Tom Hoffarth compiles perfectly eloquent appreciation of Vin Scully

Vin Scully never wrote an autobiography, and in fact he turned down multiple requests, from multiple authors, to collaborate on a book. The one biography that was published, Curt Smith’s “Pull Up A Chair,” released in 2010, was done without Scully’s cooperation – and, as the story goes, Vin wasn’t terribly thrilled with it.

“And he’d always give a different reason” for not wanting to do a book project, recalled Tom Hoffarth, a former sports media columnist for the Daily News and the guy who recently filled that vacuum with “Perfect Eloquence: An Appreciation of Vin Scully,” a collection of essays about the late Scully, the 67-year voice of the Dodgers.

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

Consider Hoffarth, then, the unofficial archivist of all things Scully. That was the genesis of the book that was released May 1, a collection of – in a freakish coincidence – 67 essays from people with their own memories of Scully, be it hiding the transistor radio under the pillow at night or having a personal interaction with Vin.

Hoffarth had a lot to work with. Like most of us who occasionally or frequently showed up in the Dodger Stadium press box, he had plenty of conversations with Scully, some informal, some in passing, some when Vin would stop at one of the writers’ tables in the press dining room to chat and kibitz and swap jokes. And occasionally we’d set up formal interviews, chances for Vin to pull up a chair and spend some time with us.

Or vice versa. I’d say that whenever that happened, I got way more out of it than he did. For instance, in 2015 I was working on a retrospective of the 50th anniversary of Sandy Koufax’s perfect game, and it was a given that I’d want to talk to Scully, whose ninth-inning play-by-play – ad-libbed but a near-perfect narrative in its own right – was every bit as memorable as Sandy’s pitching.

And at the end of our conversation, he told me: “I didn’t do much for you. I’m sure you’ll do a heck of a lot better with it.”

Hoffarth said he had “30 years’ worth of material, interviews and things that maybe 10 percent gets in your column and 90 percent is just kind of sitting there. Great stuff. You can’t use it anywhere. So I just kind of knew I had all this material. And I think when he died, in August of 2022, I was thinking, ‘I wonder how many people are going to be able to give him a eulogy.’ And then I wondered how many people really wanted to give him a eulogy. I’m sure the numbers that wanted to far outreached the numbers that did, and I think it’s because the funeral was such a private affair.”

This book was their platform, because those essays are the guts of it. Hoffarth wrote the text that bridged the individual remembrances, incorporating some of the material he’d picked up through the years.

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

Among those who contributed were:

Baseball people (Peter O’Malley, Bud Selig, Bruce Froemming, Orel Hershiser, Eric Karros, Steve Garvey, Ned Colletti).

Broadcasters (Bob Costas, Al Michaels, Joe Buck, Bob Miller, Jim Hill, John Ireland, Jill Painter Lopez, colleagues Ross Porter and Jaime Jarrín and current Dodger broadcasters Joe Davis and Jessica Mendoza, who were in the booth in San Francisco the night Vin passed away Aug. 2, 2022).

Those of us in the print media (including the late T.J. Simers, Bill Dwyre, Steve Dilbeck, Brian Golden and Lisa Nehus Saxon, as well as current Daily News columnist Dennis McCarthy).

There were others you might not expect, like author/historian David Halberstam, women’s basketball legend Ann Meyers Drysdale, the widow of pitcher and later Dodger broadcast colleague Don Drysdale, and actors Bryan Cranston and Harry Shearer. And Doug Mann, who handled statistics for most of this region’s broadcast crews at one time or another. Mann, like Simers, recently passed away, but each got to see the finished product.

While he didn’t get her to write an essay, Hoffarth did get a promotional blurb from Annette Bening (thanks to L.A. Times columnist Patt Morrison, who was a contributor). Also providing blurbs: Political columnist George Will and Ron Shelton, the director of the movie “Bull Durham.”

And Koufax, who simply wrote: “Vin was more than a broadcaster, he was my friend.”

The title of the book, Hoffarth said, came from a May, 2016 Sports Illustrated story by Tom Verducci, early in Scully’s final season as a broadcaster, that detailed a seminar class he had taken as a freshman at Fordham. The title, in Latin: “Eloquentia Perfecta.”

It was “basically about how to be a good orator, and how you’re not the story,” Hoffarth said. “You’re the conveyor of this, and you do this with humility. (That’s) the perfect way to explain what Vin did.”

Vin was a storyteller at heart, and I’ve always said that he could tell the same story multiple times and it would sound fresh each time. Similarly, a good number of the essays in this book repeated anecdotes or stories, each through an individual’s perception, and … yes, they were fresh. Put together, and grouped as the essays were into different facets of Scully’s life, the book flows seamlessly.

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

“And the great thing was, it was a common thing so I could get reinforcement from all those other essayists, like, ‘Oh, yeah, he did this for me,’ (or) ‘He made a call to a person that was sick and just gave them a nice feeling that day.’”

And that brings us to the other facet of Vin Scully. As accomplished as he was at his job, he was equally humble and unaffected and willing to engage with the public.

“It’s just a great life lesson on how to be a humble, graceful person, and not think that you have to feed your ego by saying or doing certain things,” Hoffarth said. “You can really have an impact on people just by being nice and kind to them.

“To me, it’s just a great reminder every day, how to try to be a better person. And everything he did was modeling that.”

This is not the last word, either. Hoffarth said his plan is to create a website, the “Vin Scully Appreciation Book,” for others to submit stories and create a living tribute. The initial motivation is to create a giant thank you card for the family by the time the 100th anniversary of Scully’s birth rolls around in 2027.

And maybe, just maybe, even as society and its media evolve, the fundamentals of storytelling will remain consistent, and the art’s greatest practitioner will still have an influence.

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