LOS ANGELES – If one of the names is synonymous with the Dodgers, it is not a player, manager, or team official. This is Vince Scully.
For more than half a century, there was no Dodgers game that didn’t begin with fans at home or in the stadium chanting: “It’s time for Dodger baseball!”
Vin Scully began announcing games on the radio and then on television when the Dodgers still played in Brooklyn. He spent more time with a team than any other announcer in sports history, before retiring after the 2016 season.
The Dodgers announced the death of Vince Scully in a tweet. He was 94 years old.
It wasn’t just longevity that made Scully great. It wasn’t his baseball knowledge – that was prodigious. It was his distinctive voice…a poetic and philosophical side, and his talent for making personal connections with listeners.
It was there from the beginning. A memorable time in 1957, catcher Joe Pignatano was coming in for his first at-bat as the Brooklyn Dodgers. During the broadcast, Scully wanted to make sure the player’s family was not left out. “Say what I tell you. You might know Pignatanos. If you do, maybe his wife is taking care of the baby [and] and isn’t listening to the game. Call her. It sounds like Joe Tonight is going to break into the Major Leagues.”
Veteran broadcaster Larry King recalled Vin Scully from his time in both Brooklyn and L.A. “There’s a comfort zone. You feel at home,” King recalled playing a year in when the Dodgers were out of contention. He said the sound of Scully’s voice was mesmerizing. “A meaningless game. I’m driving from LA to San Diego. I turn on the game and I can’t turn it off.”
Vince Scully was as much a part of the team as the players on the field. You could hear Scully’s voice coming from the radio people brought to Dodger Stadium. Some fans, such as Carrie Gepner, preferred her radio play-by-play rather than a TV broadcast without her. “You can hear Vin Scully say a baseball game and you don’t have to watch the game because he paints a better picture than television. I love him.”
Vince Scully had baseball figures ready. But he was not dependent on them. He once said, “Statistics are used much like a drunkard uses a lamp post: for support, not for illumination.” Those were the stories he told. They came from baseball, from Shakespeare, from anything he was curious about. Here’s an example from an interview with member station KPCC: “We were playing Friday the 13th and I thought, ‘I wonder why Friday the 13th has the background, why is this such a big deal?’ So I looked at it and it went back to 1800 and so on.”
So, between pitches, fans learned something new. When there was a big moment on the field, he expressed excitement. And there were many big moments in his career. 1965—A perfect game offered by Sandy Koufax:
“One strike away. Sandy goes to his windup. Here’s the pitch. Swing and misses. A perfect game!”
1974 – Hank Aaron’s historic and record-breaking 715th home run to surpass Babe Ruth:
“Fastball. It’s line drive into deep centerfield. Buckner goes back to the fence, it’s gone!” For the next half minute, Scully didn’t say a word. Taking it in, the Atlanta crowd rejoiced and the milestone roared. And then, Scully said, what that homerun really meant was, “What an amazing moment for baseball. What a wonderful moment for Atlanta and the state of Georgia. What a wonderful moment for the country and the world. To a black man.” Have to stand up. Cheerleader in the Deep South to break the record for an all-time baseball idol. And it’s a great moment for all of us.”
1988 – Dodger Kirk Gibson’s impossible pinch hits a home run in a World Series game:
“High Fly Ball to Right Field. She. Is. Gone!”
For years, he also did network TV sports for CBS and NBC. He had the famous call of the 1986 Red Sox-Mates World Series game in which Bill Buckner delivered a ground ball through his feet at first base.
“Little roller first up, back of the bag. It gets through Buckner. Come here and the Mets win it!”
Vincent Edward Scully was born in the Bronx in 1927. He grew up a Giants fan. But after graduating from Fordham University, he was recruited by the legendary broadcaster Red Barber.
Scully moved to the West Coast with the Dodgers in 1958. Later in his career, he cut back on travel. A devout Roman Catholic, as he grew older, he would ask God whether to come back for another year. God may have said yes, but Scully was happy to do it. “I’m so happy to be here. I know it sounds goofy and I’m probably a little goofy. But I’m honestly happy and deeply grateful.”
In the end, he decided that age had gone with him. After 67 seasons, 2016 was his last. Before the final home stand, the team held a moving ceremony at Dodger Stadium. Finally, Scully got up and spoke. He told the crowd that they would let him go every time he roared. And, with his underrated humour, he answered the question “What are you going to do now?” His answer was classic Scully:
“Well, you know, if you’re 65 and you retire you might have 20 years of life left and you might have some better plans. When you’re 89 and They ask you what you are – I’m gonna try to live…”
Vin Scully once said that it takes an injury to a player that makes him “day-to-day”. Then he stopped and said, “Aren’t we all?”
News Source: npr.org