Frequent concertgoers are used to enduring the usual welcome from some anonymous public-address announcer, followed by a plea to turn off our cellphones. Yet when I sat down to sample the North American premiere of the architectural dance troupe Diavolo’s L’espace du Temps trilogy at the Valley Performing Arts Center on the Cal State Northridge campus yesterday on a blazing-hot Sunday afternoon, the friendly voice wafting over the loudspeakers had a familiar ring to it. He was using terms like “all-stars” and “fans,” which you usually don’t hear in cultural palaces like this.
Then it hit me. Son of a gun, that’s Vin Scully!
For those outside Southern California, Vin Scully is a regional treasure, the eloquent voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team since 1950 when they were still back in Brooklyn. I don’t need to sing his praises – others have done so long, loudly and deservedly – but I might add that I became his fan at the age of eight, grew to adulthood with his voice in my ear, and it never ceases to amaze me that he is continuing to enrich my life many decades later. He still works alone in the booth, and unlike virtually all other announcers who chatter and banter endlessly to each other as if they were in some private club, Vinnie speaks to you, and only you. I have no doubt that the distinctive rhythms and cadences of his words have in some way influenced my own writing, and I am sure that I am not alone in that.
It turns out that Scully is a friend of Thor Steingraber, the current executive director of the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC for short). One day recently, Steingraber asked Scully if he could record an announcement that would be played before events, and the ever-gracious sportscaster did, sprinkling his talk with a handful of words from the sports world that left no doubt as to who the announcer was. Strangely enough, no one in the hall applauded; either everyone ignored the announcement as usual or perhaps this was a Twilight Zone case of a familiar presence in a different context, like when you don’t recognize someone when he-or-she pops up in a place where you don’t expect to find them.
It’s well-known among local baseball fans that Scully likes show tunes; he frequently references Broadway shows in his running play-by-play. So someday, when baseball season is over, don’t be surprised to see Vin Scully “pull up a chair” – as he likes to say – near you and take in a show at VPAC.