Okay, some of you are going to be asking “why?” Why am I offering you an article about Vin Scully, the TV and radio announcer for the Los Angeles Dodgers for over 60 years? What does Vin Scully have to do with education?
Let’s start with the fact that I am, and have always been, a theater geek and a bit of a nerd. I’ve spent my life doing theater and music, and teaching. Fortunately, though, at a very early age, I first heard the thoughtful, highly educated voice of Vin Scully.
Vinny started his career when the L.A. Dodgers were still the Brooklyn Dodgers. I live in Los Angeles, however, and it was there that I first came to understand some things about life. One of those things is that art, sports, and other “non-essentials” are far more than the “spice of life”. Baseball, basketball, painting, poetry, theater, music and the like are an expression of the best that mankind is capable of. Such displays of man and woman triumphing over the limits which our lives, our bodies, our universe impose are as important a testament to who we can be as were the discoveries of gravity, the development of calculus, and the launching of a rocket with men aboard to the moon.
I kid you not. I believe that reading King Lear, listening to a Mozart opera or Bach fugue, or watching Fred and Ginger dance is to observe the excellence that we are all capable of. These artists and thousands of others demonstrate to us just how high the humanity bar can be set. They do so as surely as a great statesman, a great soldier, or a great scientist.
And so, too, did Willie Mays, when he caught that ball over his shoulder on the dead run toward the outfield fence. So did Maury Wills, stealing his hundredth base. So did my favorite baseball player ever, Sandy Koufax, when he arose every fifth day to pitch with surreal excellence, in spite of the fact that his arm felt like falling off by the end of a game, forcing him to soak it in ice.
Baseball taught me math. I learned to understand percentages and basic math at the feet of the greatest baseball announcer ever, Vin Scully, as he talked player statistic after statistic. I learned to respect individual accomplishment, perseverance,and the triumph of one’s will over the limits of the body, as Vinny painted exquisite word pictures day after day of players and their exploits on the field. I learned that courage comes in all shapes and sizes, a lesson taught me by Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey through their determined effort to desegregate baseball, as Vin Scully related the tale with clear reverence in his voice. I learned that people of all races and from all nations were to be honored, as Vinny clearly honored them. I learned to respect education itself, as Vinny himself is truly educated and peppers his comments with cultural tid-bits that most likely soar over the head of many of his adoring listeners.
And by the by, I learned that even though I am a bit of a theater geek and nerd, an educator and a writer, that it was perfectly alright to stretch my interests (with intensity) to areas one would not normally associate with one of my kind. Vinny taught me to love sports. (Chick Hearn helped. I can’t watch a Laker game without hearing his voice in my head, and I watch a lot of Laker games.) I have to admit that I love sports best when the Dodgers or Lakers win, and on those rare days when they both win, life is good.
This morning, Vinny announced he’s coming back for a record 63rd season, and as an educator I could not have been more pleased. Along with millions of others, I see Vinny as the voice of baseball, a calm yet enthusiastic, educated yet worldly, devoted yet critical commentator and illuminator of the game. He will lead other children, as he has done for decades, to love math, love sports, love high achievement, and yes, even love humanity and its potential. As an educator, I see his return as a big win for human potential and sanity and baseball and the Dodgers, and life is good.
JANUARY 2013 – Vinny’s back again for another season, and all is right with the world! You MUST read this beautiful story about what he said recently. He is simply wonderful, and remains a great educator.