“It’s Dodger baseball time!” Hello everyone and a very pleasant good evening to you, wherever you are. This is how the legendary Vin Scully greeted countless thousands of Dodgers fans every time they watched or listened to a game. His gift made every listener/viewer feel like he was your buddy, the guy sitting next to you at the game or in a bar or whatever. Vin made everyone feel special because that’s who he was.
Now, sadly, it’s time to talk about the passing of an absolute legend. Scully died earlier this week at the age of 94. Scrolling through Twitter and reading the reactions to his death, there’s a theme I’ve noticed. Most everyone who watched or listened to it, Dodgers fan or not, says they feel like they’ve lost a friend. Not that Vin’s career needs validation, but to me, that’s the mark of a great broadcaster. To be there through the ups and downs and be a trusted voice people could rely on whether they were having a bad day or a good day.
Vin’s passing leaves a void in our industry that will never be filled. I say that, not just because he was the greatest baseball game announcer to ever break a mic, but because he was a great person. He apparently had time for everyone. Even a green around the gills play-by-play apprentice, me.
In 2004, when I was with the Cubs broadcast team, we took our annual trip to Los Angeles. I had traveled with the team for a few years by then, but had never had the chance to meet Scully. I mentioned it casually in the cabin one afternoon. Pat Hughes, Ron Santo and our producer Matt Boltz started talking about Wine. Hughes said something like, let’s go visit him after the game. I didn’t think of it. But of course, after the post-game show, Pat beckoned me to come with him. I admit I was nervous. Out of character, I didn’t know what I was going to say to him. I even had a baseball with me for him to sign. Such a geek.
We walked through the Dodger Stadium press dining room and hidden in one of the back corners was a door marked “Private.” Pat and I walked into the private Dodgers broadcasters’ dining room and there was Vin and the rest of the team. Pat was immediately greeted by the guys and started introducing everyone to me. He saved Vin for last. The ever-graceful Scully rose from his chair and held out his hand. I will never forget what he said and in his smooth voice I can still hear it. “Nice to meet you Andy, I understand you’ve been doing part by part, how’s it going?” Dumbfounded, I managed to speak and told him it was a work in progress, but I was glad to have the chance. He told me to carry on and shook my hand. He then noticed the baseball in my hand and asked me if I wanted him to sign it. The fanboy in me shook his head and I still have this ball in my collection.
I moved to San Diego and saw Vin several times. I almost literally “bumped” it before a Dodgers/Padres game at Petco Park. Vin would roam the halls of the broadcast area to “warm up” before a show. I marveled at this man, who apparently still had that nervous energy that we all feel before going on air. He was walking up and down humming, not loudly, but with enough volume that you could hear him. He told me this is how he exercises his voice while preparing for a match. It was amazing to see and hear and then get the explanation.
Scully was a decorated man, winning many awards. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982, receiving the Ford C. Frick Award. He received a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016 and his microphone was retired by the Dodgers.
This great gentleman broadcast baseball for 67 years. Starting in Brooklyn in 1950 and ending in Los Angeles in 2016. Scully worked for CBS and NBC during his career and not only covered baseball, but on CBS he called NFL games from 1975 to 1982. On his last televised appearance for the network, he was on call for the NFC Championship Game, when Joe Montana hit Dwight Clark in the end zone for “the catch” that put the 49ers in the Super Bowl. He was also on the network’s golf coverage as well as tennis.
At NBC, he did baseball and he did it well of course. He’s called four All-Star Games, four NLCS and three World Series. Scully had some memorable calls during the Fall Classic. Scully provided the call for one of baseball’s most memorable plays when Bill Buckner’s mistake in the 10e in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series gave the Mets an unlikely victory over the Red Sox:
“Small roll first. Behind the bag! It goes through Buckner! Here comes Knight, and the Mets win him! “
Scully also called Kirk Gibson’s famous home run in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series:
“High-flying ball in right field, she’s…gone!” »
Scully said nothing for over a minute, allowing the images to tell the story. Finally, he said:
“In a year that has been so unlikely… the impossible has happened!”
