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Memories of 1950s Vin Scully photos on my living room floor

Vin Scully was all over my living room floor for a few months, and I couldn’t have been more thrilled.

To be truthful, it wasn’t Scully himself sprawled on the carpet. My husband was collaborating on a book based on photographs taken by Barney Stein, who was the Brooklyn Dodgers’ team photographer from 1937 through 1957, and images of a young Scully were among the photographs scattered over our floor. How to choose which ones to publish, when there were dozens more wonderful photos than there could be pages in the book?

Not every photo made it into “Through a Blue Lens: The Brooklyn Dodger photographs of Barney Stein,” but every photo in the book is a gem. There’s Carl Erskine — blessedly still with us at age 95 — Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, Duke Snider, Gil Hodges. They were captured in their youth, at their athletic peak. Growing up in Brooklyn after the team left for Los Angeles in 1958, I’d heard stories about the happy Bums. These photos added a new dimension to those stories, made them more vivid, more real.

The photos of Scully, though, pulled me back to look at them again and again during the selection process and well after the 2007 publication of the book, which was a collaboration between Barney Stein’s daughter Bonnie Crosby and my husband, Dennis D’Agostino.

I can’t explain why those Scully shots fascinated me. Maybe it was because he was a living connection to a time I’d only heard about, a link to long-gone relatives who had told me about a much-loved baseball team that played in Brooklyn on a site I knew only for having unremarkable apartment buildings. Maybe it was because of the clarity of the photos, which captured Scully’s essence of her so well, so lovingly. He was hired as a Dodgers broadcaster in 1950, and he is as young in those photos as the standout players whose feats he described at Ebbets Field.

For those of us who didn’t meet him until later, it was an intriguing peek back at a time before he became a grandfatherly storyteller and network star. He had witnessed so much of baseball history and he was still here, a gift to us all.

Hearing about Scully’s passing Tuesday at age 94 led me to pull out the book again and to recall staring at those photographs all over the living room floor. As fans, we knew Scully for a long time. We heard and watched him for decades and laughed at his stories about him, even after we’d heard them many times and we knew them almost as well as he did. Though we had the pleasure of his company for such a long time, it still wasn’t long enough.

Among the best photos of him that made it into the book was of a serious Scully, his face almost cartoonishly thin and long and his ears sticking out, facing a TV camera alongside his friend Stein. Shown the photo decades later, Scully guessed that it had been taken between games of a doubleheader, in the TV studio set up in the basement of Ebbets Field.

In another photo, taken in 1957, he was broadcasting a game at Ebbets Field, looking toward the action through protective wire. Jerry Doggett sat to his left. Scully was using a microphone but had no headset. He did not use a headset until he got to Los Angeles, resorting to it, he said, in part because of “the feedback from the transistor radios” in the stands that were tuned to his calls from him.

Maybe my favorite photo portrays him crouching in the Dodgers’ dugout before a game. He’s sharply dressed in a blazer, tie, sunglasses, and shiny penny loafers. Stein’s camera caught him in mid-sentence, his mouth open. Whatever he was saying had the full attention of Hodges, who was crouching nearby, leaning on a bat. Framed behind them is the distinctive Ebbets Field scoreboard.

Scully didn’t recall the date or the topic of conversation on that long-ago day. “Probably with a couple of writers as well,” he said. “It was simpler in those days, where you could sit and hang out in the dugout and shoot the breeze and then go upstairs and do the game. Especially when it was radio. [With] television, I have to be there early to get all the stuff out of the way and then tape. So this was just one of those days, just hanging out.”

By reducing his travel schedule and his workload he managed to hang out with us for 67 seasons, through 2016. But as the years passed, many of the players, executives and writers he had known fell victim to age or illness. The deaths of his second wife, Sandra, and former Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda within a few days of each other early in January 2021 must have left Scully feeling terribly alone. He grieved privately, this man who had lived his life so publicly and so well.

He’s gone but he won’t be forgotten as long as video and audio recordings of his warm, rich voice exist in some form for us and future generations to enjoy. As long as it’s time for Dodger baseball, he will live in our hearts as well as in those marvelous photos that so briefly but memorably covered my living room floor.

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