Bigger than the game
Last updated 8/12/2022 at 11:37am
Anytime we hear about a death of someone in the sports world sadness is the first thing we all think about. Last week we lost two within a couple of days Bill Russell was 88 and Vin Scully at the age of 94.
Death is going to happen to all of us we have no other choices but doing something good with your life for as long as you can, should be the goal. These two gentlemen gave it their all and were respected for it.
Bill Russell was recruited by one college the University of San Francisco. While he played there the Dons would win the NCAA championship in 1955 and 1956. He would win a gold medal at the Olympics in 1956 and would be drafted by the Boston Celtics beginning an epic journey of success on the basketball court. He played 13 seasons for Boston and would win 11 NBA championships. He was a 12 time all-star and five time league MVP. During his last three seasons Russell served as a player coach
No doubt that he was the most successful player in NBA history. I wasn’t a fan because I wasn’t a Celtic fan. I really liked Elgin Baylor, Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain. My appreciation for Russell came later in life when I heard the gentlemen talk about success and life in general and what it takes to reach those lofty peaks.
Throughout Russell’s life and career he fought racism. Many Boston fans didn’t like him most likely because he was outspoken about the plight of the black man in America something he endured as a youngster growing up. I can tell you one thing if a player on my favorite team would have one 11 NBA championships I would hold him in high regard and when he spoke I would listen.
Back in 1974 I saw a Seattle Sonics game and Russell was coaching them at the time. The Sonics were struggling and l looked at the bench and started watching Russell. It seemed that he was wishing that he was doing anything other than coaching that night. It seems that Russell did his best work as a player because he could lead by example. For his accomplishments with the Celtics he should be considered the Greatest of all time and those that followed should accept that.
I heard a great story from Scott Fitch. Back in the early 1980s when Spike’s Texaco was full service and there was Spike’s Drive in in the back a black Mercedes pulled into the gas pump for a fill up. This nearly 7 foot man (Russell) got out of the car and sauntered over to the drive in for something to eat. When he came back Scott asked Russell if he could have his autograph. Russell said, “I don’t do autographs. Scott handed Russell the credit card receipt and said, “Would you sign this?” After signing it Scott said, “That was easy.” Russell chuckled and was on his way.
I know that I’ve mentioned being a Dodger fan in my younger years. I happened to like the wonderful voice of Dodger announcer Vin Scully. In the summertime when I was lucky I could sometimes get Dodger broadcasts in my bedroom on the AM radio. It was fun to hear him describe the game and talk about some of my favorite players at the time.
I know baseball can be boring now and then. When you go to the ballpark the announcer will tell the crowd who the next batter is and then nothing until the following batter. Radio announcers have to keep you informed about so many things so that they won’t lose an audience even though the game may be 9-1 in the third inning and the opponent is willing. That is when Scully would bring out his humorous anecdotes and keep your attention. He was great at that and so many announcers don’t have those stories in their back pocket.
Scully was admired by players from all over the league. He started with the Dodgers when they were still in Brooklyn in 1950 and would retire after 67 seasons in 2016. He watched as the Dodger team with Jackie Robinson, Don Newcombe, Roy Campenella and others would show the rest of the Major League teams how to integrate a team and be successful.
I’ve listened to several players who talked about how much they respected Scully. Several said that they would introduce themselves to Scully during batting practice and thank him for what he meant to baseball. One individual said, “Vin Scully is bigger than the game of baseball and I mean that.”
I listen to games on the radio and a TV broadcast now and then and I wonder if any of these guys have ever listened to Scully. He had a wonderful flow to how he brought the game to life.
Russell and Scully will truly be missed but I was at least fortunate to have witnessed their greatness.