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Wednesday, August 10, 2022

OPINION:

I am tempted to publish the phone number of Kevin O’Malley as a public service so that readers can listen to the longtime federal official’s voicemail greeting, which features the late, great Vin Scully telling callers to leave a name and number.

“You have reached the voice mailbox of Kevin O’Malley,” says the message, delivered in the familiar, warm voice of the legendary broadcaster.


I won’t do that, though. If I did, O’Malley’s mailbox would be constantly full. Nobody wants to say goodbye to Vin Scully, the Hall of Fame legend who passed away on Aug. 2 at the age of 94.

O’Malley, who is also the director of Major League Baseball’s Catholic Ministry, returned home from vacation this week to find an overwhelming demand for the CD that Scully, a devout Catholic, had recorded of him reading the Rosary in 2016, after his final Los Angeles Dodgers broadcast.

“This is what it was like when it first came out,” O’Malley said. “It exploded. Since then, it’s been here and there. But now it’s front and center again. People are ordering 20 and 30 copies, giving them out to friends and such. Everyone wants to still have a piece of Vince. Him reading from the Bible is something, regardless of where you are on the religious spectrum.”

Vin Scully reading the phone book would be something, regardless of where you are on any spectrum.

O’Malley, 54, a Northern Virginian who works on budget and policy issues in Washington, met Scully, one of the most revered figures ever to work behind the microphone, in 2015 through his work with the ministry.

“When you meet the man, you feel like you are the most important person on the planet, whether you are someone working in the cafeteria or whether you are a guy helping to run a nonprofit like myself,” O’Malley said. “His initial meeting with you is really something you can’t believe until you really experience it first-hand.     

“I asked him if he would be interested in helping our organization by recording the Rosary CD,” O’Malley said. “His answer was whatever you need. That seemed to be his response to everybody for charity and nonprofit work.”

They would work together on a project that was important to Scully and would become important to O’Malley — the campaign to get Brooklyn Dodger great Gil Hodges into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Scully, who broke in the Dodgers in 1950, had once called games with Hodges in the lineup — from Brooklyn to Los Angeles and up until Hodges was traded back to New York to the expansion Mets in 1962 for the final two years of his career.

O’Malley became interested after conversations with Peter O’Malley and Terry Seidler — the children of Walter O’Malley (no relation to Kevin O’Malley), the Dodgers owner who moved the team from Brooklyn — about Hodges.

He read a biography of the eight-time All-Star first baseman and wondered what many Brooklyn fans wondered — why Hodges, who also managed the Miracle New York Mets to the World Series championship in 1969, wasn’t in Cooperstown. Hodges was inducted into the Hall last month.

“The light bulb went off, and I couldn’t believe nobody had made a film about Gil Hodges,” O’Malley said. “Off I went with a group of Emmy award-winning writers and directors, and Vin was front and center on that. He often publicly referenced that one of the great hopes he had while he was still alive was, and thank God it happened, that he would see Gil Hodges inducted into the Hall of Fame, where he believed he belonged on the field and for checking the boxes of criteria for sportsmanship, integrity and character.”

With Scully’s support and help, “The Gil Hodges Story: Soul Of A Champion” came together like magic, O’Malley said, and was released in November 2021. Then, earlier this summer, Hodges was inducted into the Hall of Fame. Scully couldn’t attend but watched from home. Nine days later, he died.

“My last conversation with him was the week before the All-Star Game (which was at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles),” said O’ Malley, who attended the ceremony. “I was not able to talk to him after our trip to Cooperstown, but his daughter told me he was jubilant watching it and very happy for the Hodges family that this day had finally come.”

It’s been a remarkable run of late for the Brooklyn Dodgers, one of the most storied and beloved teams in baseball history — a team that hasn’t existed for 65 years.

Last month the Jackie Robinson Museum opened in New York. A few days later, his teammate, Hodges, was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. On Thursday, a documentary about Brooklyn pitching great Carl Erskine will debut in his hometown of Anderson, Indiana.

While Scully was baseball in Los Angeles, he got his start in Brooklyn and was on the call when Brooklyn finally defeated the New York Yankees in the 1955 World Series.

Coast to coast and worldwide, Scully was beloved as well. His world extended well beyond the baseball diamond.

“I would speak to him every three or four weeks,” O’Malley said. “We would catch up on how he was doing, and talk sports, politics, you name it. The man was so well read. Everything from what are you watching on Netflix to what’s going on in D.C. to the history of democracy in the world.”

O’Malley said he hopes he will be able to keep the voicemail message Scully recorded for him forever.

When Scully would call O’Malley and get the voicemail, he would say, “This is Vin Scully leaving a message for Vin Scully.”

Every word was a gift.

You can hear Thom Loverro on The Kevin Sheehan Show podcast.

• Thom Loverro can be reached at tloverro@washingtontimes.com.


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