Here is a story about a great American poet. He just happens to do baseball.
Former major-league pitcher and broadcaster Jerry Reuss remembered a night in Los Angeles, circa 1972. He was on the mound for the Houston Astros at Dodger Stadium. There was a buzz in the stands. It wasn't the crowd.
"It was the sound of transistor radios, people listening to Vin Scully," said Reuss, who later played for the Dodgers. "It wasn't a full house, so you could hear Vin doing the game. Maybe not as clear as if you have the transistor in your hand, but you could make it out. He was in the middle of a story. I couldn't hear exactly, but there's a certain tone and timbre to Vin's voice when he's in a story. The words come out at a different pace.
"I looked in and got my signs. But I could tell Vin was still in a story. Instinctively, I stepped off the mound, went back, grabbed the rosin bag, wiped it off my fingers, waited, then got back on the mound. Vin was just coming out of his story. I could hear his voice change, 'The 2-2 from Reuss.' I just wanted Vin to finish the story."
Vincent Edward "Vin" Scully, 88, will finish his story Sunday. The revered broadcaster will work one last Dodgers-Giants game, lyrical, graceful as ever, then walk away from the microphone after a remarkable Hall of Fame career, an unfathomable 67 years as Dodgers play-by-play man, more than 9,000 games, across 12 U.S. presidents. Baseball and baseball fans never had better, kinder company.
"I attribute it to one thing and one thing only: God's grace to allow me to do what I've been doing for 67 years," Scully said in a conference call. "To me, that's really the story. Not really me. I'm just a vessel that's been passed hand to hand down through all those years."
As Scully's fellow broadcasters came through Tropicana Field this season, they had Scully stories and salutes. Voices of summer talking about the voice of voices. And they didn't care that they would have made their humble friend blush.
Scully's final home broadcast was last Sunday's walk-off Los Angeles win. Dodgers coaches and players remained on the field and doffed their caps to salute Scully, who waved from the booth. He has already announced he won't broadcast Dodgers postseason games. Sunday is it. He doesn't want to linger.
"And I also didn't want to say goodbye like they do in grand opera, when they say goodbye 25 times in 15 minutes," Scully said. "So, to me, we'll tie the ribbon on the package in San Francisco and that'll be that."
What a gift he was. What a buzz he made.