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SCULLY MIGHT HAVE BEEN A GIANT.

Byline: Tom Hoffarth Best & worst of L.A.'s sports media

Let's play the game of ``what if?''

In 1949, a 22-year-old fresh-out-of-Fordham Vin Scully was hand-picked by Red Barber to join the Brooklyn Dodgers broadcast booth with him and Connie Desmond. The spot came open because Ernie Harwell, then 31, accepted a position with the New York Giants, partnered with Russ Hodges.

What if Harwell, who'd only been with the Dodgers for a little more than one season, stayed with the team, followed them to L.A. 10 years later, and was still doing their games today? What if he was the voice of baseball in Southern California?

And what if Scully's career went in another direction - egads, what if he took that Giants job and eventually followed them to San Francisco? The Giants were, after all, the team Scully grew up with. He'd sit in the Polo Grounds from the bleacher seats - his favorite player was Mel Ott - and look in at the press box and think about how lucky those guys were.

Harwell was lured to the Giants, in part, because they offered him $20,000, which was about $5,000 more than he was getting from the Dodgers. He was also going from a three-man booth to a two-man, so he'd get more work.

He'd end up with a Hall of Fame career, spending the '50s with the Giants and Baltimore Orioles, and after joining the Detroit Tigers in 1960, becoming a fixture there.

And Scully . . . well, you know that Hall of Fame career continues today as he prepares for his 51st season with the Dodgers.

``I think you always wonder,'' said the 82-year-old Harwell, who will continue his career with the Tigers on radio for at least the next two seasons. ''But you have to look at the situation when it happens and decide what you think is the best path. At the time, given the circumstances, I think I made the right decision.

``My rationale was that I'd get more work with the Giants. At that point, it looked like Red would last a long time, but Connie was second in line and there wasn't any reason to think I'd inherit the mantle before he would.''

Even before Harwell joined the Dodgers, when he was doing games for the minor-league Atlanta Crackers, the Giants had inquired about his services to work with Frankie Frisch - ironically, another famous Fordham graduate.

The Dodgers only went after Harwell in the middle of the '48 season because Barber had a bleeding ulcer and had to be hospitalized. Harwell, by the way, came to the Dodgers in a trade - the Crackers wanted backup catcher Cliff Dapper, who could succeed Kiki Cuyler as their manager. The Dodgers, who had Roy Campanella, agreed.

The first game Harwell did for the Dodgers was Aug. 4, 1948 - Jackie Robinson stole home in the first inning and Chicago Cubs pitcher Russ Meyer was so upset he shouted obscenities at the umpire and was ejected.

``And most of those curse words went out over the air inadvertently because of the parabolic field microphone,'' Harwell recalled.

After the `49 season, the Giants came asking for Harwell again. Branch Rickey agreed to let him out of his contract. Barber then hired Scully, who had been working for him on the CBS Radio network doing college football games.

Prior to that, Scully had been at WTOP, a 50,000-watt radio station in Washington, D.C., as a summer replacement staff announcer from May to October of '49. The station had offered him a permanent job in February of '50, Scully recalled.

``The station covered everything - it had game shows, disc jockeys, even two 'presidential announcers' - if the president had something to say, we had someone ready to go on the air and say, `Ladies and gentlemen, the president of the United States.'

``God only knows what would have happened (if Harwell stayed), but I suspect I would have worked for WTOP instead of joining the Dodgers, and I don't know where that would have led.''

Harwell was the fifth broadcaster inducted into the Hall of Fame and - a bit of trivia - he was on TV doing the Bobby Thomson home-run game for NBC as the first nationally televised baseball contest while Hodges was on radio making his now memorable call.

Scully, whom Harwell says he considers the best baseball broadcaster ever, was the sixth inducted to the Hall - again following Harwell.

They used to get together occasionally in their New York days since the Dodgers and Giants would play each other 22 times in the 154-game season. Harwell helped Scully in the transition process - warning him about Barber's rather perfectionist nature that could be wearing.

