3330 words (13 minute read)

8                         The Real Vin



"Billy Crystal’s dad was a jazz musician. Crystal and Pops often sat in Louie Armstrong’s seats at the old Yankee Stadium." Izzy had heard that from of all people, a bass player who had sat on Sammy earlier in the season. "Remember, Sammy?"

"I remember! Best female bass player in the world, Tal Wilkenfeld. She’s not even twenty-one and she’s out there on the road with virtuosos like Jeff Beck." The Pistol liked to keep current.
"Oh yeah. But overhearing her that night," declared Sammy, "well, she needs to be careful out there in this wild, unforgiving world, young pretty thing like that."

"It’s not how you handle the hills. It’s how you handle the valleys."

"Here goes Phil Wordmeister again," dismissed Johnny P.

Had Phil Sage felt like speaking to Mister Pistol, he would have credited Count Basie for the rhythmical words of wisdom.

"They’ve got him in a pickle!"

Merrill Hodges wondered aloud where that expression originated. His son used it now to describe the prickly situation where Angel Pagan now found himself, caught between bases. "Uh oh," announced the protégé. "Pagan is picked, so Sandoval will have to wait till next inning. He’ll lead off, then The Man of the Night will bat second."

Kuni Noyori just about knocked the breath out of the boys when she leaned forward to tap Vin Hodges on his shoulder. "’In a pickle,’ was coined by William Shakespeare in The Tempest. I thought you’d like to know, Vinny."

Merrill Hodges looked horrified. Humbled by a bloody foreigner. How had she ever heard of The Bard over there across the seas? Much less have read him.

"I’ll use that! Thanks, Miss Kuni. I wonder why nowadays, whenever a runner gets caught between bases, they call it a rundown."

Izzy Dean tossed out the old Russ Hodges call when a runner found himself caught between Shakespeare and a rundown, "that runner was hung out to dry."

"Stick with me, kid, and I’ll give you the lowdown on the rundown." The Pistol loved the word play but lacked any clue of the origins of lowdown, rundown, takedown, shakedown, breakdown or Jackie Brown, not to mention Downtown Brown.

Will E. Brown, it was reported, would be back in the anchor chair by Monday. Latest. Alas, turns out, the Friday morning Chronicle told the tale in rosier terms than the doctors tending to him at Good Samaritan.

Hit by a bus! Yes! Cronkite? No. Victory Freedom? No. KFAN-TV news anchor Will E. Brown? Yes. Dang! That means nothing to me. Wrong bus. Wrong channel, anguished Fanny Hill.

Before zipping up and heading out that night, Penny Platinum had stashed four colors of lipstick into her platinum, pearl trimmed handbag. She had just pulled out Marilyn Monroe Mauve from that Chanel bag that was big enough for a homeless person to call home, when Butler leaned over, "The Wild Years, by Al Gore."

"... available exclusively at Target, your back to school headquarters."

"Good Morning Little School Girl!!!"

Bumper Morgan’s cell phone exploded. Say hello to Chuck Berry.

"If you let me I can tease you baby." Kuni’s antenna went to high alert. But it was not Cool Cole Kelly calling. It was Bumper’s old mate, Rocky Ocean. Rocky’s tropical tales of laid back times on the Garden Island had been surfing Bumper Morgan’s noggin’ forever, it seemed. "Poipu. Dream come true. Poipu." It wasn’t John Lennon’s #9 Dream, but it was Bumper’s.

Facts be told, earlier that week, a trade wind breeze had nuzzled that dream. Boomer Boudin had long promised that it would be a slam dunk to ship Rocky’s old buddy across the pond should any action come down and turns out, such a deal truly seemed to be in the works. Bumper had taken the news with a grain of Pacific salt. But on this call, Rocky told Bumper to stick close to his phone because he and Boomer were impatiently holding up the bar at Honolulu’s Sunset Grill, waiting on a phone call from a bank. Bank? Whatever could that mean to Lead Dog Bumper.

Boomer’s dad Dana was nothing short of a Honolulu radio legend. And Boomer’s mom’s dad, good old Pappy, had flourished as owner of the morning newspaper but had pretty much floundered with his radio station until Dad had come along. Dad Dana had flipped the fledgling station into a cash cow. He had flipped too, for Pappy’s daughter. Boomer Boudin was the result of their flipping union.

