A Christmas miracle: The (one and only) time Vin Scully called me on Christmas Day and told 4 great Lee Trevino stories

Vin Scully called me on Christmas.

Sure, I had sent him an email interview request hours earlier on Christmas Eve, but it never crossed my mind that he would phone me during the biggest day of the NBA season.

Hearing the sad news that Scully died Tuesday at age 94 made me think back (and dig up our interview transcript) to an occasion that to me said so much about the person he was. Scully may have been synonymous with baseball and the Los Angeles Dodgers, but he broadcast professional golf, too, first for CBS – including the Masters eight times from 1975-1982 – and then with NBC from 1983-1989, where he partnered in the 18th-hole tower with Lee Trevino.

As much as I would have loved to listen to him speak for hours on baseball, it was his time in golf that I was asking him to reminisce about. I had forgotten about this until I did an email search, but the person who shared with me Scully’s contact information (and shall remain nameless) gave it to me on Aug. 13, or more than four months before Christmas. No phone number but an email address – I guess at this point I’m not revealing too much by saying his email started red@ – and a fax number. Who still had a fax? Apparently, Vin did! I never faxed him but now that I think of it, I wish I had just to say I did.

This was some quality procrastination from mid-August to late December, even for me, but sounds about right – have a direct line to the man, the myth, the legend Vin Scully and wait until most of the Catholic world was at a midnight mass service to bother writing him for an interview.

Players and fans stand for a moment of silence for the passing of Vin Scully before the Houston Astros played the Boston Red Sox at Minute Maid Park in Houston on August 3. (Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports)

Santa could not have given me a better gift than a call from Vin had jolly Saint Nick landed his sleigh on the roof of my downtown Orlando condo and dumped out a bag of toys. The year was 2013, and while the specifics are a bit vague, I think I had seen a movie earlier that day and was watching the NBA in the late afternoon before dinner with my parents when I answered the phone and heard his unmistakable voice.

I may have procrastinated on writing him, but I had prepped several questions and I scrambled to pull them up on my laptop and fumbled to find my digital recorder. Again, who calls a total stranger on Christmas and sits for a lengthy phone interview? Vin Scully, that’s who!

I’m not going to post the full transcript of the interview, but here are a few things he said about Trevino, a partner he considered a true friend, that stuck out:

“Most people think of Lee Trevino they think of a talkative, outgoing, happy-go-lucky type of guy. He’s like so many people, he’s misunderstood,” Scully said. “He’s an intelligent, sensitive human being. Very bright. We’d sit on the tower and talk about the world events. He had a delightful laugh that everybody loved, but he’s far more than that delightful jokester.

“I marveled at a few things about him. Lee told me one time that he never had a cavity. As someone who has what I call Irish teeth, he had beautiful teeth,” Scully continued. “His eyesight was remarkable. I don’t know what it would be if he read the charts but we would in the tower on a par 5, so it’s a long hole, and then we would be 20 yards away from the green, and he would watch somebody hit off the tee and he’d say he blocked the shot. He had the eyesight of Chuck Yeager. It was incredible.”

“Once in a while I had the pleasure of playing with him,” he told me. “I never asked him anything. At my best, I was a 12 handicap. I’m left-handed. So occasionally we’d be on the range and we’d be facing each other and I’d just marvel at him. He might say something like, ‘Vinny, you’re choking the club to death. Relax.’ Then I’d start hitting a few balls very well and he’d say, ‘OK, let’s go.’ We’d walk 100 yards to the tee and I’d go right back to being what I am, which is hopeless. It was a great privilege to watch him shape shots. Remarkable.”

I asked him to describe how Trevino prepped for a broadcast, and his response was telling about how he went about doing his job and what made him so great. “Technically, in any sport, I always assumed I was the reporter answering the question who, what, where and when but the how – that key word – that belonged to the analyst. I would talk about score, where they are today, the shot, the club, the distance and then get out of the way to allow Lee to give the analysis. I would sit at his feet almost like a child and listen to his explanation of why these things occurred.”

I could go on but this final anecdote he shared is arguably my favorite, because it combined golf and baseball and two athletes that captured the attention of the sporting public.

“There was a wonderful golf writer in England named Bernard Darwin,” Scully began. “He talked about a player that was out of sight in a tournament and then won. He referred to the fact that the golfer had come from the back of beyond. I thought that was such a remarkable phrasing. I used it with Fernando Valenzuela, the Mexican left-hander, who really came from the back of beyond to become more than a hero. I felt that Lee was the same. He came from the back of beyond. He came from hitting golf balls with branches in the cemetery.”

At this point we had talked for 25 minutes and I had exhausted my questions and he had told one gem of a story after another. However, I didn’t really want to hang up. I had the great Vin on the line and I didn’t want this moment to end. I had a pretty good idea that this was going to be a one-and-done for me. But before I could start vamping, he said, “I hope that helps a little bit, Adam. I’ve got family here and I did want to do it before I got overwhelmed.”

I suddenly felt like the worst person in the world. It’s Christmas Day, Vin’s family is over and I’m keeping him from having a glass of eggnog with his wife and kids to do the most-non-deadline of non-deadline interviews you can imagine.

I wished him happy holidays, and that was the extent of my dealings with him, but it left a lasting impression that someone as famous as he would drop everything – even on Christmas Day – to do an interview for a sport he hadn’t covered in over 20 years.

To me, it spoke to Scully’s character and was just a small reason he was such a beloved figure in sports. I loved listening to him call a game before, but after our Christmas Day interview he had secured a permanent space in the upper tier of my sports broadcasting firmament. Vin Scully was pure class in my book, and I can’t help but think of him every year on Christmas Day.