Scully's and Harwell's paths today rarely cross except for spring training.

Scully recalls a game a few years ago in Atlanta when the Dodgers were playing the Braves. And the only thing to that time that Scully had never witnessed - a Dodger triple play - occurred while he was on the air. The last Dodger triple play had been in 1949.

Right next to Scully in the broadcast booth, separated by a pane of glass, was Harwell, doing the game for CBS Radio.

``I leaned over and said to Ernie, `You know, you did the last Dodger triple play,' '' Scully said. ``And Ernie replied, `You know, I don't rightly remember.' So there you go.''

PLAY-BY-PLAY MEN

THE TOP 10

< --1. Vin Scully, Dodgers radio and TV: Let's see how this proposed simulcast works during spring training, because the radio audience has been undersold too much lately with Scully's commitment to TV.

--2. Bob Miller, Kings TV: Whatever happened to this Kings Hall of Fame that was supposed to be at Staples Center?

--3. Chick Hearn, Lakers TV: Which came first, Chick or the egg on his face when he barks at the grown man sitting next to him trying to do stats? Chick, of course, which is why the guy is usually wrong, and we all have to hear about it.

--4. Ross Porter, Dodgers TV and radio: He ranked fifth in '99 and '98, third in '97, fourth in '96, fifth in '95, seventh in '94, sixth in '93 and eighth in '92 and '91. So over a 10-year period, he's averaged fifth and a half place. For what it's worth.

--5. Mario Impemba, Angels radio: Has another new partner to work with this season (Darrin Sutton). At least the Angels know the right one to keep every time they consider low-balling a new employee.

--6. Rory Markas, USC basketball radio: Seems all that ''Rollerjam'' experience has been put to good use. Just proves to Chris Roberts that you can have a friendly voice without sounding like a clueless cheerleader.

--7. Nick Nickson, Kings radio: Another year, another new analyst to break in. He should open his own school of broadcasting.

--8. Bill Macdonald, college basketball TV: The multi-talented man with the mike will never be without work. He can even moderate a bunch of slobs on ''Roundtable'' and make it sound semi-interesting.

--9. Steve Physioc, Angels TV: Too bad Steve Lyons isn't his color man - we'd have Physioc and ``Psycho'' as a one-two punch.

--10. Chris Roberts, UCLA football: Somehow, Bruins fans love his call. That must count for something.

THE BOTTOM FIVE

< --1. Rick Monday, Dodgers radio: If Scully is Shakespeare, Big Mo is Shakes the Clown. KTLA wants him more in the TV booth, where, hopefully, he won't have to use as many words. We got two words for that: Don't count on it 'cause he'll find a way to stretch two words unnecessarily into 20 just to hear his voice.

--2. Ralph Lawler, Clippers TV/radio: Sometimes a broadcaster unjustifiably gets labled a loser just because the team he has covered over the last two decades is a perennial loser. Then, there's Lawler, a righteous fit.

--3. Chris Madsen, Ducks TV: Calls a game as if he's undergoing laser hair removal.

--4. Michael Smith, Clippers radio: Will make a great auctioneer in his next career.

--5. Chick Hearn, Lakers radio: Ever try to follow a Lakers game lately left-to-right across your radio dial? Neither exist any longer.

--Horrible mention: Joe Tutino, Galaxy radio (as if the FCC should allow soccer broadcasts on the radio in the first place).

- Tom Hoffarth

CAPTION(S):

2 photos, box

Photo: (1 -- color) Hall of Famer Ernie Harwell, who now announces Tigers games, might have gotten Vin Scully's job had he not left Dodgers for Giants in 1949.

Paul Hurschmann/Associated Press

(2) When Ernie Harwell, pictured, quit Dodgers for Giants in 1949, it opened Dodgers door for a talented young announcer named Vin Scully.

Paul Warner/Associated Press

Box: Play-by-play men (see text)
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Feb 25, 2000
Words:1460
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