Tom Hoffart gives a great review of Vin Scully

Tom Hoffart, a former Daily News sports media columnist, published Perfect Eloquence: An Appreciation of Vin Scully, a collection of essays about the iconic Dodgers broadcaster. (Courtesy of The Nebraska Press)

Vin Scully has never written an autobiography and, in fact, has turned down many authors’ requests to collaborate on a book. One biography published in “Pull Up Your Chair” by Kurt Smith Released in 2010, it was made without the collaboration of Scully – and as the story goes, who wasn’t terribly impressed with it.

“And he always gave a different reason” for not wanting to do the book project, recalls Tom Hoffart, a former sports columnist. Daily news And a guy who recently filled that vacuum “Perfect Eloquence: An Appreciation of Vin School” A collection of essays about the late Scully, the 67-year-old voice of the Dodgers.

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

Consider Hoffart, then, the unofficial archivist of all things Scully. That was the genesis of the book, published on May 1, a collection of – in a strange coincidence – 67 essays from people who have their own memories of Skally, whether it’s hiding a transistor radio under a pillow at night or in a private relationship. who.

Hoffart had a lot of work to do. Like most of us who occasionally or frequently appeared in the Dodger Stadium press box, he had plenty of conversations with Scully, some informal, some random, some when he stopped by one of the writers’ tables in the press dining room. Chat and banter and exchange jokes. And sometimes we set up formal interviews for whoever had the chance to pull up a chair and spend some time with us.

Or vice versa. I would say that when that happened, I got more than he did. For example, in 2015 I was working on a 50th anniversary retrospective of Sandy Koufax’s great play, and it was clear that I wanted to talk to Scully, whose ninth game to play — an ad, but almost a complete narrative in itself — was as memorable as Sandy’s pitching.

At the end of our conversation, he told me: “I haven’t done much for you.” I’m sure you’ll do much better with it.”

Hoffart said he had “30 years of material, interviews and stuff that maybe 10 percent gets into your column and 90 percent is just sitting there. Good thing. You can’t use it anywhere. So I just knew I had all this material. And I think when he died, in August 2022, I thought, “I wonder how many people will be able to eulogize him.” And then I wondered how many people wanted to praise him. I’m sure the numbers who wanted to reach far outnumbered the numbers who did, and I think that’s because the funeral was such a personal thing.”

This book was their platform because these essays are its essence. Hoffarth wrote a text that brought together individual memories and combined material he had collected over the years.

It is appropriately divided into nine chapters, each focusing on a different aspect of Scully’s life and work, with subtitles such as “Family and Faith,” or “The Storyteller’s Voice,” or “Humility and Sincerity.”

Among those who contributed were:

Baseball People (Peter O’Malley, Bud Selig, Bruce Froeming, Orel Hershiser, Eric Karros, Steve Garvey, Ned Collette).

broadcasters (Bob Costas, Al Michaels, Joe Buck, Bob Miller, Jim Hill, John Ireland, Jill Painter Lopez, colleagues Ross Porter and Jaime Jarin, and current Dodger broadcasters Joe Davis and Jessica Mendoza, who were in the San Francisco booth that night. Who died on August 2, 2022).

Who We Are in Print Media (including the late TJ Simers, Bill Dwyre, Steve Dilbeck, Brian Golden and Lisa Nehus Saxon, as well as the current Daily news Reviewer Dennis McCarthy).

There were others you wouldn’t expect, such as author/historian David Halberstam, women’s basketball legend Anne Meyers Drysdale, widow of pitcher and later fellow Dodger broadcaster Don Drysdale, and actors Bryan Cranston and Harry Shearer. and Doug Mann, who at one time or another ran the stats for most of the broadcast crews in the area. Mann, like Simers, recently passed away, but each was able to see the finished product.

Although he didn’t push the essay, Hoffart received a blurb from Annette Bening (thanks to LA Times columnist Pat Morrison, who was a contributor). Also contributing blurbs: political columnist George Will and Ron Shelton, director of the movie “Bull Durham.”

And Koufax, who simply wrote, “Winnie was more than a broadcaster, she was my friend.”

The book’s title, according to Hoffart, comes from May 2016 Sports Illustrated story by Tom VerducciEarly in Scully’s final season as a broadcaster, he detailed a seminar class he took as a freshman at Fordham. Title in Latin: “perfect eloquence. “

It was “basically about how to be a good orator and how you’re not the story,” Hoffart said. “You are the conduit for it, and you do it with humility. (It is) a great way to explain who did what.

Vinnie was a storyteller at heart and I always said that he could tell the same story over and over and it would sound new every time. Likewise, many of the essays in this book retold anecdotes or stories based on each individual’s perception, and … yes, they were new. Grouped together as essays on various aspects of Scully’s life, the book flows smoothly.

“Winn had so many stories about things that I had forgotten about and it was nice to go and find those things again, whether it was about patriotism or little things (like) all the cards I got over the years (from him) thanking me for the column that I wrote it, or something like that,” Hoffart said.

“And the best thing was that it was a regular thing, so I could get reinforcements from all the other essayists, like, ‘Oh, yeah, she did that for me,’ (or) ‘She called the person who was sick and just It gave them a nice feeling that day.”

And this brings us to the second aspect of Vin Scully. As accomplished as he was in his work, he was equally humble and laid-back and eager to engage with the community.

“It’s just a great life lesson about how to be a humble, graceful person and not feel like you have to feed your ego by saying or doing certain things,” Hoffart said. “You can really influence people just by being nice and kind to them.

“For me, it’s just a great reminder every day to try to be a better person. And all he did was model that. “

This is not the last word either. Hoffart said his plan is to create a website, “The Vin Scully Book of Appreciation,” so others can submit stories and create a living tribute. The original motivation is to create a giant thank-you card for the family in time for the school’s 100th anniversary in 2027.

And maybe, just maybe, even as society and its media evolve, the basics of storytelling will remain consistent and the greatest practitioners of the art will still have an impact.

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