It had seemed like the Pulitzer clan out of St. Louis had owned The Garden Isle newspaper on Kauai since before the missionaries had felt compelled to clothe the lively, swaying breasts of hula dancers with pairs of coconuts. Perhaps, since before the volcanoes had erupted.

And Pulitzer had certainly noticed the upside of consolidating their markets. Trouble was, on Kauai they had owned only the dominant newspaper, no other voices. So, two years back, Pulitzer had offered the Boudins a Mauna Kea-sized mountain of unsolicited dollars to purchase Pappy’s Kauai FM. Very few broadcasters in all America would have turned a back to such mega-bucks. So it was no surprise that Pappy had taken it. But in so doing, his grandson wondered if they had turned their backs on Uncle Rocky. Rocky Ocean. Uncle in the Hawaiian sense. After all. They had never met.

But it had worked out. Lately, Rocky had seemingly steered clear of many of the rocks in the ocean that is a radio career, and now felt he had landed in no-worry-be-happy, tranquillo-land with wife Stella and their two kids. It had come as quite the surprise, how much his young family had warmed to populous Oahu, after he had been called back from the laid back Garden Island. His sons were enrolled at Punahou, the haughty private school many considered Honolulu’s elite of elite. Stella had space for the garden she had always wanted, and he was able to hike down Black Point cliffs to the world class surf spots directly below his greatly expanded bungalow.

Boomer Boudin had given Rocky a heads up. With the non-compete pau-- over, done, completed-- he and his dad had been talking to the bank about the debts piled up by a California broadcaster who had purchased two other Kauai FM stations three years back. Rocky had volunteered to jump right in at the outset to help the cause ... at the outset, said he. And the Boudins didn’t seem surprised when Rocky told him that circumstances compelled him to keep his family on Oahu.

So, Rocky Ocean had been pitching his pal Bumper to Boomer Boudin ever since he’d been brought up to speed on the goings on out Kauai way. Bumper Morgan had not known that a deal might be so eminent. Until soon after Chuck Berry had lit up the night.

A second look. As she high-stepped past, Jewel Goldman almost broke stride when she took a second look at the baby-faced beer vendor. Where do I know her from? Fanny Hill knew who Jewel Goldman was, alright. But Jewel had other things on her mind. She brushed past Fanny and Smoky with high step and a crooked smile and a determined look, on her way up to the sky boxes. Smoky didn’t know who Jewel Goldman was but he knew in a Cincinnati second that he sure wanted to.

Fanny was loaded. She picked up her tray, balanced it like a waitress in a 50’s diner, then spun to make her way back to her customers (and to her seats) up in the right field Cheaters Throwback Seat section.

"... next Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the Giants close out this home stand against the Chicago Cubs."

"That ump doesn’t know home plate from a blue-plate special." Vin Hodges was livid. So once again, he volunteered dad’s taped glasses to the umpire.

The Bonds drama had taken a toll. Vin Hodges now slumped back into the stiff, fixed arms of Phil Sage. High anxiety had bushed him. Dad leaned over, rubbed his son’s shoulder, then, to perk Vin up said, "when you sign back on, tell ’em the one about Andre Dawson wanting to be a role model." Phil smiled wide. That would be hard to say on the radio. Andre Dawson was the Hall of Fame Cubs’ outfielder who, when asked if he thought he should be a role model for kids growing up, had notoriously answered, "I want all ’dem kids to do what I do, to look up to me. I want all ’dem kids to copulate me."


The real Vin? Legendary, is too tame a term to describe Vin Scully. Vincent Edward "Vin" Scully, is the Hall of Fame play-by-play announcer for the Los Angeles Dodgers. He has worked Dodger games since their Ebbets Field days in Brooklyn, and yes, Phil, Vin Scully had indeed started out lugging around the forty pound tape recorder that belonged to the original "Old Red Head," Red Barber. When Red Barber died in 1992, Vin Scully recalled him as "the consummate reporter... perhaps, the most literate sports announcer I ever met... He had a profound influence on my life, and was a major reason for any success that I might have had in this business."

