For an hour, Vin Scully allowed himself the chance to remember.
The Dodgers had just wrapped up the National League West title with a Thursday afternoon victory in Phoenix, and a champagne celebration ensued.
After calling the final out Sept. 19, Scully said he watched the players roll around near second base at Chase Field, then collected his belongings and headed down to a team bus that waited in a nearby tunnel.
He wanted no part of the player commotion, or even a dip in the right-field pool.
“It was kind of lovely to be sitting alone, just thinking, very quiet, no one around,” the 85-year-old Hall of Fame broadcaster admitted. “I didn't feel alone or left out. It was by design.”
He said he found himself back in 1950, his first year with the franchise. The Phillies' Dick Sisler hit an opposite-field home run in the 10th inning to eliminate the Dodgers on the last day of the season.
A year later, it was the New York Giants' Bobby Thomson and his historic homer that did the same kind of damage.
In 1955, it was the elation of Brooklyn's first and only championship. Then the title runs of the teams from '59 and '63 and ...
“I felt like I was going through a scrapbook, I guess,” he said. “I saw faces, players I knew, many I was close to. It all came back in a rush.”
How this 2013 Dodgers season will end is a script Scully is waiting to narrate, as he takes to the radio booth to call games through the playoffs.
But first, another journey through his personal scrapbook for the way this season played out, and how that affected his decision to stick around for a 65th season in 2014:
Q What's your go-to adjective to depict how this season has played out for the Dodgers?
A Well, some people think it's a miracle team and all that, but what it really is – this has been two teams. This isn't the ‘Miracle Braves' of 1914. This is one team that was banged up and playing four part-time players on a full-time basis, and consequently, they were laboring and not going anywhere. Then when the regulars came back, they were playing up to their capabilities. It was rather remarkable the way they won 42 out of 50 at one point. But it was simply a team that was hurt, got better, and proceeded to do the job.
Q So maybe they're resilient, or simply achieving what everyone figured would happen or ... ?
A In spring training when the team gathered, every pundit who came by Arizona said, ‘Well, this is a team that will win the Western Division easily.' So the fact they won it really shouldn't be a surprise. But the way they did it was something else.
Q Did you ever get a sense that Don Mattingly's days as a manager might be numbered after the first couple of months?
A I never had any sense about that, but then I don't have a lot of sense about a lot of things. I say that seriously. I go to the ballpark, I do the game, I go home. I knew the team was struggling and there was a lot of talk in the papers about it, but I thought that whole time: Are they really going to judge him playing Punto, Schumaker, Hairston and what other part-time players he was dealt with? I didn't have any idea or knowledge, I just kept thinking about how unfair it would have been based on this team.
Q So you never got caught up in what you were reading about Mattingly?
A Oh, no. Naturally, let's face it, we try as hard as we can to do the game and be as impartial so that we're accurate. We don't get into conjecture about someone getting fired. That to me is way out of bounds.
Q What's the moment from the season that sticks out for you — a game, a play, a player?
A A couple of things: First, the fight in San Diego when (Zack) Greinke broke his collarbone in early April (on the 11th, during the sixth game of the season) really sealed the first couple of months. Then it's interesting to me — it was Greinke again in June pitching. The day before, (Clayton) Kershaw had lost (in San Diego) on the 21st of June (a 6-2 decision, dropping them to 30-42). Greinke came back, the team was healthy, and they won on the 22nd of June (6-1, starting a six-game winning streak). That was the beginning of all the good things. So there was Greinke at that low point in San Diego, and there he was again in San Diego in a sense leading them back.
Q That game in San Diego on the 22nd of June was also at the expense of Edinson Volquez, who actually had a no-hitter against the Dodgers through five innings. Then look where he ended up. And Hanley Ramirez hit the home run off the Western Metal building down the left-field line and kind of woke everyone up as well.
A I think that was the hardest-hit home run I saw all year. Without a doubt.
Q So after all that, the Dodgers clinch the NL West in Arizona — and somehow you refrained from jumping into the pool?
