narrate the tension of a game while soothing the soul.
— Ryan Carter (@ryinie) August 3, 2022
He comforted the region even amid the urban sprawl, the politics, the fragmentation of Southern California.
For L.A. City Councilman Paul Krekorian, Scully brought the city together like no one else could.
“When you think back to the arrival of the Dodgers in 1957 and all that the city has gone through,” Krekorian said during a Wednesday council meeting during which he and his colleagues took turns trading stories and memories. “The tumult, the turbulent divisions, the times that we have too often turned against one another, the times when we have been uncertain about our own future here in Los Angeles.
“And the one common element that most Angelenos shared,” he added, was the “consistent, reliable ability to have the little joys of a summer baseball game in your backyard, barbecuing with your family, and Vin Scully’s voice through all of that. Through all of those years, through all of those divisions.”
The renown for Scully’s magical ability to tell the story of the game grew along with the growing L.A. area.
It was a region of disparate interests, but one thing was a constant: The feeling of home when Scully uttered his signature phrase, “It’s time for Dodger baseball.”
That simple phrase signaled to generations that it was time for Scully to invite the community – from grandmas and grandpas to auto mechanics to stock analysts — to “pull up a chair” and enjoy a ball game. And his stories.
“He has been a great asset to the community, no question about it,” Jarrín said. “He was very nice with everybody.
“He was as nice with Latinos, African Americans, with Anglos, with Asians, with everybody,” he added. “Extremely, extremely nice. That’s why he was loved so much by the community in Southern California.”
That’s why, Jarrín said, he was the voice of Southern California. And why so many mourned on Wednesday.
The loss of Scully hit Lisa Rojas hard. She and her father came to the stadium memorial from Walnut, in the San Gabriel Valley, to pay their respects.
The tears flowed.
But so did the memory of the Scully that Jarrín described. The one behind the voice that could bring Southern California together over a ballgame.
“It wasn’t just about being a Dodger fan,” she said, remembering her youth, when she would come home and her father would turn on the game. “He was just a really classy guy. Just a really good person to have on the planet.”
“Just a really good person to have on the planet…” Dodgers fan Lisa Rojas and her Rafa the Dodger Dog reflect on the passing of #VinScully.( Outside the Stadium on Wednesday) pic.twitter.com/vf0QE71K7d
— Ryan Carter (@ryinie) August 3, 2022
It was a humanity many from the region got a glimpse of, in brief interactions that now loom large.
Former Riverside County Supervisor Marion Ashley remembered a gracious and giving Scully, when he was part of a small group that through former Dodgers player Bill Russell got to meet Scully in 2013.
“If everybody would approach life the way Vin Scully did, we wouldn’t have the division we have in this country,” Ashley said. “He listened. As good as he was at talking, he was probably a better listener.”
Neil Weingarten, a longtime fan in Yorba Linda, also got to meet Scully. He used to be a game night organizer for the L.A. Kings. And one day, he found himself in the middle of a conversation between Scully and Lakers broadcasting legend Chick Hearn as they prepared to honor great, Kings announcer Bob Miller.
“It was just chit chat between these iconic voices,” he said. “I was in this room with those voices having a conversation.
“It was just ridiculously surreal,” Weingarten added. “Vin Scully could not have been a nicer, more gracious gentleman.”
L.A. Councilman Gil Cedillo, whose district includes Vin Scully Avenue —which was renamed from Elysian Park Avenue in 2016 — said that Scully served as a “bridge and a voice of the city.”
Cedillo, like so many Angelenos of a certain age, grew up listening to Scully on a transistor radio.
“You could hardly find a more decent man,” Cedillo, 68, said. “A man so humble, so just genuine and caring. A man who loved what he did. He lived his life loving what he was doing, exactly what he wanted to do.”
Tony Tavares, who paid tribute at Scully’s star in Hollywood on Wednesday, said Scully shaped his love for compelling tales.
“The older I got, I realized I love a good story,” he said. “I was like, ‘Why do I always love good stories?’ Because Vin Scully would always tell good stories.”
Those stories — coupled with Scully’s charismatic, avuncular presence — often resonated more in the tougher times.
Jarrín, for example, remembered Scully’s words when play resumed after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in New York. Scully words were at once somber and reassuring.
“In tough times, he came through with great actions,” Jarrín said. “He wanted everyone to be happy. He wanted everybody to love baseball, because it is a sport that can bring together everybody.”
From bad seasons to tragic events, from World Series championships to economic boom times, Scully’s voice draped Los Angeles in warmth for decades.
It formed a quilt that stretched from San Clemente to Woodland Hills.
Now that voice and the iconic man it belonged to are gone.
And the quilt is a bit frayed. But on Wednesday, his memory and the joy he brought to millions around Southern California kept the fabric woven together.
SCNG Photographer Hans Gutknecht and City News Service contributed to this story.
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