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THE TRANSISTOR KID
Robert Creamer
May 04, 1964
When Announcer Vin Scully (left) came to Los Angeles with the transplanted Brooklyn Dodgers, he was a stranger in alien corn. But in the six years since, he has become as much apart of southern California as the freeways (right), whose radio-listening drivers form a huge part of his audience
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May 04, 1964

The Transistor Kid

When Announcer Vin Scully (left) came to Los Angeles with the transplanted Brooklyn Dodgers, he was a stranger in alien corn. But in the six years since, he has become as much apart of southern California as the freeways (right), whose radio-listening drivers form a huge part of his audience

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Scully worked with Barber and Connie Desmond for four seasons. He says, "I don't think anyone has ever been better than Red when he was doing play-by-play every day. He was so thorough. He taught me to get out to the ball park early, to talk to the players and to the managers, to find out why someone was not starting and why somebody else was, to learn as much as you could about the club and the visiting club so that you weren't surprised at anything when it happened. He sometimes treated me like a little boy—the first day I went into the Ebbets Field press box he announced, kiddingly, that they had hired me to carry the bags—but he certainly was good to me."

A significant turning point in Scully's career came at the end of the 1953 season. The Dodgers had won the pennant and would meet the New York Yankees in the World Series, but Red Barber turned down the job of announcing the Series with Mel Allen because of a disagreement with the sponsors concerning his fee. Connie Desmond, the Dodgers' No. 2 announcer, was ill, and the sponsors went to Walter O'Malley, who had succeeded Rickey as president of the Dodgers, to discuss the situation. O'Malley said, "I have nothing to do with how much you pay whom, but I'll tell you this—there better be a Brooklyn announcer on that Series broadcast." The sponsors turned to the youthful Scully and, as Vin likes to put it, they said, "Hey, kid. You want to get into the game for nuttin'?"

Then, that winter, Barber switched from the Dodgers to the Yankees in a move that startled New Yorkers only slightly less than Leo Durocher's managerial transfer from the Dodgers to the Giants five years earlier. Desmond was ill and in semiretirement, and Scully was de facto the No. 1 Dodger announcer. He was 26 years old.

After the 1957 season came the move to California, the crowds, the transistors, the overwhelming acceptance, the establishment of Scully as a fixture in the Los Angeles scene. "There are some drawbacks," he admits. "The travel is difficult. You're away from home for two and three weeks at a stretch half a dozen times a year. And we have no short trips, except San Francisco, and that's 400 miles away. There are days when I'm sitting in a hotel room in a city 2,000 miles away from my wife and my kids, and I say to myself, what am I doing here? What kind of life is this? I guess everybody does that once in awhile. I've thought of other jobs. I know that I'd enjoy being an MC on a television show, and I think I'd be a good one. But if I did, I'd be in show business, and that's a strange world. You're flying high one year, and the next year you're out in the cold. Baseball is different. For one thing, the people in it are great. And there's a tremendous amount of security for an announcer in baseball."

Scully lives in a house that is a strikingly successful blend of eastern clapboard and California glass, on the side of a hill on a dead-end street ("In Los Angeles we say cul-de-sac," Scully tells his New York friends) in the Brentwood hills. He lives in Brentwood, one of the most attractive sections of Los Angeles, because of another instance of his feeling for luck and opportunity. "When I was in the Navy I was stationed in San Francisco for a time," he says, "and I came down to Los Angeles on liberty to meet a friend of mine who was a marine at Camp Pendleton. We were wandering around Hollywood one Sunday morning when a girl stopped in a car and asked us if we'd like to come to her parents' house for Sunday dinner. We said sure. Can you imagine that? Inviting a couple of strangers off the street for dinner? It was great—nice dinner, nice family, a very nice house. That evening the girl drove us back to Hollywood and dropped us off where she had found us. But I asked her, 'Where were we today? What's it called?' And she said, ' Brentwood.' Well, when we came out here in 1958, Joan and I had been married only a few months. [ Scully's wife is a beautiful dark-haired Massachusetts girl who was a model in New York when they met and whose maiden name was Joan Crawford. They have two sons, Mike, 4, and Kevin, who was born last autumn.] We had never had a home. We went to the West Indies on our honeymoon and then on to Vero Beach for spring training. When we reached Los Angeles we started looking for an apartment. The real estate man said, 'Do you have any idea where you want to live?' We looked at each other and then I remembered the Sunday dinner in Brentwood. I said, 'How about Brentwood?' He said fine and he found us a nice apartment and we lived there until Mike came along and then we bought our house. As far as I'm concerned, that's where we're staying from now on. It's only 25 minutes from Dodger Stadium and about the same from the broadcasting studios." He laughed. "We had a pitcher on the Dodgers a few years ago named Danny McDevitt, a little left-hander from New York. He used to shake his head and say, 'Everything in Los Angeles is just 25 minutes away.'

"People from New York ask me if I miss the East. I really don't. I like Los Angeles. When I was in my 20s we moved from Manhattan out to a town in New Jersey, a very pretty town. But the people there sort of resented all the New Yorkers moving out and cluttering up their nice roomy suburb, and I couldn't blame them. Well, that's the way I feel about Los Angeles now. When my New York friends say, 'I don't see how you can live out there,' I nod my head and say, 'You're right, it's terrible, don't move out.' I don't want things to change."

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