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Scully, Wooden help kids with cancer

Scully, Wooden help kids with cancer

LOS ANGELES -- Before the start of the evening, Los Angeles Times columnist T.J. Simers told a sold-out audience at L.A.'s Nokia Center that, "This is a night that you'll never forget and will never happen again."

Simers, who came up with the idea for Scully & Wooden: For the Kids, was right. This is the first time that the 97-year-old John Wooden and 80-year-old Vin Scully have ever sat together and shared stories about their special lives and careers.

The evening, in which all proceeds will be split between the Pediatric Cancer Programs at Mattel Children's Hospital UCLA and pediatric cancer research at Children's Hospital Los Angeles and City of Hope through ThinkCure, the official charity of the Los Angeles Dodgers, has been one of the most anticipated nights in Los Angeles with thousands of fans converging on the Nokia Center, wearing their Dodgers and Bruins shirts and jackets.

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"I've been a Vin Scully fan forever," said Kelly Flannery from Whittier, Calif. "My mom went into labor with me during a Dodger game at the L.A. Coliseum in 1959, so that's why I have 59 on my jersey. Scully and Wooden are the best and I just wanted to be here in awe of all the memories of L.A. and coaching and sports and baseball."

"I'm a big Vin Scully fan," said Bob Houston, who lives in Pasadena. "It will also be an honor to listen to John Wooden for a while. I met John Wooden a few years ago and what a gentleman and Vin Scully is a national treasure, so this is going to be a special night."

"You just had to be here," said Jon Wiseman, who writes "Dodger Thoughts," a very popular blog. "Think about how long these people have been a part of Los Angeles. As far as I could tell this is the first time anything like this has happened. If you're a fan of these two teams you just had to be here."

The audience was not disappointed as Simers, Scully and Wooden were welcomed to the stage with a thunderous standing ovation. Simers started off the night asking Wooden, the legendary Wizard of Westwood, who led UCLA to 10 NCAA basketball titles in the 1960's and '70s, what he thought about the Lakers blowing a big lead in their NBA Finals game with the Boston Celtics, the night before. Scully had something to say about that.

"I'm one who is very thankful for the Lakers, exceptionally so," said the Hall of Fame broadcaster, who is working his 59th season with the Dodgers this year. "The Dodgers lost 9-0 the other day and all I hear about was the Lakers, bless you Lakers."

The two legends answered various questions by Simers, sprinkled in with video vignettes about the two men and memories from people in their lives. Bill Walton, who helped win Wooden three of his championships in the 1970s reminisced about how the coach every year would lecture his players on the proper way to put on their shoes and socks. An 11-year-old cancer survivor named Robert came out with a new pair of basketball shoes and Wooden coached him on the proper way to put them on -- even tying the laces for the young man, much to the delight of the audience.

Scully shared stories about his childhood in the Bronx and how the nuns at his catholic school would swat his left hand every time he tried to use it because in the 1930s people didn't believe being left-handed was a natural thing.

The two also talked about the first time they met 50 years ago when Scully had just arrived with the Dodgers from Brooklyn and had moved into an apartment building in Brentwood, Calif. One day he was coming home with his hands full of groceries and one of his neighbors held the door for him as he came in. That neighbor was Wooden, who lived in the building with his wife Nell.

The two also talked about personal things. Nell Wooden passed away on the 21st of the month many years ago. So on the 21st of each month, the coach writes a letter to her and for a long time piled the letters on her side of their bed. "They're no longer there," said Wooden, when asked about the letters. "They're in a place where no one can find them." Wooden continued, "she is still alive in my mind and I talk to her every day."

Scully was asked how he dealt with the hardships he's encountered in his life, that he chose not to discuss publicly.

"It took me a long time before I came to the conclusion that I stopped asking why?," said Scully. "When something bad happens your first feeling is, 'Why me? or why us? or why them?' We never seem to do that when something good happens.

"So I decided to stop asking myself why, because there are questions where there are no answers in this world for finite beings, we don't know what God's plan is, but, without asking why and holding on to it with both hands, I'm still here today with a lot to be thankful for too."

Simers would later point out to Scully that Wooden retired from coaching more than 30 years ago and asked when he would retire.

The entire audience started shouting in unison NO, NO!!!

Scully, who many have said and written would have been a great politician if he hadn't gone into broadcasting, gave the best answer he could.

"I am thrilled and grateful for every day I have to broadcast, because I just love it," said Scully. "I still get the Goosebumps every day when the crowd roars, for whatever reason, I'm looking forward to at least next year, but I remember the old thing about, 'Talk about next year and make the devil laugh,' so I would like to go just day-to-day, like we all are anyway."

Good news for baseball fans on a great night for two of the most beloved men in sports.

Ben Platt is a national correspondent for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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