I can fly higher than an eagle, for you are the wind beneath my wings…


1. Vin Scully and the Dodgers Match Walk-Offs

One by one, we say goodbye to the greatest summers of our lives.

A man in Pasadena, California, shakes his head, smiles and clicks off the television after the final out.

A Dodgers outfielder pauses on his way to the batter’s box, turns to the press box and waves to Vin Scully high up in Dodger Stadium.

A woman in Camarillo, California, feels a lump in her throat as Scully greets the television picture of two little gap-toothed boys, noting how “we’re happy to have you here, growing boys with growing teeth.”

Thousands across the country settle in so they can hear the great voice one last time on MLB Network Radio or MLB Network television.

And 50,000 people dab their eyes in unison as Scully takes the microphone one last time in Dodger Stadium, following the Dodgers’ NL West-clinching victory Sunday, thanking them, telling them he would be nothing without them, and asking them to indulge him in one last thing, to listen to his recording of “The Wind Beneath My Wings” as he dedicates it to them.

“I know it’s modest, I know it’s amateur,” Scully says. “Do you mind listening?”

And those 50,000 people immediately go library-silent. And on the infield, the Dodgers, who have just clinched the division, delay popping the champagne corks until the final line, “Thank God for you, the wind beneath my wings,” fades into the late afternoon.

We pause here ourselves, both to give thanks and to remind that following Sunday’s weepfest, we still get Scully three more times this weekend from San Francisco.

Savor them.

It’s a strange thing, these long goodbyes. We’ve known all summer that the force of nature that is Scully, 88, will retire following Sunday’s game. We think we’re prepared for it. And then…

“Here’s Joc Pederson, and there’s another pristine helmet. You wonder, what in the world did Josh Reddick do to get that helmet in the mess it’s in? [The television camera cuts to the dugout and shows Reddick’s helmet covered in patches of pine tar.] Yes, there it is [chuckling]. It’s not been condemned by the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval, but it’s on the edge. Foul, outside of first base. Two-and-two is the count. Craig Biggio, his helmet was covered. I’ve never forgotten that. It looked infected.”

This was Saturday night, fourth inning, with the Dodgers en route to a 14-1 cruise over Colorado. But it could have been any night over the past 67 years. Vin Scully doesn’t broadcast a baseball game so much as he narrates it. In a world fast losing civility, trust and gentle good humor, the courtly Scully is the epitome of each.

Full disclosure: I’ve spoken to Scully several times over the past three decades, but I cannot say I know him. When Ernie Harwell retired in Detroit, that hit me even harder. Because I grew up in the Midwest listening to Harwell, and then I became well-acquainted with him as I settled into my own career. It is partly because of this that melancholy has seeped in to an almost overwhelming degree this week. I will miss the cheerful voice of baseball’s poet laureate coming through my television screen on summer nights, and next summer will feel a lot lonelier without him. And to those with an emotional connection to the Dodgers through Vin, that’s where the Harwell memories stir in me. I get it.

“The President of the United States has said it is time to go back to work. And so, despite a heavy heart, baseball gets up out of the dirt, brushes itself off and will follow his command, hoping in some small way to inspire the nation to do the same.”

This was on Sept. 17, 2001, on baseball’s first night back following the horror of 9/11. But the thing is, while Vin has been there for so many grand and important moments over the years, it is the accumulation of small moments that he’s narrated that get into your bloodstream. Because, after all, that’s what life is, right? A collection of small, mundane moments punctuated by the sudden flash of a big moment. Just like baseball.

And so while it is the no-hit and World Series calls that stick with us (“In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened!” following Kirk Gibson’s Game 1 pinch-hit homer in the 1988 World Series), what we fall in love with is the nightly companionship that brightens our lives. Staying home on a summer Saturday night, the family gathered in the front room, and maybe your young son or daughter makes an observation that makes you chuckle, and 10 years later, you still remember it. Maybe that’s not as exciting as the day you graduated or the day you got married or the day your first child was born, but not every night can be a party. Yet it is the collection of those quieter nights that make for a rich life. And so it is with Scully’s unparalleled body of work.

