Jackie Jackson – Los Angeles Dodgers Safari (1965)
As a Mets fan, I feel dirty for writing about piece of Dodgers-related ephemera. Alas, this one is pretty unique — special, even! — so I can set aside my bias for a few minutes while I share it with you. Whether you typically come here for my musical discoveries, the antics that used to be the hallmark of this site, or the weird artifacts I sometimes dig up, I would hope you’ll take the time to listen to this. In my opinion, the historical nature of this recording is amazing.
The contents of the Dodger Safari acetate were recorded in Vero Beach, Florida in March of 1965. Also known as “Dodgertown,” Vero Beach became the home of the then Brooklyn Dodgers’ Spring Training facility starting in 1948. Before that, the team played their Spring Training games in Cuba (!). Even though the team moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles ten years later, the team remained loyal spring residents of Dodgertown each season until 2008, when the boys in blue abandoned Vero Beach for Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Arizona.
The voice you’ll hear most on this recording is that of 10-year-old Jackie Jackson. Although her identity is somewhat mysterious (in that I can’t find references to her or her familial relationship with the team online), it’s pretty clear that she was the daughter of someone on the front office management/ownership side of the team. Most of these recordings were likely made on a cassette tape or reel tape (there’s too much tape his present for it to have been another medium). Eventually they were pressed onto this two-sided acetate. It is unknown if whoever pressed it eventually made any vinyl copies, so as far as I know this content is exclusive to the 12″ 33 1/3rpm acetate.
What does it contain, you ask? Well, Jackie interviews several people involved with the 1965 Dodgers in varying capacities. There’s team owner Walter O’Malley, whose tenure as owner lasted from 1950-1979. There’s Walter Alston, who managed the Dodgers between 1954 and 1976. There’s Fresco Thompson, who played in the 20s and 30s before coming the second-highest executive in the organization as Vice President in charge of all minor league operations. There’s then-rookie Willie Crawford, veteran Maury Wills, scouting director-turned general manager (in 1968) Al Campanis. Hall-Of-Famer Don Drysdale is also interviewed.
Perhaps the most prescient interview Jackie conducted at Vero Beach in March of 1965 was with Dodgers’ play-by-play announcer Vin Scully. The most recognizable voice in all of baseball, Vin will be retiring at the end of this season after 67 years (!!) calling games. His name is synonymous with sports broadcasting. Although I only moved to LA in 2007, I remember hearing his voice as a child when he called the ’88 World Series. Even though I was only three years old at the time, his call of the Mets 10th inning comeback in 1986 against the Red Sox is forever imprinted in my brain. For me personally, Bob Murphy or Gary Cohen will likely go down as “The Voice(s)” of baseball when I am old and gray and reminiscing about sports radio broadcasts in my youth. I used to fall asleep with a tiny transistor radio under my pillow listening to Murphy (and a young Cohen) every night during baseball season. I imagine anyone who grew up in Los Angeles since team arrived here would say the same about Vin. He is a God in this city. Which is why hearing a young Vin talk about how he prepares for games and how he got into broadcasting is so fascinating. His tone as he converses with Jackie — he’s pretty much the only one who speaks to her as if she’s a peer and not a 10-year-od — is a testament to his greatness. Jackie’s interview with Vin occurs towards the end of side ‘A’, and if there’s one little blip you listen to from this recording I suggest you make that your priority.
Whether you’re a sports nerd, or an LA history nerd, or both, this is a completely unique cultural artifact that warrants a listen. I hope you enjoy it.
Dodger Safari – Vero Beach Florida, 1965
(Studio F Recorders)
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