Vin Scully has been telling stories like no one else for decades, and as his reign over the airwaves came to an end, it’s a story he didn’t want told that comes to mind.
Way back when, I was a 24-year-old helping out with the Colorado Rockies beat, filling in for our beat writer for a homestand or road trip to give him a break. In my limited time around the team that summer, I was working on a feature story about a coach named Todd Maulding, which one day led me to Scully’s booth.
Maulding was an interesting guy. The Rockies’ bullpen coach, he had gotten his start during the 1982 strike while growing up outside Los Angeles, a high-school catcher who caught a few of the Dodgers’ pitchers during the strike. When it ended, the pitchers went to manager Tommy Lasorda and told him they wanted to make Maulding part of the team. So Maulding, 18 and straight out of high school, went right on the road with the Dodgers.
That’s how I knew about him: The Dodgers’ bullpen coach, Mark Cresse, Maulding’s boss, was a friend of our family. At one point in the ’70s, he and my uncle had been neighbors in Orange County. As kids, we went to so many Dodgers-Cubs games to see Cresse that we got to know the usher behind the visiting bullpen. (Which turned out to be a tremendous perk in high school and college no matter who the Cubs were playing, because Al knew which of his season-ticket holders weren’t there and would let us sit in their seats.)
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Cresse loved having Maulding around, because it meant he only rarely actually had to catch anyone. Maulding did all the hard work. Maulding did that for years, until Don Baylor brought Maulding with him to the expansion Rockies as his bullpen coach, a considerable promotion.
And that’s the job Maulding had in the summer of 1999 when I remembered seeing him around the Dodgers and thought it might make a good story. So I spent some time with Maulding, and among the many unprintable stories from a teenager’s days on the road with a major-league team in the wild 1980s, he told one about Scully.
The Dodgers were a coat-and-tie team on the road, one of the first to travel on their own plane. At some point, Scully noticed Maulding wearing the same sportcoat on every trip. One day, Scully gave him four new suits. “And I still have those suits,” Maulding said, many years later, his voice breaking.
So with that in mind, I resolved to seek out Scully during a Dodgers-Rockies series. My experience with him was typical in that he was every bit as kind and gentlemanly as you would expect. He talked at length about Maulding. And then I asked him about what Maulding had told me, the suits. I thought he’d maybe laugh about it, or be touched that Maulding still had them in his closet.
“Ah,” Scully said, forever a master of the introductory vowel. “I wish he hadn’t told you that.”
As it turned out, the story never ran. My editor hated the first draft, and in retrospect, he was right. I didn’t, at that point, have the experience or writing chops to make a story that long about a bullpen coach interesting enough to someone who didn’t already know Maulding’s whole story. And before I could revise it, our computer system ate the draft and all of my notes, a hard-earned lesson in the importance of backups and hard copies.
So I never had anything tangible to show for all the time I spent on that piece. But I had an excuse to meet Scully, and I’ll always have the memory of the story the great story-teller never wanted told.
Luke DeCock: 919-829-8947, firstname.lastname@example.org, @LukeDeCock