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Baseball connects generations like no other sport. Consider Game 5 of the World Series, when inches separated Manuel Margot from history. The Tampa Bay Rays outfielder was that close to becoming the first player to pull off a straight steal of home in the World Series since Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson in 1955.
The video of the Robinson steal is a window into history: The pictures are in black and white, the fans are wearing ties and dress hats, the World Series game is played in daylight.
Vin Scully was there, of course. He called the game and, 65 years later, his recollection of Yankees catcher Yogi Berra’s reaction is as vivid as the images in that video.
“Berra, to his dying day, said Jackie was out,” Scully said.
Those 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers won the first World Series title in franchise history. If the Dodgers win Tuesday or Wednesday, they will earn their seventh title — and their first without Scully as their voice.
Scully, 92, is happily retired. He and his wife Sandi have watched this World Series on television.
“Every pitch,” he said.
He freely admits he thought the series would be done by now. He picked the Dodgers in five.
“I thought they were far superior, at least on paper,” he said. “I thought, ‘What’s taking them so long?’ ”
That is precisely the thought so many fans have about the Dodgers winning eight straight division titles without a championship. But then, historian that he is, Scully remembers the first and last Los Angeles teams to win — in 1959, the year after the Dodgers finished seventh in the eight-team National league; and in 1988, when the Dodgers were supposed to get slaughtered by the New York Mets in the league championship series and by the Oakland Athletics in the World Series.
“The Dodgers have always been the Dodgers,” he said. “That’s really one of the charms: Just when you expect them to do something, they won’t do it; and when you expect that they can’t do it, that’s when they win. It’s all part of the Dodger mystique. There is no other way to explain why it has taken them so long.”
A similar refrain has surrounded Clayton Kershaw, the Hall of Famer in waiting, whose two victories in this World Series mark the first time he has won two games in any postseason series.
“I was thinking,” Scully said, “how glad that he has picked up the victories, because of how hard it is to forget. Remember when they brought him in against Washington, and he gave up back-to-back home runs? [The Dodgers were eliminated from last year’s division series that day.]
“It takes a very big man to get out from under that, and to continue to be a successful pitcher, and that is exactly what he is.
“As far as I was concerned, he was the same fellow, win or lose, and I think that the players respected his professionalism. And, finally, he got his reward. He is the hardest-working guy and, finally, all of that hard work paid off. I was very happy for him.”
The one World Series moment that sticks in Scully’s mind? Watching the Rays’ Brett Phillips end Game 4 with what Scully called “the base hit that started all the problems” — the hit, the fielding error, the catching error, the winning run scored by a guy who fell down and got back up again, and the sight of Phillips charging around the field deliriously waving his arms as if he were trying to fly.
“As he was running around, almost out of his mind, he represented all the kids who stood in the backyard, throwing a ball against the wall, making believe they were in the World Series,” Scully said. “Every kid in America who played baseball always put himself in a World Series position, and he always got a hit, and he always won the game. And to see him actually do it, I think, that really hit me hard.
“It was overwhelmingly beautiful. I understand Dodger fans had to be confused or angry, but that’s the picture that I will hold for a long time.”
The Dodgers have not won the World Series at Dodger Stadium since 1963. If the Dodgers win Tuesday or Wednesday, they will win the series as the home team while playing in Arlington, Texas.
“It’s just another awkward moment in a painful year,” Scully said. “We all can add up exactly what’s been wrong with this year, and that will cap it off, the fact that the victory — if indeed it comes — will be out there somewhere.
“But I know the fans will still celebrate, wherever they may be — even if they’re locked down at home, which might not be a bad place to celebrate. It’ll be nice. But, again, it’s another head-shaking moment: no Dodger Stadium, no 50,000 going wild, no players feeling all the excitement.”
There is no asterisk for a championship in a pandemic year, but no parade either.
There is a sense of normalcy, at least for the few hours a day the Dodgers can offer an escape.
“I do think baseball itself has been a great panacea for all the pain, frustration and everything else,” Scully said. “It’s good for someone who is working hard at home, can’t go to the office, the kids can’t get to school, and the only outlet for his emotions is the sports page.”
This sports page probably has had a “BLUE HEAVEN” headline ready to go for 32 years. It is indeed time for Dodger baseball.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.