In moments like these where you and I can’t find the words, Mr. Vin Scully always would.
For 67 years his voice was the soundtrack of Summer.
The eloquent and rich storytelling. The soothing and measured cadence. The iconic voice that felt like home.
He spoke to all of us, in a language everyone understood, as if it were a walk in the park between two fiends. His public embracing of players from Jackie Robinson to Sandy Koufax to Fernando Valenzuela to Hideo Nomo to Yasiel Puig setting the stage for Dodger Stadium to become the most Los Angeles-centric place on the planet.
His stories, and he had plenty living 94 years and broadcasting for 67 of them, are next to none. It could be about he and Robinson racing on ice skates. Or about how he became a Giants fan because the Yankees dominated them 18-4 in a World Series game. Maybe it would be his random tangents about something he saw in the crowd. The topic almost didn’t even matter, and almost always had nothing to do with the actual game, and that was perfectly fine. You just wished for foul balls to extend the at bat so you could hear the ending.
So pull up a chair and let me try to guide you my friend through the story and career that is Vin Scully.
Mr. Scully began broadcasting at Ebbets Field in 1950, when he was a slender, red-haired 22-year-old graduate of Fordham University. The New York native had a decision to make in 1958 when the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles; his home or his career. Thankfully he followed the Dodgers. This is when the legend of Scully really began as fans at the cavernous Coliseum brought along hand-held transistor radios, recently popularized in America, so that Mr. Scully could guide them through the pioneering days of major league baseball on the West Coast.
And Scully guided the fans through it all. From Jackie Robinson’s career, to Hank Aaron’s record setting home run, to Clayton Kershaw’s career, Mr. Scully’s narration led the way.
He narrated a succession of big events of baseball history, and knew when to remain quiet.
He was at the microphone in 1955 when the Brooklyn Dodgers won their only World Series championship, and in 1956 when Don Larsen of the Yankees pitched a perfect game against the Dodgers in the World Series.
When Hank Aaron of the Braves hit his 715th home run, breaking Babe Ruth’s record, on April 8, 1974, in Atlanta against the Dodgers, Mr. Scully said simply: “To the fence. It is gone.”
He then walked to the back of the broadcast booth, took his headset off, had a sip of coffee and waited as the roar of the crowd resounded.
Finally, he returned to the microphone: “What a marvelous moment for baseball. What a marvelous moment for Atlanta and the State of Georgia. What a marvelous moment for the country and the world. A Black man is getting a standing ovation in the Deep South for breaking a record of an all-time baseball idol.”
When an injured Kirk Gibson pinch-hit a game-winning home run for the Dodgers against the Oakland A’s in the opener of the 1988 World Series at Dodger Stadium, Mr. Scully observed, “In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened.”
While continuing to call Dodger games, Mr. Scully covered pro football and golf for CBS-TV in the late 1970s and early ’80s. He handled baseball’s Game of the Week, the World Series, the playoffs and the All-Star Game for NBC-TV in the ’80s. He covered the World Series for CBS Radio in the ’90s.
In his final Season, Mr. Scully made sure to give his same broadcast to his “fiends” who pulled up a chair, but he was also able to soak in the moments, particularly in his final send off.
Throughout his last season at the microphone, in 2016, the tributes flowed.
Visiting players, managers and umpires came up to Dodger Stadium’s Vin Scully Press Box, named for him in 2001, to convey good wishes and sometimes tell of listening to his broadcasts in their youth.
When the Dodgers opened their final regular-season home series of 2016, against the Colorado Rockies, Mr. Scully was honored at home plate. “When you roar, when you cheer, when you are thrilled for a brief moment, I’m 8 years old again,” he told the crowd. “You have allowed me to be young at heart. I owe you everything.”
His last broadcast came on Oct. 2, the final Sunday of the regular season, when the Dodgers played the Giants in San Francisco. The fans waved cards reading “Thank you, Vin” and cheered when Mr. Scully, heard over Dodger TV and radio stations but also over the Giants’ stadium loudspeaker, intoned, “It’s time for Dodger baseball.”
Willie Mays, the Giants’ Hall of Fame center fielder, was in the press box for the unveiling of a plaque honoring Mr. Scully.
When the last out was recorded, he signed off for the final time:
“You know, 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 tell you what I wish for you,” Scully, who became a baseball fan at the age of 8, said. “May God give you, for every storm, a rainbow; for every tear, a smile; for every care, a promise; and a blessing in each trial. For every problem life seems, a faithful friend to share; for every sigh, a sweet song, and an answer for each prayer,” the Hall of Fame broadcaster said at the age of 88.
But even after signing off for the final time, the honors continued to flow.
A month after Mr. Scully’s retirement, President Barack Obama presented him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom at a White House ceremony.
“Most play-by-play announcers partner with an analyst in the booth to chat about the action,” Mr. Obama said. “Vin worked alone and talked just with us. When he heard about this honor, Vin asked with characteristic humility: ‘Are you sure? I’m just an old baseball announcer.’ And we had to inform him that to Americans of all ages, you are an old friend.”
Before the Dodgers faced the Houston Astros in Game 2 of the 2017 World Series at Dodger Stadium, Mr. Scully walked to the mound to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.
And when you think all-time Dodgers the list of names you think before Mr. Scully is short. It is rare for any franchise to have a spot of their Mt. Rushmore be a broadcaster, evermore so when it is a storied franchise like the Dodgers. But that is how big Mr. Scully is. He is Mr. Dodger, the voice of a franchise and a family face fro generation to take comfort in.
Through it all, for nearly seven decades, for the millions who heard him for a minute or for a lifetime, he kept sharing and embracing. In return, he was at once revered like an icon and loved like a grandfather.
So to sign off the way Mr. Scully would
Rest In Peace, Vin Scully, wherever you may be.
I hope it is calling a baseball game on a sunny afternoon with your all-time favorites taking the field.
October 2, 2016. Vin Scully signs off for the final time. 💙 pic.twitter.com/R85tgy1bHB
— MLB (@MLB) August 3, 2022