By Tim Nash
Yesterday was Vin Scully’s last day as the voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers. He is 88 years old and has called Dodger games for 67 consecutive seasons. A speech Scully gave 34 years ago, helped me understand the remarkable journey of Michelle Akers, and get a little more insight into what drove her through injuries and controversies.
In 1982, I was working as an intern at the Little Falls (N.Y.) Evening News. Little Falls, a cool little town of roughly 5,000 people on the Mohawk River and Erie Canal, was the home of the Little Falls Mets, the Rookie League affiliate of the Major League Baseball team. When I joined the newspaper, the size of the sports department staff doubled from one to two.
My brother Marty was the general manager of the Little Falls Mets, in his first year working in minor league sports. On opening day of the 1982 season, my brother, having secretly hired a parachutist to drop into the field to deliver the game ball, watched nervously as the small plane flew over the field and kept going. As it became clear the parachutist was not in the air, Marty instructed the umpire to start the game. Shortly after the game began, we discovered that the parachutist had landed nine miles away into a group of bewildered softball players in Doglesville. It was an interesting start to a season where I also got to watch John Elway play center field for the Oneonta Yankees.
That’s all beside the point, though. Little Falls happened to be 30 miles south of Cooperstown, home of the Baseball Hall of Fame, and in 1982 Hank Aaron and Frank Robinson were among the inductees. Scully was given the Ford Fricke Award for journalism that day, and listening to his acceptance speech with my elbows on the stage remains as one of the most unforgettable experiences of my life.
Thirty years later, while writing a section of the book “It’s Not the Glory” on Michelle Akers, Scully’s speech helped me understand the fascinating career of the greatest women’s soccer player of all-time.
Here’s the Chapter.
The Warrior and the Sea
The crowd, about 300 folks who came on a Friday night to listen to her speak, is curious. Like everyone she meets, they are taken by her physical presence, the regal stature and the way she carries herself that screams “athlete.” Over the years, she has become a good public speaker, setting aside one-liners and popular themes to just talk. Her story is captivating, and she delivers it from her heart. This time, though, it’s a little different. As she talks about the 1996 Olympics and her teammates, her eyes well up and her voice uncharacteristically cracks. The microphone drops to her side. She bows her head, steps back, and apologizes to the crowd. The crowd, however, erupts into supportive applause.