“[Colorado shortstop] Pat Valaika went to UCLA. Anybody know how UCLA did? They were playing Stanford in the Rose Bowl. We’ll find out and we’ll break the news to you. [A moment later.] It’s halftime and UCLA is leading 10-3 over Stanford. Did Christian McCaffrey show up yet? No, I’m only kidding.”

This was Saturday night, third inning, in that same Dodgers-Rockies game. For 67 years, Scully has been the community barbershop. He is where so many have gone to get cleaned up, feel good, catch up on the goings on about town. He’s there with the hard news, and he also consistently dispenses small nuggets of unbelievable information. Fascinating information. He comes up with gems that even those of us in the business full-time don’t know or haven’t heard.

Always, he has been great, and if you think this week’s current river of nostalgia is simply some kind of a lifetime achievement award, go back to his call in 1974 on the night Hank Aaron hit his 715th home run, breaking Babe Ruth’s record, in Atlanta. He announced the home run, went silent for 44 seconds, allowing the crowd noise to wash through the radio speakers, and then this:

“What a marvelous moment for baseball. What a marvelous moment for Atlanta and the state of Georgia. What a marvelous moment for the country and the world. A black man is getting a standing ovation in the Deep South for breaking the record of an all-time baseball idol, and it is a great moment for all of us.”

Like the sun, the grass and ice cream, he’s been with us for so long that he became easy to take for granted. And as the world changes—in many ways, for the better; in some ways, for the worse—what we’re losing with Scully is something we’ll never get back.

“Scully made an art out of baseball broadcasting,” Jim Murray, one of the greatest sports columnists ever, once wrote in the Los Angeles Times. “He also made journalism out of it. In a profession so full of ‘homers’—not the four-base kind, the kind where the guy in the booth root-root-roots for the home team—Scully distanced himself from partisanship.”

Murray wrote those words in August 1990. And a quarter-of-a-century later, yes, again in Saturday night’s broadcast, with the Dodgers leading Colorado 14-0, the graceful Scully continued to work under that lifelong guiding principle:

“It’s kind of tough to see a big league club get pushed around, but at the same time, although it might be a little embarrassing and frustrating, it’s not too hard to take. It’s a lot easier to lose, oh, 14-0 than 3-2 in the ninth inning. 0-and-2 is the count.”

Listen to Scully and one of the things you heard was empathy. How often do we hear that baseball is a game of failure, that even the best hitters fail seven out of 10 times? Same in our daily existence. Life is a series of small battlessome we win, some we lose. Nobody comes close to going undefeated, although when Scully is on the air, he makes things seem better.

“Fernando Valenzuela has pitched a no-hitter! If you have a sombrero, throw it to the sky!”

In one way, his work kept this unbroken bond with each of us: As long as he kept returning for another year, the rest of us could go on feeling as if we were still young. Even when we turned 50, or 60, or 70. Hearing Scully on the business end of the television or radio meant that some things in life don’t change. We could still feel, on some nights, exactly as we did when we were 10, or 15, or 25. Well, almost.

Now, after this weekend, Scully will ease into a life of retirement, and for the rest of us, well, we won’t ease into anything. We will lurch forward, sometimes coughing and sputtering, and we will be forced to find another place to congregate for our fleeting grabs at the Fountain of Youth.

All that’s left is to offer an enormous thank you, from the bottom of our hearts. And, oh yes, to make sure we find a way to listen to him three more times this weekend.

Emotions always flow toward bittersweet near the end of another season, another summer, but this one, oh, this one is tough.

“It’s a mere moment in a man’s life between the All-Star Game and an old-timer’s game,” he once memorably said, and, man, as if that isn’t being hammered home in this season’s final days.


2. Vin, Part II

A couple of final thoughts:

If you somehow did not see his postgame talk from the press box on Sunday, here it is. Make sure to grab a box of Kleenex. And if you’re at work, well, maybe have a co-worker cover for you for a few minutes:

Alsoand yes, this is pure advertisementbut my friend Jayson Stark over at ESPN.com hit one out of the park with this oral history of Scully last week. Do have a look.