Long before those times, he was part of so many legendary and unforgettable calls with the Dodgers. When he retired, Dodgers fans voted for his greatest calls of all time. There are too many to list here, but a couple immediately come to mind.
Scully had a flair for the English language. He said things in a way that made the listener/viewer feel like they were there with him. He has created a scene unlike any other broadcaster. Take for example the 9e inning of Sandy Koufax’s perfect game in 1965, a 1-0 win over the Cubs at Dodger Stadium.
When Koufax knocked out Harvey Kuenn for the match finale, here’s what Scully said to paint the picture as perfectly as Koufax painted the corners that night:
“You can almost feel the pressure now,” he said at the start of the ninth inning. “…There are 29,000 people in the stadium and a million butterflies.”
“It’s 9:46 p.m.,” Scully said. “Two and two to Harvey Kuenn. A shot from afar. Sandy in his liquidation, here is the field… swung and missed, a perfect match!
There was then 38-40 seconds of nothing but the noise of the crowd.
“On the right field bulletin board, it is 9:46 p.m. in the City of Angels, Los Angeles, California. And a crowd of 29,139 seated to see the only pitcher in baseball history to pitch four games without a hit or a run, and he’s done it four straight years. And now he’s capped it; on his fourth no-hitter, he made it a perfect game.
Great. Simple, but amazing. The first of three perfect games called by Scully came in the 1956 World Series. Don Larsen faced the Dodgers in the Bronx and as the game entered the 9e round, Scully epically described the feeling of tension that built at Yankee Stadium.
“Well, okay, let’s take a deep breath as we head into the most dramatic ninth inning in baseball history,” he said.
Scully later described Yankee Stadium “shivering in its concrete foundation” as 64,517 fans hung on each field.
When Larsen hit Dale Mitchell on a third strike called to end the game, Scully said, “I got it! Greatest game ever pitched in baseball history by Don Larsen, a no-hitter, a perfect game in a World Series.
“When you put it in a World Series, you put the biggest diamond in the biggest ring,” Scully said.
Scully was the gem of the greatest genre. I heard many words used to describe the man when he died. Gentleman, kind, warm and friendly are some of them. To me, Vin has always shown class. Even as his final game in the Dodgers’ booth drew to a close, he said eloquently for so long:
“You know, my friends, so many people have wished me congratulations on a 67-year career in baseball, and they’ve wished me a wonderful retirement with my family, and now all I can do is… is to tell you what I wish for you. . May God give you, for every storm, a rainbow; for every tear, a smile; for every care, a promise; and a blessing in every trial. For every problem life seems to have, a faithful friend to share; for every sigh, a sweet song and an answer for every prayer. You and I have been friends for a long time, but I know, in my heart, I’ve always needed you more than you’ve ever needed me, and I’ll miss our time together more than I can say. But you know what, there will be be a new day and possibly a new year, and when the coming winter gives way to spring, ooh, rest assured, once again it will be Dodger baseball time. So, it’s Vin Scully wishing you a good afternoon, wherever you are.
A year after his signing, the Dodgers qualified for the World Series for the first time in 29 years. Dodgers fans have started a petition for him to come out of retirement and call the games on Fox. Joe Buck was even on board. Scully declined, preferring to lay low instead. “Honestly, I feel out of place and wouldn’t want anyone to think I was looking forward to being in the spotlight.” Scully said. He added: “I’ve done enough.”
I think any of us who have met, watched or listened to him over the years would disagree with that last statement. You could never tire of the great Vincent Edward Scully. Fortunately, his voice lives on through audio recordings and YouTube videos to show the younger generation how it was done. And done so well for so many years. It’s always hard to say goodbye to someone you feel like you know, even if you never had the chance to meet them.
Vin, I raise a microphone to you. Thank you for your kindness and for the gift you have given us all. I wish you a peaceful rest. And we all know where you will be, in our hearts and fondest memories forever.