In praise of Vin Scully

39 Comments

This is not the almost obligatory “Vin Scully is the best” stuff. I get that and participate in that often, but I almost feel like Scully has become such an institution that people feel like they have to say that, even if Scully isn’t doing anything particularly great.

But today he did something, the kind of thing you don’t notice too often, but which is really the stuff that makes him great. In the third inning of the Dodgers-Giants game, Angel Pagan was on first base, Clayton Kershaw holding him on. Scully talked about Kershaw’s success at holding runners on. A minute later Pagan took off for second and was nailed by A.J. Ellis. The reason he was out mostly had to do with Kershaw messing with his timing.

No, it’s not spectacular that Scully foreshadowed the caught stealing as such. The greatness of it was that, to Scully, there really was nothing more important in the moment than talking about what might happen with that runner on base and that pitcher on the mound. The caught stealing stats weren’t dropped in quickly, as if read straight from the stat sheet. Scully was in the moment, delivering the game to us, not at all distracted by overarching news stories, who he talked to before the game or any of the noise that so often pollutes broadcasters. Scully does not consider himself a reporter at all. He’s a broadcaster, in the purest sense of the term.

Maybe I’m not doing the moment justice here. But that moment, after watching baseball for nearly five hours, stood out as something so much higher and better than everything else because it flowed so naturally with what I was watching and thinking at the time. Scully is praised for his longevity and his stories and his style all the time, but it’s in these little moments where he really shines.

Biden praises Braves’ ‘unstoppable, joyful run’ to 2021 win

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
2 Comments

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said the Atlanta Braves will be “forever known as the upset kings of October” for their improbable 2021 World Series win, as he welcomed the team to the White House for a victory celebration.

Biden called the Braves’ drive an “unstoppable, joyful run.” The team got its White House visit in with just over a week left before the 2022 regular season wraps up and the Major League Baseball playoffs begin again. The Braves trail the New York Mets by 1.5 games in the National League East but have clinched a wildcard spot for the MLB playoffs that begin Oct. 7. Chief Executive Officer Terry McGuirk said he hoped they’d be back to the White House again soon.

In August 2021, the Braves were a mess, playing barely at .500. But then they started winning. And they kept it up, taking the World Series in six games over the Houston Astros.

Biden called their performance of “history’s greatest turnarounds.”

“This team has literally been part of American history for over 150 years,” said Biden. “But none of it came easy … people counting you out. Heck, I know something about being counted out.”

Players lined up on risers behind Biden, grinning and waving to the crowd, but the player most discussed was one who hasn’t been on the team in nearly 50 years and who died last year: Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.

Hammerin’ Hank was the home run king for 33 years, dethroning Babe Ruth with a shot to left field on April 8, 1974. He was one of the most famous players for Atlanta and in baseball history, a clear-eyed chronicler of the hardships thrown his way – from the poverty and segregation of his Alabama youth to the racist threats he faced during his pursuit of one of America’s most hallowed records. He died in January at 86.

“This is team is defined by the courage of Hank Aaron,” Biden said.

McGuirk said Aaron, who held front office positions with the team and was one of Major League Baseball’s few Black executives, was watching over them.

“He’d have been there every step of the way with us if he was here,” McGuirk added.

The president often honors major league and some college sports champions with a White House ceremony, typically a nonpartisan affair in which the commander in chief pays tribute to the champs’ prowess, poses for photos and comes away with a team jersey.

Those visits were highly charged in the previous administration. Many athletes took issue with President Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric on policing, immigration and more. Trump, for his part, didn’t take kindly to criticism from athletes or their on-field expressions of political opinions.

Under Biden, the tradition appears to be back. He’s hosted the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks and Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the White House. On Monday he joked about first lady Jill Biden’s Philadelphia allegiances.

“Like every Philly fan, she’s convinced she knows more about everything in sports than anybody else,” he said. He added that he couldn’t be too nice to the Atlanta team because it had just beaten the Phillies the previous night in extra innings.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was later questioned about the team’s name, particularly as other professional sports teams have moved away from names – like the Cleveland Indians, now the Guardians, and the Washington Redskins, now the Commanders – following years of complaints from Native American groups over the images and symbols.

She said it was important for the country to have the conversation. “And Native American and Indigenous voices – they should be at the center of this conversation,” she said.

Biden supported MLB’s decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to protest Georgia’s sweeping new voting law, which critics contend is too restrictive.