Barber called the baseball diamond, "the pea patch," and he liked to say that when he described what happened in the patch, he left no pea unpicked. A team with a sizable lead was, "in the catbird seat." A base runner who had knocked an infielder out of the play had, "swung the gate on him," and when a fight or anything close to one broke out, it became, "a real rhubarb." In 1978, he and former Yankee announcer Mel Allen, became the first broadcasters to be enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. "How ’bout that?" As Mel Allen was wont to say.

To say Scully has held his own since taking the mic, was like saying Ronald Reagan was sort of popular with the Barry Goldwater set. He replaced Barber in 1950. (Scully, not Reagan, although the 40th U. S. president had indeed called "play by play" for the Chicago Cubs! Sort of. In the 1930s, he would create play -by-play from Associated Press wire reports and was in fact, legendary, for one particularly deft audible when the wire once went dead. The Gipper had the hitter hit foul balls for almost two minutes until the wire connection was re-established)

Scully was well into his seventh decade, broadcasting the team once affectionately known as, "’dem Bums," when Ebbets Field was home. At 25, he became the youngest person to ever broadcast a World Series game. In 1955, he called the Dodgers’ only championship in Brooklyn. The following season, Scully called what he would later say was the greatest individual performance he had witnessed, Don Larsen’s perfect game in the World Series. So, he had been on hand when one reporter asked Larsen right after he had retired twenty-seven batters in a row to complete the perfect game: "Is that the best game you ever pitched?"

Scully said that the single greatest play he had ever called, was the ninth inning walk-off home run Kirk Gibson hit against the Oakland Athletics on October 15, 1988, to win Game 1 of the World Series. For his one and only at bat that Series, Gibson had limped out of the dugout due to a pulled left hamstring and a swollen right knee, to face Oakland’s future Hall of Fame closer, Dennis Eckersley. Gibson claimed that he had been in the throes of a stomach virus that day, too. Nonetheless, in a Series shot right up there with Carlton Fisk waving his homer fair to win Game 6 of the 1975 Series, Gibson jerked a fast ball a half dozen rows up into the Dodger Stadium right field pavilion.

"She is gone!" That was Scully’s home run call. Then, in what many seasoned broadcasters will tell you was one of the greatest play by play moments ever, Scully had remained silent for more than a minute and a half, to let his world-wide audience visualize on its own, the mayhem that followed.

"I would much rather listen to the roar of the crowd than to myself."

Young Vin Hodges had broken out in chicken skin, just about every one of the fifteen trillion times he had listened to a recording of that historic moment. Vinny had spent many an evening down Cucamonga way listening to Vin Scully. In addition, he had listened to recordings of Russ Hodges, Red Barber, Curt Gowdy, Dizzy Dean, Jimmy The Saint Christopher, and his favorite, after Mr. Scully, voluble L. A. Lakers legend Chick Hearn. And, to learn how not to ply his skills, he had excruciatingly endured self-imposed punishment of listening to cassettes of games called by Joe Garagiola or worse, by Tim McCarver.

The Star Spangled Banner trumpeted on volume ten from the red, white and blue Nokia in the pocket of Biermeister Smoky Burgess. Hands full and sloppy, he asked Fanny to grab the phone from his Levis’ pocket. She tensed more than a little before confirming that the anthem was blasting from his rear pocket.

She had been standing around waiting for Smoky to ice down the full case of Steam he was preparing to take up to Scully, Al Michaels, the Giants team of Kuiper and Krukow, and whomever else might be hanging around the press box and broadcast booths.

Vendors weren’t allowed to carry phones, so Fanny had long ago told anyone in her life that mattered, to call Smoky if anything came up. Turns out, this person really mattered. Thom Bennett was calling. Thom Bennett was the President and General Manager of TV 20. When she hung up less than a minute later, Smoky was ready to roll upstairs. But he suddenly stopped dead in tracks. Fanny was a Brooklyn second away from tears.

"Hey, hey, hey," he said.

"Yeah, doll, what’s up? Huh? Huh?" It was the new fill-in guy who everyone assumed was on speed, who had come in for a relief appearance, once Smoky headed up to the box.

