A Book My Dad Would Have Loved. I Know I Did.

Father’s Days aren’t easy for guys like moi.  No kids of my own, and this is the tenth that mine hasn’t been around to even try to wish those greetings to.  Truth be told, in practicality it’s been even longer.  My dad suffered what turned out to a be a fatal episode in a short-staffed rehabilitation center on the Saturday night before Father’s Day 2014, being returned to a regular recovery room instead of the intensive care he required after a procedure has been performed on him earlier that evening.  He was without oxygen for more than four minutes, and while his body managed to survive another few weeks, he never spoke another word.

So needless to say this is not a time of year that I usually look forward to, and without going into gory details, let’s just add that some recent events involving what’s left of my finances haven’t helped.  But I was pleasantly surprised when a package arrived on Friday that I frankly did not expect, and it contained something that I really wish I could have shared with my dad.  And, as it turns out, I’m hardly alone in those sentiments.

Tom Hoffarth once covered the sports media beat for the Los Angeles Daily News, and also had stints with the Los Angeles Times and Hollywood Reporter, among others.  He has more than four decades of experience being paid for something he loves–being paid to be involved in sports and TV.  In my own way, I was blessed with similar good fortune at one time.  We actually connected via LinkedIn via the “Open for Work” portal, both of us losing our most recent gigs thanks to cutbacks and realignments of companies that once were more respectful and open to men of our vintage.

We have both been seeking our next act, and last month Tom released to the world his, a wonderful compliation of remembrances and reflections on perhaps the most prolific and beloved broadcasters of all time, Vin Scully.  His one-time Southern CalliforniaNews Group colleague Jim Alexander gave Hoffarth an opportunity to explain the genesis of this work in a recently dropped article:

Vin Scully never wrote an autobiography, and in fact he turned down multiple requests, from multiple authors, to collaborate on a book. The one biography that was published, Curt Smith’s “Pull Up A Chair,” released in 2010, was done without Scully’s cooperation – and, as the story goes, Vin wasn’t terribly thrilled with it.

“And he’d always give a different reason” for not wanting to do a book project, recalled Tom Hoffarth, a former sports media columnist for the Daily News and the guy who recently filled that vacuum with “Perfect Eloquence: An Appreciation of Vin Scully,” a collection of essays about the late Scully, the 67-year voice of the Dodgers.

“I really think, (a), he didn’t want to put the time into it because it would take away from his family, and (b), I don’t think he was interested in feeding his own ego that way,” Hoffarth said in a recent phone conversation. “And then – the reaction he gave to me was that he just didn’t want to favor one writer over another, which was kind of a nice way to say it.”

Consider Hoffarth, then, the unofficial archivist of all things Scully. That was the genesis of the book that was released May 1, a collection of – in a freakish coincidence – 67 essays from people with their own memories of Scully, be it hiding the transistor radio under the pillow at night or having a personal interaction with Vin.

Alexander and Hoffarth are folks I truly envy; they were blessed to actually know Scully, and also have access to a whole bunch of people who felt the same way.  For someone who announced the exploits of some players whose careers began in the 1920s and many more whose careers will continue PAST the 2020s, for a collective fan base that included folks born in the 1800s and many who will survive into the 2100s, it’s virtually impossible to identify someone whose lives weren;t touched in even a small way by Scully.  And if you happened to be a Dodger fan, or, in my case, the son of a very passionate one dating back to his Brooklyn roots, Scully was even more of an omnipresence.

Feeling we at least had that much in common, I was bold enough asked Tom if I could be sent a copy of his book to review here, somewhat embarassed that the cost at least for me is beyond my grasp now.  When I typically ask this of people, they correctly point out that I’m hardly the most well-read person on the internet and politely provide a link for me to order one on my own.   The package I received on Friday was a surprising and gratifying exception to that typical response.

Needless to say, I powered through it in a matter of hours (Sleep isn’t easy these days).   Alexander rattled off the list of contributors that willingly gave their own remembrances:

Baseball people (Peter O’Malley, Bud Selig, Bruce Froemming, Orel Hershiser, Eric Karros, Steve Garvey, Ned Colletti).

Broadcasters (Bob Costas, Al Michaels, Joe Buck, Bob Miller, Jim Hill, John Ireland, Jill Painter Lopez, colleagues Ross Porter and Jaime Jarrín and current Dodger broadcasters Joe Davis and Jessica Mendoza, who were in the booth in San Francisco the night Vin passed away Aug. 2, 2022).

