When Vin Scully announced on August 25th that he would indeed return for his 65th season as the voice of Dodgers baseball, a collective sigh could be heard amongst baseball's longtime fans, especially those with roots in Southern California. LA's sunkissed teeny-boppers of the 50s and 60s grew up listening to that golden voice over transistor radios lined up on the Santa Monica shore, and in the 2000s, those same baby-boomers park themselves around the television for that familiar dulcet sound, like one of a father.
And, yes, while we can now all breathe easy and hold back on the tributes and lifetime achievement awards for at least another year, baseball's purists recognize that the end of one hell of a magnificent run in the booth is painfully near.
Scully is truly an icon of the game, one of a select few that we have the privilege to witness today and that we've immortalized for the fans of the future to remember forever. Lucky for us, the future is not the present. So, let's hold off on the melancholy for another year and hopefully more. Let's appreciate right now what we still have in front of us.
And with that, here are five MLB icons that must be truly appreciated now before they're gone forever.
1. Vin Scully. He is the easy choice for number one. He is arguably the greatest sportscaster that ever lived. How many of the "very greatest" can we still see perform today? Scully, a New York native, has been with the Dodgers since their days in Brooklyn. He called some of the greatest moments in team history, like when Jackie Robinson stole home against the Yankees in the '55 World Series and when a limping Kirk Gibson pinch hit a walkoff home run to carry the Boys in Blue to a Fall Classic victory in 1988. Do yourself a favor and watch or listen to an entire Dodgers ballgame if you have the chance (and you should have lots of opportunities with the way the club is winning right now, poised to make a deep run in the postseason). If you are lucky enough to take in a game at Chavez Ravine, you can still hear Scully's voice ... over the PA system while grabbing a Dodger dog or using the restroom.
2. Mariano Rivera. The man who some have referred to as the greatest closer to ever play the game will soon be hanging up the mitt for good, and by good we mean like in a month. How respected is this guy? For one, he has been showered with gifts and feted at every VISITING ballpark he's played in this season. After a scary career-threatening knee injury sidelined Rivera in 2012, the chance to see him throw his patented cutter in person one last time has now become a premium in 2013. Having had the chance myself to see future Hall of Famer Chipper Jones one last time last year in San Diego, where he received a standing ovation from the Padres fans, I was even more honored to be in Anaheim when big number 42 entered to 50,000 fans rising to their feet in the final inning of the final game of the Angels/Yankees series.
3. (The Non-Modernized) Wrigley Field. Since the Ricketts family purchased the Cubs in 2009, they have been aggressively pursuing changes to the club's hallowed ballpark. Among the many concepts the new owners have in mind is a 5,700-square-foot jumbotron that will surely change the vintage look of the outfield. The master plan also calls for a new adjacent hotel, concourses, suites, patio areas and plazas in a grand renovation scheme to the National League's oldest ballpark, which was built in 1914. Many in the community worry if the historic nature of the site will be lost forever and have gone as far as challenging the construction in the courts. But in late July, the City of Chicago finally approved the $500 million alterations, and Wrigley the way we know and cherish it may soon be just a thing of the past.
4. Derek Jeter. I know, I know, another Yankee. Sorry, Red Sox fans, but we all know Jeter is a sure-fire HOFer, even on your own ballots. Jeter may even be a lock for unanimous selection. A five-time World Series champion, one of the game's best shortstops ever has also been named to the All-Star team an astounding 13 times. Now pushing 40, Jeter's days in pinstripes might be numbered, especially with his recent battles with injury and dipping statistics. The man who once dated Mariah Carey could soon be gone from the diamond forever.
5. Alex Rodriguez. OK, now it might be Yankee-overload. ("Really, three out of five?") A-Rod is widely considered one of the greatest baseball players of all time. While he is probably more remembered for the fattest contract in MLB history and recently the Biogenesis doping scandal, Rodriguez is also one of the best sluggers of his generation. Closing in on 3,000 career hits, he was also the youngest ballplayer to reach the 500 home run mark and is currently fifth on the all-time list with 649 and counting. But with the aforementioned scandal and subsequent 211-game suspension -- which is currently under appeal -- looming, Rodriguez' days are likely numbered, as it is doubtful he would ever return to the show if he does indeed serve out his punishment. The third baseman also just turned 38 this summer, and if age hasn't already been pushing him to the brink, A-Rod has even heard the call from his own fans in the Bronx, sick of all the drama surrounding the fallen star, to just leave the game for good already.
Follow Wayne Coito on Twitter: www.twitter.com/waynekai