By Jennifer O’Shea
For The Signal
They say a game of baseball contains 18 minutes of actual game play — not a lot considering the average length of a Major League Baseball game roughly three hours. But during those 18 minutes, women formed the first All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. Shortly thereafter, Jackie Robinson and the Dodgers integrated Major League Baseball. And those who witnessed it are unlikely to forget when President George W. Bush threw out the ceremonial first pitch for Game 3 of the 2001 World Series three weeks after the 9/11 attacks.
Baseball might not be a timed game, but it’s an indelible time marker.
Over my 37 years of life, my dad and I have spent approximately 162,000 hours in the same space. And I’m going to estimate that we’ve spent 20 percent of that time in conversation. My dad doesn’t talk a lot. But when baseball is on, we watch it together. When Vin Scully announced the Dodgers game, we listened and we talked.
I know my dad loves me, but he doesn’t show that love through hugs and kisses. Not really through many words either. His affection is always most visible in our time spent together. Baseball creates a space for my dad and I to have a meaningful conversation. And even though it starts off with the game, it usually ends with something beyond. Something Scully said reminded him of one day in Vietnam, so he told me about the dog he looked after while he was in the war. Details about the guy at bat having a new baby reminds him to ask me about the adoption process my husband and I are going through. We watch baseball and we talk.
Five words brought me and my dad together. The five words that Scully didn’t even have to tell the crowd to join him in saying when he opened up Game 2 of the 2017 World Series. If you know the Dodgers and if you know Vin Scully, then you know the words I’m talking about.
And on Nov. 4, in the Pasadena Civic Auditorium, the voice my dad listened to on the radio and TV since 1959 was actually speaking directly to him.
My dad finally got to meet Vin Scully.
It’s not what you might think. It wasn’t some divine meeting on a deserted street in L.A. where Scully spoke the perfect words of wisdom to my father and then disappeared into the sunset of Chavez Ravine. My mom paid $500 for a VIP meet and greet.
My quiet father shook Vin Scully’s hand and looked at him with disbelief. Vin commented on my parents’ Dodger shirts, the photographer snapped the photo, and they walked away. It was brief, but it was meaningful. The voice of the Dodgers spoke to my dad.
After the meet and greet, Vin sat and talked about his experiences and memories for 45 minutes. His mind is bursting with knowledge about baseball. He shared about his favorite home run, his humble moments of learning the craft, snippets from his childhood and how he prepared for games.
He started in the fall, reading up on various teams and various players. When he found something interesting, he put the tidbit in the appropriate team folder. He had folders for every team. Once the season started, Scully prepared the morning of a game day, got ready and would be at the park by 3:15 p.m. He was always prepared to give his best to the fans until his last broadcast. Since his retirement, it’s been hard to listen to a new voice.
During every game, all Dodger fans felt like Vin spoke to us. His voice is warm, yet authoritative. And it became familiar. For me, baseball and the Dodgers have always felt like home.
My first experience with baseball was playing on a tee ball team when I was 5. My dad told me that at my first up, I hit a single. I ended up running around the bases, touched home plate and stalked directly to my dad.
“I don’t want to play anymore.”
“Why?” my dad asked.
“I don’t want to get dirty.”
This had to be so disappointing for my dad. He had plans for me. My words crushed his dreams of coaching my softball team and coming to my high school games. I ended up choosing dance.
In the end, I didn’t give up on baseball, and my dad has never given up on me. Instead of tee ball, we spent hours in the backyard throwing the ball at an old mattress–with both arms. My dad wanted me to be an ambidextrous thrower.
Recently, my parents moved from our family home of 30 years to a smaller house. Less to worry about, less to take care of — change is good, but change is scary.
They wrapped up the ball signed by Dodgers pitching great Orel Hershiser and packed up the shoeboxes full of my dad’s 1,000 baseball cards and pink petrified pieces of bubblegum that came in the packages. They filled moving boxes with Wheaties boxes, each displaying my dad’s favorite baseball player smiling with a bat propped on his shoulder.
As he packed up each item, I wondered how many pieces from this collection of memories would end up on display in the new house. Where would he hang the card signed by Nolan Ryan? What room would have enough space for the Tommy Lasorda bobblehead?
That night in Pasadena, Vin shared a story about his childhood home. He described how he positioned himself directly under the speaker of the radio in the living room with his milk and crackers and listen to baseball and college football games.
“The roar was almost like water out of a showerhead,” he said. The sound poured over him, like his voice pours over his fans.
Vin Scully spoke to you in your living room. He cared about each player. He knew so much about them all. He built an extended family in the MLB. His success was built on story and connection to the human desire to be known. We all want to be known and Vin knew. It wasn’t just about baseball, it was about relationship.
My dad’s first game was with his dad in 1962, the first season the Dodgers played in Chavez Ravine. They took the bus from Van Nuys to Dodger Stadium. Los Angeles Dodgers v. St. Louis Cardinals. My dad was born in St. Louis, so for a 12-year-old boy, that experience was unforgettable.
My first time to Dodger Stadium was with my dad was on Father’s Day. That’s how we’ve spent many Father’s Days, sweating it out at a day game in June. No matter our age, no matter what season of life, we know the baseball season will start in March and take us through October. As Dodgers fans, we counted on Vin’s voice to guide us and encourage the boys through each game. He’s moved on, but baseball remains.
My parents have settled into their new home. They painted the walls, hung the art and hooked up the TV. All of the baseball paraphernalia found its place on shelves and walls. We watched Game 7 on their new couch. We cheered together. We yelled at the TV together. And then we were sad together.
But we have done that every season, high or low. Whether they are the winningest team in baseball or the worst in their division, my dad and I root for the Dodgers. Like Anne Lamott says, “Baseball, like life, throbs with hope, or it wouldn’t exist.” When the bases are loaded with two outs, we have hope that our teammate will hit a clutch Grand Slam. Or we hold onto to the hopes of our pitcher throwing a no-hitter.
Over the years, I’ve been frustrated about the stresses of finishing school and finding my place in life, and my dad encouraged me in the dugout with his arm around me. Throughout the struggles of the first years of marriage, my dad was on the third base line swinging his arms with enthusiasm for me to make it home.
And when deuces are wild, I know my dad is there to pull through for me.