A I have never, in all my years, had champagne poured on me. I'm usually on the air, and way back, I would throw it to Jerry Doggett in the clubhouse, and he'd be drowned in all of that.
The closest I've ever come to that was the 1963 World Series. Mel Allen, the great Yankee broadcaster, worked with me. And in September that year, he was having a problem with his throat and the doctors warned him not to put too much stress on it. But he did, during the end of the season in September from what I understand.
So now the Yankees and Dodgers are in the World Series, and he was still very subdued. One: The Dodgers won the first three games and he didn't have much to be happy about. Now it's the fourth game, and in those days, each announcer did half a game, 4½ innings. By good fortune for me, I was on the last half when the Dodgers became champions of Brooklyn for the only time in 1955, I was luck-of-the-draw on the half of Don Larsen's perfect game (for the Yankees against the Dodgers in 1956) ... it was amazing how many times it just worked out where I was on at the end.
But for Game 4 at Dodger Stadium, Dodgers-Yankees, 1963, I'm on for the first half of the game. So it figured if the Dodgers won, I would be the one to go downstairs and be doing all that postgame celebration. And I'd be the one getting drowned.
So we're in the booth, and it's into the seventh inning now, and Mel has been quiet, saving his voice. But Mickey Mantle hits a home run that ties up the game (off Sandy Koufax, in the top of the seventh). Mel has a great call: “Going, going … gone!” He forgot all about the constraints. When he hit the word “gone,” the whole voice went. It was awful.
That really affected me emotionally. I still think about how that was one of the most important home runs, one that's always stuck in my ribs – only for this reason: Mel couldn't speak. Tom Gallery, who was the head of NBC Sports at the time, tapped Mel on the shoulder and pointed to me, like ‘Give it to him.' And I really could have cried for Mel at that instant. It's a national stage, I had done my part, no reason to come back, but I had to come back because Mel couldn't finish. So I'm not sure who even did the postgame celebration.
So the reason that home run has always been with the thought: There but for the grace of God go I. When I rank the most memorable home runs for me – Bobby Thomson's (1951 pennant winner for the Giants), or Henry Aaron's (715th career) or Kirk Gibson's (Game 1 of the 1988 World Series), Mickey Mantle's is there in my book as well, because of the impact it had on me spiritually. Really. It's funny how sports fans are. A lot thought that Mel was so emotionally overcome that the Yankees were about to lose four in a row that he couldn't speak. That's what I heard, which was nonsense.
Q Speaking of more nonsense, what about the reaction to the Dodgers players who jumped into the pool in Arizona?
A I'll be honest: I sat in the booth and watched after they won. I had no knowledge about it until people told me, and I didn't give it a thought. The park was empty. What's the difference?
The thing that really concerned me was when Senator McCain made his remarks about it. With all the troubles going on in this world, where we are relying on his judgment and ability to maintain relationships, staying calm ... the only thing I could think of was as a politician forever trying to please his constituents, perhaps he responded so he could say, ‘See, I'm one of you. I'm mad too.' It still concerned me that a man of such high authority and overwhelming responsibilities in this mad-house world could possibly make the statement he made. It was shocking. If that's his best judgment, to say that (via Twitter), then I'm really scared.
Q If you could sit down and have a conversation with Yasiel Puig — considering you'd need a translator – what kind of things would you like to find out more about him?
A Where is his control button? Because, I've tried very hard to capture him in my own mind, and I keep going back to the ‘wild horse.' I look at this magnificent specimen, and I think of this stallion running on the wide-open spaces. Kind of picturesque and thrilling to watch in one regard, but at the same time, you know he has very few parameters. I wonder why he's learned to play that way. I respect his enthusiasm. That's marvelous.
