A Very Pleasant Goodnight To Vin, Wherever He May Be
I lost my Grandfather over 8 years ago. His passing wasn’t sudden or unceremonious, but it still caught me by surprise. In that time of my life I was, in a word, disconnected. I was losing touch with everyone back in Michigan and losing even more touch with my friends in New York. Everyone was growing up and settling down. And me? I still couldn’t stay home. I didn’t even have a sense of home. It was a foreign concept, as I spent most nights on a barstool or riding the subway in an aimless haze.
It wasn’t until my Grandpa passed that I realized what I was missing in my life. I was missing a voice of wisdom, a voice of comfort, a voice guiding me home. And with him gone, finding that was going to be much more difficult. I remember a Friday night, a couple of weeks after the funeral, when I was sitting on the creaky futon in my living room. On the other side of the wall, one floor down, a party was forming. A party i was expected to be at. But something inside just wanted me to stay put. So I put my feet up, turned on the Dodger game and didn’t look back.
At that point, I wasn’t sure if my latent baseball fandom was an aberration. After half a season playing roulette between west coast teams, I landed on the Dodgers and stayed there. The scrappiness of the team and explosive energy of phenom Yasiel Puig made it must-see TV. But after they went out with a whimper in the playoffs, I wasn’t sure where my allegiance would lie come next season, or if I had an allegiance at all. Vin Scully helped me make that decision.
It wasn’t until then that I realized how much his voice resonated with me. He spoke in the same cadence of my Grandpa and did so for hours on end, as long as my heart desired. In calling the game, he was scientifically precise. But moreso, he was a storyteller. Every player that came up to bat would be given a novelist’s treatment. Everybody has a story to tell and Vin would always dig through every corner of the universe to find that story to tell the world. While also calling every pitch of the game that was actively going on. But he was never caught off guard, was never interrupted. The action of the game was also a part of the story.
I had never heard anybody broadcast like that before and I never will again. Discovering Vin was a revelation for me. I had a new lease on life. Knowing that I’d eventually be able to hear Vin speak would get me through every work day. For the first time in a while, I finally had comfort. For the first time in a while, I finally had a sense of home. For the first time in a while, I was happy.
And that’s my story. Many people wonder why a dude from Michigan that lives in New York would be a Dodger fan. In fact, most people wonder that. All I have to say is “Vin Scully” and they understand. Or I could show his name tattooed on my wrist, placed conveniently in front of a vein colored Dodger Blue. But that’s a little crass. I usually just say, “Vin Scully”. That’s not to say that I wish my story was different. Instead of being an alcoholic that missed his Grandpa, I could’ve just been a lifelong fan. I could’ve been one of those cool dudes from Southern California that’s definitely better than you. But that’s the beauty of fandom, there’s no right or wrong way to do it.
Tuesday night, the Dodgers were playing in San Francisco. The same place where Vin called his last game. When I went to bed, they were winning handily, 4-0. I fell asleep with the notion that everything was right in the universe. I can only assume that Vin did the same thing.
I woke up a few hours later and read the news of Vin’s passing. I didn’t sleep much after that. I was in a state of shock and grief. I watched as the post-game show went into its second hour, as people called in to talk about how much Vin meant to them. He meant a lot of things to a lot of people and I knew that I had to unpack what he meant to me.
To say yesterday was rough is an understatement. Throughout the day, I would receive texts from people I hadn’t spoken to in years, offering condolences. Everyone knew how much he meant to me, as my life was forever changed because of him. Without him, I wouldn’t have fallen in love with baseball. Without him, I wouldn’t have met my future wife. Without him, I probably wouldn’t have found my way home. He was the Grandfather that I never met.
The monitor wall at work is always tuned into several sports channels. Throughout the day, I would see Vin’s face every time I looked up. The juxtaposition of seeing him without being able to hear his voice was heart wrenching. And at the beginning of Dynamite, Excalibur opened the show by saying “It’s time for All Elite Wrestling. And a very pleasant ‘Good Evening’ to you, wherever you may be”. It was at that point I broke down completely, crying well into the opening match. It was a subtle and beautiful tribute to a beautiful man.
By the time 11:00 rolled around, I couldn’t keep my eyes open. The Dodgers were once again handily beating the Giants, so there was no point in turning the game on. Instead, I went backwards, and pulled up a Dodgers-Angels game from 2002. Vin’s younger face was right there, wishing me a pleasant good evening. There I was, hundreds of miles away from home and yet, in the warm glow of the television set, I was also home. Obviously, a 94 year old man is going to die eventually, but you still dread that day. However, Vin is immortal. He lives on in the 67 seasons of baseball that he recorded. It would take the rest of our lives to track down and watch all those games, hear all those stories. Or, like with most Grandpas, you can have him tell your favorite stories all over again.
In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened
Little roller up along first, behind the bag! It gets through Buckner!
Dwight caught it! Dwight Clark! It’s a madhouse at Candlestick!
But my favorite Vin quote was one that never existed. When I first started dating Rachel, I went out of my way to impress her. One of the things I did was write out what Vin Scully would say if I ever went up to bat:
[Troy steps up to the plate] Troy Turnwald hails from a small town, Chesaning, Michigan. The town was once known [Troy blindly swings and misses. Strike one.] for a regional meat company called Farmer Peet’s. The plant had employed a majority of the residents for over a hundred years, when a high profile bidder took the company over. Foul tip down the left field line, no balls, two strikes. And who was that dark horse? None other than former Tiger’s ace, Denny McLain. And he ran that little plant into the ground, shuttering it’s doors for good in 1995. Many people in town were left jobless, but not Troy’s dad. He was in the bread industry. And he takes a big whiff and that’s the 11th strikeout for Mike Bolsinger. [Troy shakes his head and walks back to the dugout].
Tuesday night, the world lost one of its best people. But his legend will live on forever and his passing was only a reminder of how great of a human being he truly was. And with that, I wish him a pleasant good evening, wherever he may be.