Hall of Fame Dodgers announcer Vin Scully is retiring after 67 years of broadcasting. Among those who saluted him was former ESPN host and announcer Charley Steiner, who is in his 12th season as a Dodgers broadcaster. Steiner grew up on Long Island, N.Y., a Dodgers and Scully fan:
"Let me back up and then move forward. What I wanted to be as a kid was the Dodgers announcer — the Brooklyn Dodgers announcer. I was 7 years old and Vin's was the first voice I heard. I always told folks in Los Angeles that I've been listening to Vin my whole life like them, but I had a head start 3,000 miles from here.
"Fast forward. I'm about 12 years out here, so for me, the guy I idolized as a child is now my dinner partner every night and friend. It's the damndest thing. Oh, and by the way, he's the Babe Ruth of my business. Best who ever did it. Case closed.
"How and why? First, he's a very bright fellow. Second, he has a vocabulary that is seemingly infinite. Third, the world comes very slowly to him. It's like the Matrix character. Stuff goes by and he bats it away. We're reporters. We're in the boonies, trying to tell a story. Vin, on the other hand, is a poet. The story somehow comes to him.
"He's the biggest star in Los Angeles, and I mean in Hollywood, too. I can defend it until the cows come home. I say it all the time. This is a city of stars. Kobe. Magic. Leo. Vin has been here since 1958. He basically imported baseball to Los Angeles. As the fan base grew, first with transistor radio and on radios where everybody lives in their car, he was the guy. He taught baseball. And to a segment of the population here, he taught the English language.
"First time I had meal with him was at old Jack Murphy Stadium. Sitting there with Vin Scully. I said this (ESPN) thing is fun, but I'm traveling all the time. Vin said to me, 'Here's my suggestion to you. Find yourself a good hometown team and a good home town and that's the way you live this baseball life.
"I've said this a million times: He is the only human being on Earth who has a going away tour that comes to him. The umpires always come up to his booth. Players come up in uniform to see Vin, to say goodbye. David Ortiz has come up. The Orioles were in town and we were having dinner in this back room. It's the best hour of the day. It's one of the things I'm going to miss. Vin is like my mentor, he's like my dad — and he's Babe Ruth.
"There's a knock on the door, and the security guy says he's got Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop who would like to come in and see Vin. Watching this outpouring of affection for him on a daily basis … and, oh, by the way, Charley, could you pass the salt, please? No one can say 'pass the salt' like Vin. No one can say anything like Vin.
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"I was with the Yankees. After the 2004 season. The Dodgers called and asked me if I wanted to work for them. Done deal. I'm standing in the living room where I grew up. The living room, 15 feet from the kitchen was where I listened to the Dodgers on the radio. My cell phone rings. Cell phone. 323 area code. Somebody in L.A. That voice. 'Charley, it's Vin.' Here is Vin, welcoming me to the Dodger family, while I'm explaining it to my mom near the kitchen, where her son used to listen to the radio. Everybody should have a day like that in their life once.
"It's 12 years ago. Spring training. Vero Beach. My first exhibition game. Holman Stadium in Vero. Vin is sitting to my left. In that particular winter, in '05, there had been a horrible hurricane. There was some question as to whether the game would even be played. There were mud puddles everywhere. Trees were down. The scoreboard was dangling precariously. I'm trying to paint this picture, palm trees down, some hanging on, they've planted some news on. 'And now, here with the play by play is Vin Scully.'
"Vin, he says, 'You know, Charley, talking about the palm trees, the old ones are down and out, some of the middle aged ones are hanging on, they've planted some new ones. But isn't that what spring training is about?' I think, 'I'm going to leave now.' Who else comes up with that? It was Van Cliburn sitting down, spreading the tails on his jacket, and playing. That's Vin Scully."