But where's the control? What happened? I've been told by scouts — I have no knowledge — is that is the style of play in Cuba. The hitters aren't just looking for a base hit or moving a runner over, it's the thrill of the 500-foot home run, and standing there, holding their hands high, watching the ball go out. It's all appealing to the crowd. It may have nothing to do with ego, it's just the culture. You can have the great arm that he has, but you have to realize why there's a cut-off man down there. You're not supposed to just throw the ball as far as you can. You have to have sense behind it.
I'm sure somehow or another, I'd like to ask: I understand this is the way you play, but this is the big leagues — are you coming to conclusions you have to do things a certain way? Once in a while, throwing past the cut-off man to dare the runner is OK, but there has to be a calculated gamble. You can't do that in the big leagues.
One of my favorite expressions ever uttered by a player is Roy Campanella's line about how in order to be a major-league player you have to have a lot of little boy in you. That's Puig's charm, all that little boy in him.
Q We saw how the 1988 Dodgers used emotions, provided by Kirk Gibson and Orel Hershiser, but it was far more controlled than the kind of emotion that Puig brings to the table. Do you see pros and cons of someone who uses emotions in a playoff situation?
A The one thing I noticed: This is a very happy team. We're forever looking in the dugout, especially after good things, for a camera shot. But it's funny how you can watch certain people like Puig and Juan Uribe, and they're constantly on each other, laughing and whatever. And then, what amazes me, is to see Hyun-Jin Ryu get in the middle of that. The rookie from South Korea, I've seen him playing with Uribe and just slap him across the face. Laughing. I mean, the camaraderie is the best I've seen in years. And Puig is very much involved in that. He'll do something very good, and Uribe, Ramirez, they're all over him with some running gag all the time. It's quite a show. Any rookie, sure, is liable to make a mistake that hurts a club, but that's just being in a category of a rookie. But Adrian Gonzalez, all his Gold Gloves, he could make an error that costs them a game. It just happens. That's what makes the game so marvelous. You cannot figure it out.
Q You've talked about the many reasons for wanting to come back for your 65th season next year, feeding off that energy and enthusiasm that you've seen on the field. You pick up on all that?
A Yeah, I really do. I've really enjoyed the games at home, with the crowds so enthusiastic and high strung. So marvelously excited. I've always loved the roar of the crowd, I've said that my entire life. And this year, the crowds at Dodger Stadium have been making the kind of noise they made there when the team won the World Series in 1988. And then you look in the dugout, and these guys are just having fun. It's really a wonderful experience. I don't do anything but sit there and absorb it.
Q There were several occasions where the Dodgers had walk-off victories, enough to where you referred to Dodger Stadium as “the Magic Castle.” How do you remember those victories?
A I remember Vince Lombardi when he was the head coach of the Green Bay Packers, who said to his team: ‘When you score a touchdown, act like you've been there before.' Don't rub it in because you still have to play against them. I'm constantly worried that players are going to get hurt. They've got this terrible habit on this team of running after the guy who got the game-winning hit and tearing his jersey off him. That bothered me — you're asking for trouble. And this is after all that innocently happened to the Angels (Kendrys Morales breaking his ankle in a 2010 celebration after a walk-off grand slam). I'm not knocking them celebrating, it's more of a concern.
Q If you had seen the Dodgers' pool celebration, you'd have seen Kenley Jansen tucking his leg up as he jumped off the deck and into the water for a cannon ball.
A The other night, (wife) Sandi and I were in the hotel room in San Diego on Friday night and Jay Leno came on – usually I don't stay up to watch because it's too late - but he was showing a clip of the Dodgers jumping into the pool in Arizona. But then cut to a scene of some synchronized swimmers doing this choreographed routine. It was such a perfect segue. It looked like Esther Williams. If you weren't paying attention, you'd have thought it was the Dodgers doing all that. He got a huge laugh from the crowd and a huge laugh from Sandi and me as well. Very funny.
Q And Sandi will be with you as you're the grand marshal at the Rose Parade. How do you prepare for such an event? Do you practice your wave in a mirror?
A I have no idea (laughing). We'll just do whatever they tell us, whatever that is. That's still in the distant future. We have too much on our plate right now.