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Rick Monday, Vin Scully linked by fate, Dodgers, 60 years of magical baseball | Opinion

Vin Scully’s April 25, 1976, call of Chicago Cubs player Rick Monday rescuing an American flag about to be burned in the Dodgers Stadium outfield sparked plenty of emotion.

On Tuesday night, Monday was broadcasting the Los Angeles Dodgers game on radio in San Francisco when it was his turn to make his own live, on-air emotional announcement.

Scully, the legendary sports broadcaster — who did Dodgers games for 67 years and was a longtime friend of Monday’s — had died at age 94.

Monday, a Dodgers broadcaster since 1993, had found out shortly before he had to go live with the news.

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How do you honor an icon?

“I sat there for about three or four seconds, which seemed like an eternity, and I’m saying to myself. ‘OK, how would Vin attempt to do this, and how do you come back and and even present it?' ” Monday said, then summarizing for me the emotional announcement he made:

“They call this game of baseball just a game. But sometimes reality interferes with what we know is just the game. And tonight we just got word that reality has come into it. And for all of us that have ever listened to Dodger baseball, we lost a friend tonight.”

But there’s much more that went into Monday’s loss.

It started in 1958, when Scully and the Dodgers moved from Brooklyn to Santa Monica, California, where Monday lived. He was 12, loved Little League, and had a single mother who was a big Dodgers fan. She listened to games on the radio.

“Vin Scully was in our car and telling us about this magical game of baseball,” said Monday, who turned down an offer out of high school to play for the Dodgers. “I was mesmerized by (baseball) and playing it, and then he brought up things that I never even thought about:

“The color of the uniforms, the color of the grass, how the field looked, how strong the throw was, how hard the ball was hit,” continued Monday, who starred at Arizona State before becoming the first pick in the first Major League Baseball draft of 1965 and played for the Athletics.

“It wasn't just the game when Vinny did it; it was it was like pageantry,” said Monday, who now lives in Vero Beach, Florida. “So he was our friend, even though we couldn't see him.”

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Finally making Major League Baseball

In 1972, Monday joined the Chicago Cubs and first played the Dodgers.

“It was only after six years in the big leagues when the Dodgers came to Wrigley Field to play the Cubs that it had dawned on my mother, ‘By golly, my son's in the major leagues, because I just heard Vin Scully announce my son's name in the game’,” Monday said.

Monday met Scully while with the Cubs, the two united in 1976 by fate in that iconic moment when Monday saved the flag.

And: Vin Scully may be gone, but I'll cherish those memories (and voicemail) forever

Scully owned English language

Monday joined the Dodgers the next year and, as an aspiring sports journalist, got to know Scully in a different way.

“One of the first things (Scully) said when I joined the ball club, was, ‘Just be yourself’,” Monday recalled. “It's easy to tell somebody else to be yourself when you were the best there ever was.

“He owned the English language … His description of something that seemed very simplistic was all of a sudden in living color, where you could reach out and touch it just by listening to him on the radio.”

His command of the language; his ability to tell stories, and his knowledge of the game were among reasons the O’Malley family had one person in the radio booth during games, Monday said. Nowadays, most radio teams have two broadcasters, one doing play by play; another color commentary.

Two radio men not a broadcast

“(The O’Malleys) felt that was a broadcast, and if it was two people it was a conversation,” Monday said. “The beauty that Vinnie had was he did not have someone next to him, so when he began a story, he could weave it through the game because he was the only weaver.”

In the late 1980s, Monday first worked as a broadcaster with Scully, on pre- and postgame shows. He remembered Scully’s “just be yourself” advice.

“It's difficult to be yourself when you're seated next to an icon that you have listened to,” Monday said. “This gentleman sitting 3 feet away from you made you open your eyes as to different aspects of the game in the way that he broadcast them as a kid growing up.”

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Scully signs off in San Francisco

In 2016, Scully signed off for the last time for the Dodgers who, ironically, were playing at, like Tuesday night, the San Francisco Giants — their rivals for so many years, in California and New York.

In the signoff, Scully noted his relationship with fans:

“You and I have been friends for a long time, but I know in my heart I’ve always needed you more than you’ve ever needed me, and I’ll miss our time together more that I can say.”

Laurence Reisman
Laurence Reisman

The words hit home for Monday, who watched them on the internet Tuesday.

“We were 60 feet away from the very booth where he finally put the headset down for the final time,” Monday said, noting he and others knew Scully had not been feeling well.

“But you're never prepared to lose a friend,” Monday said. “And anyone that ever heard Vin do a ballgame lost a friend yesterday.”

Scully was the best, but Monday offered a critique.

“The only time that Vinnie was wrong in my mind was on that very last goodbye … where he made a comment that over the years he needed the fans more than the fans needed him,” Monday said. “We all came to that conclusion last night because we lost the friend that had brought us this magical game of baseball.”

This column reflects the opinion of Laurence Reisman.  Contact him via email at larry.reisman@tcpalm.com, phone at 772-978-2223, Facebook.com/larryreisman or Twitter @LaurenceReisman

This article originally appeared on Treasure Coast Newspapers: Irony abounds as Monday offers final signoff for Vin Scully | Opinion