Smoky glared at him, then took hold of Fanny. She was shaking like a wet hound. "What, sweetie, what?"

"Thom, Thom, that was Thom. Thom. Thom, my boss. My BIG boss. My General Manager."

"Yeah?"

"He called from the sidewalk outside Symphony Hall. He did not sound happy. He said something about too many phone calls for one intermission. There was a lot of street and background noise, and I only heard like, one word out of every five." She shivered. Tears trickled. "What I definitely heard was, ’don’t bother to come in this weekend. Don’t bother to come in this weekend.’"

This was not the way Smoky had envisioned things. Quite the opposite.

"Don’t bother to come in? Don’t bother?" Her cheeks suddenly flushed deep to match the color of her auburn streak.

"What else, Fanny?"

Fanny Hill blew a sweaty curl back toward the bill of her cap, grimaced, tried to cover before grimacing again, then finally said, "it’s curtains, Smoke. Curtains. I know it. I couldn’t hear much else. Oh, yeah, Ken is on his way, Ken Sutherland, my news director, is on his way here. Here to the ballpark? What in the world? I know one thing. Ken’s not headed here to deliver any part-timer a severance package."

Funny, yes, but no way Smoky could smile at that.

He was righteously befuddled. Friday night. You don’t fire someone on a Friday night. On the phone. "Man, man oh man," he managed. "I’m in shock, honey." He tried mightily to focus. "But so are you, obviously. Here, take this."

As stunned as she felt, like she’d heard someone had died, Fanny waved a hand to decline the soaked orange and black bar rag Smoky had extended. She wiped her eye with the back of her hand. Someone did die, her insides told her. But it wasn’t Victory Freedom. It was Fanny Hill. Fanny with her dreams.

"Kuni! Kuni! No, it can’t be!" Jewel Goldman had thought of another adornment to her pitch for Head Cheat, and was on her way back up to the sky boxes, but on the way, she had ducked into the odorous ladies room. She immediately regretted not holding on until she reached the luxury level potties.

When she strode past the line, an oval reflection from the mirror had knocked her silly.

"Kuni! Kuni! It’s really you!"

Kuni Noyori’s hands were still damp, which was okay, because they were outstretched and dripping behind Jewel Goldman. When she had seen Jewel in the mirror, she had whipped around and thrown both arms around her neck.

When they parted after a breathy pause, they stood there as shocked as poor Fanny was, slumped onto Smoky’s arm no more than a drag bunt away. Excited, quick niceties exchanged, Kuni said she would wait outside while Jewel took her place in line. Jewel took no notice that there was a line.

When Jewel emerged, she continued her barrage. "When did you arrive? When did you decide to come? Why here? Where are you staying?"

Kuni thought, then said, "Three days ago; week before last; Cole had an interview, and you don’t want to know."

Jewel hadn’t a faint idea that Bobby G played any role in this surprise. So she asked about Cole’s interview.

"I’m waiting on his call, but I’m pretty bummed. I think his plane took off already." Actually, at that very minute, Cole Kelly was hurdling like O. J. Simpson used to when he dashed through terminals, hurrying to Gate 16 at Seattle-Tacoma International. "In fact, I should head back to my seat now, because I don’t have a phone and Cole is supposed to call the man I am here with."

"Oh? Oh?" Wide sarcastic media smile. "And who might this ’other’ man be?"

"His name is Bumper."

"Bumper?"

"Bumper Morgan. He’s the morning guy at the rock station where my cousin and her husband work."

Jewel abhorred rock; classic, retro, progressive, new, soft, head-banging or otherwise. Give her a genuine, all-sports station, twenty-four hours a day. Thirty, if possible. She didn’t know Bumper Morgan from Piers Morgan.

Jewel made a face, then lit up. "Hey, do this: go fetch your Bumper, and the two of you come up to the box. It’s not the KFAN box but off the elevator, it’s the second on the left. Gargantuan. Can’t miss it. I’ll secure badges for you and leave them with security." She cupped Kuni’s chin, kissed her on both cheeks, wrapped her into a bear hug, then took off to do just that.

Very cool, thought Kuni. It will get me out of that seat that shakes like the Great Hanshin earthquake whenever I move my bottom.



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