Why this refreshing candor is not only tolerated but encouraged by the Dodger organization owes as much to heritage as to the team's financial solidity. The Dodgers have a tradition of tough, knowledgeable radio coverage dating back to Red Barber in the late 1930s. Now it just seems to go with the territory. "We would probably lose half our followers if we didn't allow Scully to describe the game the way he sees it," said one Los Angeles official. "We feel Vin is promoting the sport, and that means he is promoting the Dodgers. It's what the public has come to expect."
The Dodgers properly credit Scully for playing a major role in their health as a franchise. They have the most valuable broadcasting rights anywhere. The club collects $400,000 as its share of baseball's television contract with NBC, and a hefty $1.8 million from local radio and TV; by comparison, the NFL's share-alike TV arrangement enriches each pro football team by a flat $1.75 million a year.
Even allowing for Scully's special talents, and remembering that he works in a uniquely lucrative market, it is difficult to understand what any club really gains from protective, all-holds-barred TV coverage. The ultimate answer may rest not with the clubs, or even the announcers, but with TV stations that foot the bills and presumably are in a position to call the shots. For the sake of TV riches, for instance, baseball has allowed the minor leagues to wither and has shuffled franchises with all the calm deliberation of a base runner trapped in a rundown.
It is possible to argue that baseball is packaged entertainment as much as it is pure news, although the vapidities and mindless euphoria that characterize so many baseball telecasts do not always make for rollicking show biz, either. For those hungry for theatrics, there is always Bob Prince, that Harvard Law dropout and riot of good humor who announces for the Pirates. Prince sometimes makes news himself, as when he won a bet with several of the Pirates by diving from a third-story window into the swimming pool of St. Louis' Chase-Park Plaza Hotel. He later outdid himself when he was pulled off an airliner for having used the word "bomb" too loosely, as in, or so he later explained to the law, "We're going to bomb that Giant pitching."
On the air Prince is just as unpredictable. He roots shamelessly for the Pirates, as witness his pet phrase, "We had 'em all the way," which he generally reserves for cliffhangers the Pirates miraculously manage to win. But he is also inclined to wander into subjects far afield from baseball, a tendency that prompts Pirate General Manager Joe Brown to closely monitor the broadcasts. Maybe the day Prince found a way to satisfy his instinct for reporting and Brown's for protection best summarizes the relationship between announcer and club. Richie Hebner, the Pirate infielder, had tossed his bat in anger into the stands in Houston. It was the kind of incident the club prefers to have Prince ignore, but the audible boos of the Astrodome crowd made this impossible. "Fans," Prince said, "something has happened here but I'm not going to be able to tell you about it."