Homage to Vin Scully
Vin Scully singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”
Credit: anniemack on Flickr
“What baseball is to America, Scully is to baseball.”
—Doug Gamble, Orange County Register
Vincent Edward “Vin” Scully is an American sportscaster best known as the voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Now 88, Scully will retire at the end of the 2016 season. As his retirement approached, Scully was accorded praise that is rare in any profession—let alone for a play-by-play baseball announcer.
“Vin Scully is only the finest, most-listened-to baseball broadcaster that ever lived,” wrote Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated in May, “and even that honorific does not approach proper justice to the man. He ranks with Walter Cronkite among America’s most-trusted media personalities, with Frank Sinatra and James Earl Jones among its most-iconic voices, and with Mark Twain, Garrison Keillor and Ken Burns among its preeminent storytellers.”
Born in the Bronx on November 27, 1927, Scully came to the game as a fan of the New York Giants and a college outfielder for Fordham University. Scully actually began announcing in uniform. As Scully recently told an interviewer: “I played center field, and I would stand out there and actually call pitches and anything that took place in front of me. I couldn’t say, ‘I’m going back on a fly ball,’ but I could talk about, ‘There’s a ground ball to shortstop, and a throw to first in time for the out.’ I could do that kind of stuff, while I was standing in center field. I would do it out loud. There was an elderly priest who used to sit in the bleachers, and he used to always tease me about doing the ballgame out loud.”
Scully, Fordham class of 1949, played center field in a Fordham-Yale game during which George Herbert Walker Bush played the opposing first base. “Mr. President,” Scully once said to Bush during a golf round when Bush was president, “as long as you’re in the White House, remember, you can say anything you want about your baseball career, but remember the day that we played each other, we both went 0-for-3.”
After graduation, Scully worked as an intern for a radio station in Washington, D.C., where his voice was first heard by a larger audience. In November 1949, when Ernie Harwell, one of three announcers working for the Brooklyn Dodgers, departed for a job with the rival New York Giants, Red Barber, the legendary voice of the Dodgers, offered Scully a job. And Scully accepted—for $5,000 a year.
In his first game in the Dodgers broadcast booth on April 18, 1950, the club’s lineup included Hall of Famers Roy Campanella, Pee Wee Reese, Duke Snider, and Jackie Robinson. The game was in Philadelphia’s Shibe Park, and the rookie broadcaster shared the booth with Barber and Connie Desmond.
When the Dodgers left Brooklyn for Los Angeles in 1957, Scully went with them as the voice of the team. For many in Southern California, Vin was the teacher who taught the finer points of the game. He was at once entertaining and erudite, not afraid to quote from Shakespeare or allude to a lyric from a Broadway show. His voice was welcoming and his words were delivered with a soothing cadence. “It’s time for Dodger baseball!” was his opening line followed by “Hi, everybody, and a very pleasant good (afternoon/evening) to you, wherever you may be.”
The move was important both for Scully and the franchise. “He’s the glue between the Brooklyn and Los Angeles franchises, and all the generations who have enjoyed him will never forget him,” Dodgers team historian Mark Langill said recently. “The franchise could not have had a better transition from one coast to another without him and he can seamlessly talk about both sides of it as a witness instead of reading something out of a book.”
“More than anyone, Scully made the Dodgers successful in Los Angeles,” Dodgers General Manager Buzzie Bavasi wrote in his memoir Off the Record. “He was the biggest asset we had coming to California.”
In Los Angeles, Scully’s reputation grew to the point where the late Jerry Coleman deemed him the only broadcaster he knew who was bigger than the players. “He’s the Babe Ruth of the broadcasting business,” Coleman declared.
In addition to the Dodgers, Scully announced play-by-play for the World Series, All-Star Games, Game of the Week, NFL games, and PGA Tour events, exposing his voice and broadcasting style to viewers from coast to coast. All told, he called 25 World Series and 12 All-Star Games over the course of his career.
In 1998, Scully retired from national broadcasting to concentrate solely on broadcasting for the Dodgers, where he has remained ever since and created a legacy that extended from Jackie Robinson to Clayton Kershaw.
Source: The Trading Card Database
Why Scully is so important and so beloved is difficult to explain to those who have never heard him call a game—other than to say his command of the language and the game is so masterful that he always seems to have just the right words and the right tone to describe what’s going on.
A few examples of Scully at his best:
“It’s a passing of a great American institution. It is sad. I really and truly feel that. It will leave a vast window, to use a Washington word, where people will not get major league baseball, and I think that’s a tragedy.”
—Quoted in The Sporting News, October 9, 1989, from his last broadcast of Game of the Week. Scully said this as the longtime announcer of NBC’s Game of the Week telecasts, reflecting on the end of a 32-year weekend tradition as CBS and ESPN take over coverage of Major League baseball.
“Football is to baseball as blackjack is to bridge. One is the quick jolt, the other the deliberate, slow-paced game of skill. But never was a sport more ideally suited to television than baseball. It’s all there in front of you. It’s theatre, really. The star is the spotlight on the mound, the supporting cast fanned out around him, the mathematical precision of the game moving with the kind of inevitability of Greek tragedy. With the Greek chorus in the bleachers!”
–Quoted in the Los Angeles Times, June 20, 1976.
“It’s a mere moment in a man’s life between an All-Star game and an old-timers game.”
—During the 1980 Major League Baseball All-Star Game held at Dodger Stadium.
“I would think that the mound at Dodger Stadium right now is the loneliest place in the world.”
—As Sandy Koufax stood four strikes away from a perfect game, broadcasting from Dodger Stadium, September 9, 1965.
“The Yankees have done it. They have marched through Georgia and it seems to me history told us about that once before, the last time led by Sherman, tonight by Joe Torre.”
—From CBS radio quoted in the Washington Post, October 26, 1996. Leonard Shapiro of the Post commented: “Sports writing 101 teaches that any comparison between games and war be avoided. And yet, coming from Scully, doing the Series play-by-play for CBS Radio, it provided the perfect ending to a game exceeded in drama perhaps only by the events of the previous night, when the Yankees won in 10 innings.”
“The ability to throw 100 mph cannot be taught, cannot be learned, it can only be God-given.”
—Commenting on Kenley Jansen’s first pitching appearance in the MLB on July 24, 2010.
“He pitches as though he’s double-parked.”
—Quoted in Baseball Digest, September 1972, while watching fast-working Bob Gibson of the St. Louis Cardinals mow down the Dodgers, 4–0, in a game.
“How good was Stan Musial? He was good enough to take your breath away.”
—Dodger telecast, summer of 1989.
One night in 2010, Scully suffered what doctors later diagnosed as a vasovagal episode; he stood up too fast, got dizzy, fainted, and fell, hitting his head. Eighty-two-year-old Scully was back in the broadcast booth just days later. When asked by a reporter if doctors had recommended any restrictions on his activities, he replied, “I’m supposed to cut back on dangling participles and I’m not allowed to split an infinitive for at least another week, but otherwise, no.”
—Jim Peltz, writing for the Los Angeles Times.
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