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Legendary Vin Scully could have belonged to NY, not LA

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The pity is that he could have been ours all these decades, our own unique, lyrical baseball gift. New York City has been blessed for years with a proud battalion of excellence in the broadcast booth.

But there was only one Vin Scully.

And those who have tried nobly to fill his seat behind a microphone in New York’s ballparks since the final day of the 1957 season understand one thing quite well: there was Scully, and there was everyone else. That was true in 1957, and 1987, and 2007. He stood alone.

Scully broadcast Dodgers games for 67 years. The first eight of those years, he called New York home and Ebbets Field his home office, this son of Washington Heights, who graduated from Fordham Prep in 1944 and Fordham U in 1949. He was 22 when he first slipped behind the mic, paired with Red Barber, and he stayed on the job, to the great delight of just about everyone who loves baseball, until he was 89.

“Mine has been a glorious life,” Scully told me in 2013. “There’s nobody who could ever say they were given more blessings in this life than me.”

Vin Scully
Vin Scully
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Vin Scully calling a Dodgers game in the 1960s.
Vin Scully calling a Dodgers game in the 1960s.
Sporting News via Getty Images

Scully died Tuesday night at age 94, and with him goes a manner and a style of broadcasting baseball games we’ll never hear again. He was well-heeled in the game’s nuances yet never came across as sanctimonious. He was an eloquent master of the language yet never got too carried away. It was his job to describe for those who couldn’t be there what it was like for those, like Scully, who were lucky enough to be in what his old partner Barber used to call the catbird seat.

When the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles, Scully moved with them and it was there that he became, quite literally, the eyes, ears and auxiliary brains for Southern California fans engaging in a crash-course in baseball. So much did his new audience grow to depend on him, even those who bought tickets to Dodger Stadium in the 1960s would often bring transistor radios because they trusted that Scully could describe what they were seeing better than their own eyes could.

I’ve told this story before, but that conversation I had with Scully in 2013 came when he called me back while I was trying to cross Manhattan on the way to a Nets game. Thanks to the wonders of Bluetooth, I was having a chat with Vin Scully through the speakers of my car radio. It was every bit as surreal, and wonderful, as you’d expect.

“Sure,” he said that day. “I think about what might’ve happened if the Dodgers had stayed in Brooklyn. It would’ve been a different career for me, that’s for sure. But I suspect I’d have enjoyed the ride every bit as much.”

Vin Scully
Vin Scully
Reuters

In New York, then, we never got day-to-day Scully after he turned 30. We got Scully on the NFL, and Scully on golf. One remarkable night in 1986, 31 years after calling the game that finally brought a championship to Brooklyn, he was there as the Mets performed perhaps the grandest baseball miracle in history. To this day, Mets fans can recite it by heart, every syllable Scully:

“Little roller up along first … BEHIND THE BAG! IT GETS THROUGH BUCKNER! HERE COMES KNIGHT, AND THE METS WIN IT …!”

Then, for 103 seconds, Scully didn’t say a word, letting the sights, sounds and emotions exploding at Shea Stadium do the talking for him. When he finally did clear his throat again it was perfect, of course: “If one picture is worth a thousand words, you have seen about a million words.”

Even the very best announcers, most of them, wouldn’t have trusted the moment to work on their behalf the way Scully did. But he did that all the time. Later, when MLB made it easier to access out-of-town games, a fresh generation of Scullyphiles tuned in to catch Dodgers games from the coast, just to hear Scully call them. He was in his 80s by then. But the voice was still straight out of 1949, still straight out of WFUV, still straight out of Washington Heights.

We could’ve had so much more of him if not for the wanderlust of Walter O’Malley. What we did get, though? We’ll treasure that, eternally.

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Knicks vs. Bulls prediction: NBA picks, odds

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The NBA’s longest win streak is finally over after the Knicks suffered their first loss in nine games on Wednesday. Expect New York to start a new streak Friday against a team it dominated the last time they faced off.

The Knicks were playing like the best team in basketball during their lengthy win streak, posting the league’s best net rating (+17.3) with six double-digit victories in that eight-game run. That included a 23-point beat-down of the Bulls exactly a week ago, when New York drained 17 3s and saw three players score at least 22 points in an easy win.

Knicks vs. Bulls (7:30 p.m. Eastern) prediction: Knicks -5.5 (Caesars Sportsbook)

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That game marked the worst offensive showing of the season for Chicago (91 points), which has struggled with chemistry and spacing issues all year long. The Bulls rank dead last in 3-point attempts per game (28.8) and third-worst in offensive rebounding rate (23.6%), which leaves very few easy scoring chances for one of the NBA’s worst offenses.

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It’s the opposite story for the Knicks, who boast three legitimate shot-creators and also rank among the league leaders in points in the paint. Julius Randle (31 points) relentlessly attacked this Chicago defense in their first meeting before allowing RJ Barrett (27 points) to lead the way in the second affair — his fourth of five straight games with at least 22 points. 

I don’t see this Knicks attack slowing down against one of the league’s most inconsistent defenses. And until Zach LaVine returns to his All-Star form, I’m skeptical of the Bulls’ offense showing up on Friday, too.

Knicks vs. Bulls pick: Knicks -5.5 (Caesars Sportsbook)

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Devils vs. Bruins prediction: Bet on New Jersey to end slide on NHL Friday

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After starting the season 21-4-1, it looked like the New Jersey Devils were going to run away with the Metropolitan Division as one of the very best teams in the NHL.

Not only were the Devils cruising, but their underlying metrics were elite. New Jersey was the best 5-on-5 team through the first quarter of the season.

