Commentary Magazine


Vin Scully, the Sisters of Charity, and the Jewish Doctor

There was a time at Dodger Stadium, back during the days when Vin Scully called the entire game, where fans would bring their transistor radios to the stadium to listen to him call the game they were watching. Even if you didn’t have a radio, you could pretty much follow along, as there were so many radios around you. Everyone knew the best part of the Scully broadcast were the stories he would tell about baseball history, or the stories he would weave out of the game happening in real time in front of him, often with a touch of irony or humor. When he would tell a story, pretty much the whole section around you would smile or laugh.

Last week, Hugh Hewitt interviewed Vin Scully, and the transcript is worth reading in its entirety. At one point, Hewitt asked him if he had gone to parochial schools or public schools when he was little. Scully answered that he “was parochial all the way,” starting with Incarnation Grammar School at 175th Street in Manhattan. He asked Hewitt if he “might bore you with a little story” about the Sisters of Charity who were his teachers. Here is the story:

VS: There were times when they were not too charitable to this red-headed kid, and the reason was that I was very, very left-handed. And every time I would use my left hand, the good nun would hit me across the back of the knuckles with the flat of the ruler. And if I insisted upon using my left hand, occasionally she would turn the ruler so that she would hit me with the edge of the ruler, which broke the skin. And one night at dinner, passing the bread or whatever, my mother saw this cut up hand, and she assumed that I had been punished for talking in class or whatever. And she would have been correct 99 percent of the time. But in this instance, I explained no, it’s because I’m using my left hand. Well, our family doctor, and I only use this because it works out very well, our family doctor was Jewish. And he sat down and wrote a letter to the Catholic nuns. And in the letter, he explained, among other things, that if you force this little boy to become right-handed, it might very well cause him to stutter, which would have changed my life dramatically. And then the last line of the letter, it said and besides, dear Sisters, why in the world would you want to change God’s work?

HH: Wow.

VS: So he hit a grand slam with that line, and they allowed me to stay left-handed. And I was very, very familiar, long before the movie, with King George in England who stuttered. I bet I read a book about him, because I was left-handed, maybe 40 years ago. And the reason he stuttered was because he was basically and originally left-handed, and they made him right-handed. And from that book and from that story, they made the beautiful movie “The King’s Speech.”

HH: Yes.

VS: But they only alluded to the fact that he was left-handed, forced to be right-handed, in one quick throwaway line. But I really understood, and was very empathetic to the King.

And now back to the game.