3. Tragedy in Miami

The wrenching Trail of Tears this week through Miami in the aftermath of the horrible death of Jose Fernandez, 24, and his two friends in a boating accident overnight Saturday will continue for a long time. And as the Marlins played the Mets on Monday night in Miami in their first game back, emotions were as raw as you’ll ever find in a baseball stadium.

And then Dee Gordon, a close friend of Fernandez, smashed a leadoff home run and could not finish his trot before dissolving into a puddle of tears:

That followed many, many tweets from around the league, like this one:

From pregame tribute to the postgame memorial, if you didn’t see it, make sure to watch this:


4. Nationals Clinch, or National Alert?

Washington barely had time to celebrate its NL East title in manager Dusty Baker’s first season managing before that great Baseball GPS in the sky rerouted the Nationals to a path that could make it very difficult to get past the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL Division Series that starts next week:

• Bryce Harper, already said to be battling a neck injury worse than he and the club are copping to, is out for a few days after injuring his left thumb while sliding into third base the other night. The good news for Washington is that the X-rays were negative, but the worrisome news is that any finger injury can be trouble for a hitter, especially in the near term. And the playoffs begin in the near term.

 Stephen Strasburg’s elbow injury is keeping him as just questionable for the postseason. General manager Mike Rizzo told reporters Tuesday that Strasburg is unlikely to pitch in the NLDS, per Chase Hughes of CSN Mid-Atlantic, which would seriously dilute the rotation and make Tanner Roark a key figure for the Nationals.

 Catcher Wilson Ramos hurt his right knee in the sixth inning of Monday’s game against Arizona, and the Nats’ concern was justified, as MRI results showed a season-ending ACL tear, according to CSN Mid-Atlantic.

So the Nationals will take inventory next week as they prepare to face the Dodgers. Though Washington has won three NL East titles in the past five seasons, the Nats have not advanced past the NLDS.

Of course, last year they were sitting home in October after allowing a good start to melt away. Which is what was foremost in the mind of ace Max Scherzer over the weekend when Washington sprayed champagne, as he told reporters (via Mark Zuckerman of MASN Sports):

This one is personal to me because of last year and how we didn’t finish strong. That really stung the whole offseason. I hated that. I hated last offseason. So for us to be able to come out there and take care of business is huge. It’s huge because this is the stuff that it takes to put yourself in a place to win the World Series. And that’s the goal now, to win the World Series.


5. Olympic Gold and Swimming in Champagne

Great moments from a clincher: The flamboyant and always-entertaining Bryce Harper rocked the swim cap of a certain Washington-area Olympic hero:


6. Weekly Power Rankings

1. Sully: Good flick about a heroic pilot. Tom Hanks was great, but doggone it, I thought I was going to see Scully.

2. Big Papi: Farewell lap this week for David Ortiz. Well, until he takes another farewell lap deep into October.

3. Brangelina: Most emotional split since Derek Jeter and the Yankees.

4. Strep throat: Old-school malady makes a stretch run appearance by knocking Mets ace Noah Syndergaard from Saturday night’s start into this week. WHIP this.

5. Pumpkin Spice: At this point, I hear they’re going to start making throwback uniforms, rosin bags and pine tar that smell like the stuff. I’m totally making this up, but the way pumpkin spice is overtaking the world in the fall, I bet you believed me for a sec, didn’t ya?


7. Boston Pea Party

Talk about hitting peas: The Red Sox, who lead the majors in runs scored, are hot at the right time and turning the AL East into a romp. Before losing Tuesday at New York, Boston had won 11 consecutive games for the first time since Sept. 13-27, 1949.

Last time the Red Sox won 11 in a row, this happened:

Ted Williams is long gone, but David Price, before a lackluster start Tuesday at Yankee Stadium, had been riding a 2.78 ERA and a minuscule 0.85 WHIP over his past eight starts.

And in Sunday’s game at Tampa Bay, Red Sox pitchers set an MLB record by fanning 11 consecutive hitters. The previous record was 10 in a row, set on April 22, 1970, at Shea Stadium in New York, when 10 consecutive Padres struck out against Tom Seaver.


