When Vince Scully died, I was honored to get a call from the Times, asking me to write a column from the perspective of my youth as a Brooklyn Dodger fan.
When the paper arrived in the driveway the next morning, my column was accompanied by a lovely photo of Vin Scully, from behind, as he called a night game at Dodger Stadium. (The bizarre thing is that the photo was not included in the copious spread on Scully in the great nytimes.com obit spread on the website.)
The photo by Dominic DiSaia perfectly demonstrated the link between Scully and his fans since the Dodgers moved to LA in 1958. (I’ve gotten over it; oh, yes, I’ve gotten over it.)
The photo in the glowing night demonstrated the link between a grand franchise and the mellow, knowing, professional voice of Vince Scully. The fans in Dodger Stadium are one thing, but the audience “out there” is also tangible.
We saw the stadium and sensed what was beyond, from the back of Scully’s fertile head.
So that left me with a question: who is Dominic DiSaia and how did he take the photo of Vin Scully from behind?
Let me pause and say that I have a career’s worth of partnership with the many great NYT staff photographers as well as free-lancers, stringers, most notably Ken Murray, an artist who roamed Appalachia with me in the early ‘70s. I got to know the work habits and minds of photographers.
Dominic DiSaia, I learned, is an independent photographer, 47, raised in Southern California, based in LA. He does commercial and advertising photography with a major in sports.
In 2013, he proposed a project for ESPN about a day in the life of Vin Scully. He got approval but in a limited way – no photos at home, only at Dodger Stadium, and nothing during the game.
“He wasn’t too thrilled about it,” DiSaia told me over the phone, a note of admiration in his voice. “He was a very private man.” DiSaia did learn that Scully would call his wife now and then from the booth, also off limits to the photographer.
DiSaia snapped away, when he could, and then he got lucky. One of the aides in the broadcasting booth area told him that the seventh-inning stretch was a bit longer than normal breaks, and he let DiSaia slip into the aisle behind the broadcasters.
There he learned something I have never heard about any broadcaster before: Scully kept a Jolly Rancher candy on his desk and would suck on it – the same one -- between innings – to keep his mouth moist. But he would not drink anything during the game so he could not feel the need to use the men’s room. Vin Scully was, along with all his other traits, disciplined.
With only a few seconds of access, and not wanting to get in Scully’s field of vision, DiSaia stood behind Scully and saw the big picture – the broadcaster and his audience, in the stadium and wherever that broadcast went. As the Dodgers began batting in the home half, DiSaia snapped away, and then slipped out into the corridor.
As it turned out, this was an epic night at Dodger Stadium. Yasiel Puig, from Cuba, hit his first two homers, and DiSaia happened to be in the photographers’ well alongside the dugout, and another photographer caught DiSaia a few feet from the new hero, as the crowd cheered. Later, DiSaia learned, Vin Scully, always alert, said: “Viva Cuba! Viva Puig!” Terse and perfect.
After the game, DiSaia caught up with Scully for the promised wrapup photo, in the parking lot – but true to his private bent, Scully did not want a glimpse of his actual ride home – a hired driver, because by that time Scully was not driving at night. So Scully went off into the night, and DiSaia polished his photo essay for ESPN.
Scully must have liked the photos because he signed a copy and included it in a cache of souvenirs that he sold to bulk up the college fund for grandchildren.
DiSaia does retain rights to the photo, and has a print available at:
He also has a website:
After that night in 2013, DiSaia continued to work in sports around LA, but as for Vin Scully:
“I never saw him again in person.”
How often do journalists say that about the epic person they met on a memorable assignment, and never again.
DiSaia retains a respect for Vince Scully that matches the worldwide impression – a master artist who knew his audience and himself, as he faced out into the night, and into the ears and hearts of ball fans everywhere.
Measuring Covid Deaths, by David Leonhardt. July 17, 2023. NYT online.
The United States has reached a milestone in the long struggle against Covid: The total number of Americans dying each day — from any cause — is no longer historically abnormal….
After three horrific years, in which Covid has killed more than one million Americans and transformed parts of daily life, the virus has turned into an ordinary illness.
The progress stems mostly from three factors:
First, about three-quarters of U.S. adults have received at least one vaccine shot.
Second, more than three-quarters of Americans have been infected with Covid, providing natural immunity from future symptoms. (About 97 percent of adults fall into at least one of those first two categories.)
Third, post-infection treatments like Paxlovid, which can reduce the severity of symptoms, became widely available last year.
“Nearly every death is preventable,” Dr. Ashish Jha, who was until recently President Biden’s top Covid adviser, told me. “We are at a point where almost everybody who’s up to date on their vaccines and gets treated if they have Covid, they rarely end up in the hospital, they almost never die.”
That is also true for most high-risk people, Jha pointed out, including older adults — like his parents, who are in their 80s — and people whose immune systems are compromised. “Even for most — not all but most —immuno-compromised people, vaccines are actually still quite effective at preventing against serious illness,” he said. “There has been a lot of bad information out there that somehow if you’re immuno-compromised that vaccines don’t work.”
That excess deaths have fallen close to zero helps make this point: If Covid were still a dire threat to large numbers of people, that would show up in the data.
One point of confusion, I think, has been the way that many Americans — including we in the media — have talked about the immuno-compromised. They are a more diverse group than casual discussion often imagines.
Most immuno-compromised people are at little additional risk from Covid — even people with serious conditions, such as multiple sclerosis or a history of many cancers. A much smaller group, such as people who have received kidney transplants or are undergoing active chemotherapy, face higher risks.
Covid’s toll, to be clear, has not fallen to zero. The C.D.C.’s main Covid webpage estimates that about 80 people per day have been dying from the virus in recent weeks, which is equal to about 1 percent of overall daily deaths.
The official number is probably an exaggeration because it includes some people who had virus when they died even though it was not the underlying cause of death. Other C.D.C. data suggests that almost one-third of official recent Covid deaths have fallen into this category. A study published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases came to similar conclusions.
Dr. Shira Doron, the chief infection control officer at Tufts Medicine in Massachusetts, told me that “age is clearly the most substantial risk factor.” Covid’s victims are both older and disproportionately unvaccinated. Given the politics of vaccination, the recent victims are also disproportionately
Republican and white.
Each of these deaths is a tragedy. The deaths that were preventable — because somebody had not received available vaccines and treatments — seem particularly tragic. (Here’s a Times guide to help you think about when to get your next booster shot.)
From the great Maureen Dowd:
As I write this, I’m in a deserted newsroom in The Times’s D.C. office. After working at home for two years during Covid, I was elated to get back, so I could wander around and pick up the latest scoop.
But in the last year, there has been only a smattering of people whenever I’m here, with row upon row of empty desks. Sometimes a larger group gets lured in for a meeting with a platter of bagels."
--- Dowd writes about the lost world of journalists clustered in newsrooms at all hours, smoking, drinking, gossipping, making phone calls, typing, editing.
"Putting out the paper," we called it.
Much more than nostalgia.