Those of us in the print media (including the late T.J. Simers, Bill Dwyre, Steve Dilbeck, Brian Golden and Lisa Nehus Saxon, as well as current Daily News columnist Dennis McCarthy).

There were others you might not expect, like author/historian David Halberstam, women’s basketball legend Ann Meyers Drysdale, the widow of pitcher and later Dodger broadcast colleague Don Drysdale, and actors Bryan Cranston and Harry Shearer. And Doug Mann, who handled statistics for most of this region’s broadcast crews at one time or another. Mann, like Simers, recently passed away, but each got to see the finished product.

All personal and heartfelt.  Many supplied treasured photos of them with Scully from their own collections.  Inspiring.  And a reminder that no matter where we ight be at various stages of life, there are certain forces that ultimately connect us all in ways we often are too busy or negative-thinking to keep top of mind.

So, naturally, I’m inspired to share my own story, such as it is.

My dad was far from perfect and was never someone who took well to Southern California.  But the first day he set foot in Los Angeles my mom’s cousin took us to Dodger Stadium that very evening, where he was as wide-eyed and as engaged as I had ever seen him.  He was watching his beloved Dodgers wear home uniforms for the first time in more than two decades.  He saw Manny Mota tie the all-time record for pinch-hits.  He tasted his first Dodger Dog.  He had never met my mom’s cousin until that day, but it bonded them for the rest of their lives. He didn’t much enjoy the rest of our stay that summer, but on every occasion he’d perk up when we’d tune to the Dodgers’ radio station and he’d be engrossed in Scully’s play-by-play.  It was the first chance I had to hear Scully do that, as this was several years before he went national and well before out-of-town broadcasts were available.  I’d sit with him and get just as engrossed.  I was 19 that year, and never bonded with my dad as much until that point.

After my dad suffered that episode that ultimately killed him, I was tasked with keeping vigil on him while he lay comatose in a Queens hospital, relieving my sister of the burden she had had for months while taking a needed family vacation.  I was not happy about being unable to directly tell my dad that despite his many flaws and ultimately his failures, I still loved him very much and remembered those first nights where we listened to Scully together in a dank Santa Monica motel room.  But I did have a phone and by that time an MLB.com subscription.  I scheduled my visits to coincide as often as possible with Dodgers’ broadcasts; they happened to be back East for a portion of the week I spent with him so there were several chances for that.  I placed the phone next to his ear and sat with him.  I obviously can’t be sure he processed anything; but I know I felt him squeeze my hand a couple of times after the Dodgers got a key out or scored.

Shortly after he passed, I shared this story with one of his longtime friends who reached out to me when news of his passing finally reached him.  My family was quite dismissive of this friend of my dad’s; my mom in particular detested his cheapness and his obsession with tuna fish sandwiches.  But “Tuna Fish” did share with me a story I never knew about my dad:  He loved listening to Scully perhaps more than anything else.  So much so, that on the day when Scully announced the memorable 1951 playoff finale with the New York Giants, he was glued to his larger-size radio which perched on the open window sill of his second story apartment.  When the Giants’ Bobby Thomson hit that fateful home run off Ralph Branca to rally the Giants to a pennant-clinching, come-from-behind victories, his shriek could be heard through the neighborhood and the crash of the radio onto the concrete below after he flung it out the window in disgust resonated just as loudly.  It was apparently legendary among those that grew up with him even lo so many decades later.   My dad was also 19 when this happened.

I’m not sure that qualifies as coming full circle, but I know that was a story that stuck with me.  I’ve never quite broken a radio, but I’ve thrown a remote or two in disgust in my day.

I suspect you may have some similar sort of story, or at least be reminded of someone who does.  PERFECT ELOQUENCE will definitely inspire you to at least think about yours, if not write about it as I did.  It’s well worth the modest price that Amazon’s asking for it, and there’s even a Kindle version that’s more affordable.   Do click on this link and order at least one.  If your dad is still around, or you have a child that you think might be able to be better connect with you as a result, order two.

Besides, it’s the best way I can express my own gratitude to Tom Hoffarth for making thie Father’s Day a bit less sad than many have been of late.

Until next time…

1 thought on “A Book My Dad Would Have Loved. I Know I Did.”

  1. This is so sweet. I’m so pleased to share this book with you. Bless you on this Father’s Day. You likely were a father figure to someone in your life and didn’t even know it.

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