8. Chatter

 To review: The last time the Chicago Cubs won 100 or more games, it was in 1935.

 Beware, Cubs: In 25 seasons since 1990 (not including the 1994 strike season), only four teams that finished with that season’s best overall record have gone on to win the World Series: the 1998 and 2009 Yankees, and the ’07 and ’13 Boston Red Sox.

 Beware, Cubs, Part II: Of the 22 teams to win 100 or more games in the wild-card era (beginning in 1995), only two have gone on to win the World Series: the ’98 Yankees and the ’09 Yankees.

 Read it and weep, Giants bullpen: Through Tuesday, the Texas Rangers bullpen had produced a streak of 25.0 consecutive scoreless innings and had allowed just one unearned run over its past 32.1 innings. San Francisco, of course, leads the majors with 30 blown saves.

 One reason the wild-card chase has become a scramble for the Toronto Blue Jays: Ranked second in the American League in homers with 219, the Blue Jays, through Tuesday, nevertheless ranked 12th in the AL during the month of September with 23.

 Damning comment last week from White Sox slugger Jose Abreu, who said the only thing that separates Chicago from Kansas City is “desire.” White Sox manager Robin Ventura continues struggling to hold on to his job.

 Heralded Detroit rookie Michael Fulmer was 0-2 with a 5.50 ERA in three September starts before Friday night’s gem against Kansas City, when he allowed only one run and eight hits over seven innings, striking out nine and walking none.

 These also are the final days of Ryan Howard in Philadelphia. He will be given a $10 million buyout and sent on his way. No chance the Phillies pick up his $23 million salary for 2017. The question now becomes, is Howard finished, or will an American League team pick him up as a designated hitter?

 De Jon Watson was fired as senior vice president of baseball operations in Arizona when he pressed the issue of his 2017 contract, according to B/R sources. Understandable, in that the later baseball people are fired, the more difficult it is for them to find a job for the following season. The contracts of Watson, president of baseball operations Tony La Russa and general manager Dave Stewart all contained a clause by which a decision was supposed to be made by Aug. 31. La Russa and Stewart agreed to let it pass and keep working.

 Good for the Mariners in reacting quickly and decisively, essentially kicking catcher Steve Clevenger off their team following his offensive tweets about the rioting in Charlotte, North Carolina, last week.

 As SNY pointed out during a Mets telecast the other night, the club has had to use nine different starters in the past 36 games through Saturday and still owned one of the two wild-card slots (as of now).

 Paul Hoynes, an authoritative Cleveland beat writer for the Plain Dealer and Cleveland.com for the past four decades, wrote why the Indians are doomed in the playoffs and took a bunch of grief. Increasingly, and instructively, too many people today only want to hear opinions they agree with.


9. Toronto Locked and Loaded

As the Blue Jays lick their wounds from Monday night’s brawl with the Yankees, file this away for your playoff scouting report:


9a. Rock ‘n’ Roll Lyric of the Week

Of presidential debates, the Mariners suspending Steve Clevenger and so much more going on today…


“Half-wracked prejudice leaped forth 

“‘Rip down all hate,’ I screamed 

“Lies that life is black and white 

“Spoke from my skull. I dreamed 

“Romantic facts of musketeers 

“Foundationed deep, somehow 

“Ah, but I was so much older then 

“I’m younger than that now. 

“Girls’ faces formed the forward path 

“From phony jealousy 

“To memorizing politics 

“Of ancient history 

“Flung down by corpse evangelists 

“Unthought of, though, somehow 

“Ah, but I was so much older then 

“I’m younger than that now 

“A self-ordained professor’s tongue 

“Too serious to fool 

“Spouted out that liberty 

“Is just equality in school 

“‘Equality,’ I spoke the word 

“As if a wedding vow 

“Ah, but I was so much older then 

“I’m younger than that now”

—Bob Dylan, “My Back Pages”


Scott Miller covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.

Follow Scott on Twitter and talk baseball.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com