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Ted Green: a problem with Vin Scully's pitch calling

April 29, 2009 |  9:38 am

Scully OK, so this blog impudently questioning a Dodgers' demigod, the very face of the franchise, does require a mea culpa stretching from Brooklyn to Los Angeles.

Here it is in capital letters: MY BAD. I am already truly sorry, and I've barely started writing. Humbly, I beg the fans' forgiveness just two paragraphs in.

I know — he is a Southern California cultural icon, I am a local TV sports producer. He is a legendary Hall of Fame broadcaster, best there ever was and ever will be. I won a few local Emmys, a few more Edward R. Murrows and once wrote for The Times. He is Vin Scully, I am Ted Whoever.

Still, if no one else has the courage or gall or chutzpah to say it, I will: There is one aspect of Vinny's nonpareil and still richly, famously textured broadcasts that is now officially driving me to distraction. It's so painful to listen to, because he IS Vin Scully, it actually hurts my ears.

It's his pitch calling. Or I should say, his continued, nightly misidentification of the types of pitches thrown.

Because he's 81 — and bless his Irish heart, who has perfect eyesight at that age? — Vinny is having a heckuva time correctly ID'ing the pitches.

Probably at least a third of the time, the fastball he calls is actually a slider, the curve is a fastball and the ch-aa-n-ge he calls so langorously isn't a change at all — it's something entirely different.

It's already happened four times as I'm watching right now, and they're only in the third inning in San Francisco.

Again, he's Vin Scully. There's no one like him. I admire his professionalism and remain awed by his prodigious talent. After 60 summers, he's earned the right to call the pitches anything he wants. He can call a curveball Ziggy Stardust if he thinks that's what it is, and, trust me, the director wouldn't dare say boo and correct him in his ear.

Indeed, the great Scully can stay in the booth 60 more seasons, and how lucky we will be if he does. And who am I, who is ANYONE, to dare criticize or even critique this true genius, the Beethoven of baseball broadcasting?

I know, I get it, you're absolutely right, how could I?

Yet whether it's sacrilege to bring it up or not, this next fact is as inalienable as Vin's credentials themselves: A fastball is a fastball, and it's not something else. A pitch traveling over 90 mph can never be a curve unless it's thrown by Roger Clemens on HGH overdose. Even then, it's no curve; it's still a fastball.

Now, Vin has been identifying pitches for the Dodgers since 1949; calling the pitches as he sees them is an inherent element of his on-air style. And there's no easy solution, no quick fix, where the eyesight of an octogenarian is concerned, one having to watch the game from high above the field, hundreds of feet from home plate. This is especially true when the octogenarian in question is still as preturnaturally gifted as Vin Scully is. Still amazing at everything EXCEPT pitch calling.

But if you know anything about baseball, if you've been around the game and watched it with at least a working knowledge and trained eye, angry as you may be reading this, mad as you are that I wrote it, you also know I'm right.

And a soulless infidel at the same time.

— Ted Green

Photo: Vin Scully prepares to throw out the first pitch during the Dodgers' home opener on April 13. Credit: Kirby Lee / US Presswire

Ted Green formerly covered sports for the L.A. Times. He is currently senior sports producer for KTLA Prime News.