Vin Scully Needs to Correct the Record
by Tony Medley
Vin Scully is the greatest sports broadcaster in history, bar none, even
Graham McNamee. When he calls a game it is poetry. Thatís why this
column is so difficult to write.
Last Tuesday Scully once again told the story about 195 lb. Jackie
Robinson intentionally blasting into 160 lb. Davey Williams covering
first base in 1955 at Ebbets Field and then Giantsí captain and
shortstop, 185 lb. Alvin Dark, deliberately trying to blast into Jackie
at third base a couple of innings later in retaliation. Jackie wanted to
attack Giantsí pitcher Sal (The Barber) Maglie because Maglie had a
habit of throwing close to Dodgers battersí chins (ergo the appellation
ďThe BarberĒ), so Jackie dragged a bunt down the first base line, hoping
Maglie would field it. But Maglie was too smart to field it, leaving it
to First Baseman Whitey Lockman, who threw the ball to Williams covering
first. So Jackie hit the first person he saw, which happened to be Davey,
knocking him out of the game.
Dark and the Giants were incensed so two innings later Dark hit a normal
double but didnít even pause at second, aiming to hit Jackie, who was
playing third base, as hard as he could, even though Jackie (unlike
Williams) was expecting the hit. Scully told the story impeccably. But
both times Iíve heard him tell it, Scully ends the story by saying, ďOf
course, Jackie held onto the ball.Ē
This is an odd thing to say for several reasons. First, because itís
irrelevant to the story and, second, he doesnít say whether or not
Williams held on to the ball when Jackie blindsided him, so why mention
anything about Jackie holding on to the ball?
But, third, and the point of this column, is that Jackie ≠did not
hold onto the ball. I saw that game and what Scully said is dead wrong.
In fact, Robinson dropped the ball and Dark was safe. I well remember
Dark leading off third after the play, and the game had to be stopped
again because the two were still jawing at each other.
Scully also never mentions that because of the collision at first base
with Jackie, Davey suffered a spinal injury so severe that it
effectively ended his career at the young age of 28.
Although that game was played more than 59 years ago, I donít think
thereís anybody who saw it who doesnít remember it vividly (there
probably arenít too many of us left and Vinny and I are probably the
only two in Los Angeles). Nobody who saw the game could accurately
remember that ďJackie held onto the ball,Ē because he didnít. One
dichotomy that stares you in the face is that Williams did hold
onto the ball despite the fact that Jackie outweighed him by 35 pounds,
that he was not expecting to be hit, and that the hit ended his career,
while Jackie, hit by a man 10 pounds lighter, and expecting to be hit,
did not hold onto the ball.
With all due respect, and I certainly canít read his mind, I personally
donít believe that Vin Scully can remember that Jackie held onto the
ball. I think heís trying to tell the story in a light most favorable to
Jackie, so he completely changes the facts, but thatís just my opinion.
In case you doubt my memory, hereís an excerpt about the incident from
Jack Andersonís 1972 obituary about Jackie in the New York Times:
ďRealizing that Dark hoped to avenge the Williams incident, Robinson
stepped aside and tagged him in the face. But his grip on the ball
wasn't secure. The ball bounced away. Dark was safe.Ē
Jackie Robinson was one of the greatest and most admirable men of the 20th
Century. He doesnít need Vin Scully or anyone else rewriting history on
Whether what he said was intentional or the result of faulty memory, my
suggestions to Vinny are:
Tell the truth (Robinson dropped the ball);
The whole truth (Williams held on to the ball);
Nothing but the truth (Robinson ended Williamsí career by
September 27, 2014