Three weeks and one six-game losing streak later, and the Devils have fallen back to earth and are now two points behind the Carolina Hurricanes in the Metropolitan Division. 

The Devils were able to get off the schneid with a win over Florida on Wednesday, but the task doesn’t get any easier with the league-leading Boston Bruins in town.

New Jersey is a slight +102 home underdog against Boston starting at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN+ and the NHL Network.  

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Tomas Tatar #90 of the New Jersey Devils
Tomas Tatar #90 of the New Jersey Devils
NHLI via Getty Images

Bruins vs. Devils prediction

Even though the Devils have struggled to get results over their last 10 contests, their underlying numbers don’t suggest there’s all that much wrong with how they’re playing. New Jersey isn’t posting the pace-setting numbers it did through Thanksgiving, but it’s still skating to the fifth-best expected goals rate and high-danger scoring chance rate in the league over its last 10 contests.  

Those numbers should help ease any sense of panic that New Jersey could continue to fall back further into the pack as we head toward the New Year. 

So if New Jersey is still tilting the ice in the right direction, what is the issue for the Devils? 

For one thing, the Devs are struggling to find the back of the net like they did when they were rolling. New Jersey has scored just nine goals in its last five games, and four of those tallies came in a 4-2 victory over Florida on Wednesday. Over their last 10 games, the Devils rank 25th in the NHL with a 6.56% shooting percentage. 

Additionally, the Devils are not getting the goaltending needed to stabilize them. New Jersey’s netminders were always thought to be the team’s biggest weakness, and that has started to show lately as the Devils rank 23rd in the NHL in 5-on-5 save percentage over the last 10 games.

Hampus Lindholm #27 of the Boston Bruins
Hampus Lindholm #27 of the Boston Bruins
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The Bruins, meanwhile, continue to roll. Boston is 7-1-2 over its last 10 contests and ranks third in the league over that span in expected goals rate and fourth in high-danger chance percentage. The Bruins pace the NHL with a +54 goal differential, which is 25 goals better than the team in second (Toronto). 

But as impressive as Boston has been over its first 31 games of the season, the Bruins are playing on a back-to-back on Friday, while the Devils were off on Thursday night. 

The Bruins are the better team in a vacuum, but this is a good buy-low spot on the Devils, who are still playing solid hockey but are just not getting the results.

Devils vs. Bruins pick

New Jersey Devils +102 (FanDuel)

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At the Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, a Female Crew of Two

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Kathy Veel has come a long way since 1989, when she first sailed in the Sydney Hobart Yacht Race with an all-female crew on the Belles Long Ranger.

“It started off with four of us women — we figured, let’s give it a shot,” said Veel, 70, a retired teacher who lives in Bullaburra, about 60 miles west of Sydney, Australia. “We didn’t have a boat. We didn’t have any money. It was a real start from scratch. No one took us seriously.”

Not anymore. Veel is now back for her third Sydney Hobart, which starts on Monday, this time also breaking ground. She will be part of the only all-female crew competing in the race’s two-handed division on the Currawong, at 30 feet long the second smallest boat in the fleet. She will be sailing with Bridget Canham, 62, of Sydney, a veteran of several Sydney Hobart races.

Veel said that in 1989, there were doubts the crew of women could handle the grueling conditions of the race.

“We were kind of a token gesture,” she said. “There were a lot of people who didn’t think we were up to it. They would ask, what we were going to do when it’s blowing 30 knots and the boat is swamped? We’ll be doing pretty much what they’ll be doing — putting up sails and racing the boat.”

Their goal was to simply finish the race, which they did. “It opened the door for us,” Veel said.

“Women in sailing have come so far,” she said. “Most boats these days have got women on them. And that’s great.”

Canham, a retired nurse who volunteers as an emergency boat pilot, said sailing had indeed changed.

“Sailing is more of an integrated sport now,” she said. “Now, it’s just by coincidence that we are just two women on a boat. We’re just sailors. We don’t think of ourselves as anything different.”

The two-handed division, where a boat is raced by two sailors — as opposed to a large crew ranging from 6 to 25 — is now in its second year at the Sydney Hobart. For Veel and Canham, the draw of two-handed racing is access.

“Having a fully crewed racing yacht was way outside of my resources,” Veel said. “I’m retired. But now that they have the two-handed, we can do the race. It gives people the opportunity to sail in the race who aren’t on a fully crewed yacht.” Yearly maintenance on two-handed boats might be $10,000, while much larger yachts require millions of dollars to maintain.

Canham also said the sailors in the two-handed division were a tightknit group. “The two-handed community is just so supportive; it’s like we are all on the same team,” she said.

Veel and Canham generally split duties on the boat, taking turns on the sails and at the wheel, with Canham focusing on sails and Veel on navigation and race tactics.

“Bridget knows the wind and is good at getting the best out of the boat,” Veel said. “She’ll have every sail tweaked and tuned. She never takes her eye off the ball. She’s also extremely gutsy and strong-minded and determined.”

Veel and Canham have prepared for the event by sailing in four other races this year. Over that time, they realized the boat, a Currawong 30, built in 1974 with beaten 20-year-old sails, needed upgrades, but they’ve accepted its limits.

“We’ve been able to test out our boat in these previous races, but it really has felt that 90 percent of this race has been just getting to the start line,” Veel said. “We’ve just been focused on getting the boat ready. Now that we are there, and there are no more obstacles between us and the race, that’s when I’m starting to wonder what have I got myself into. Now it’s real.”

Canham heads into the race committed, but knows their limitations.

“No one is expecting us to do anything,” she said. “But I don’t think they realize just how determined we are.”

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