“It’s time for Dodger baseball! Hi, everybody, and a very pleasant good evening to you, wherever you may be.”
Do you remember your grandpa’s voice? If you’re fortunate to still have a grandfather who’s alive, take a moment and call him. Whether the voice that comes through the other end of the line is raspy or deep, crystal clear or slightly jumbled, you can immediately picture countless memories of times spent with your family patriarch as soon as his first words hit your ears. It’s truly amazing how the human mind can so quickly turn the audible into the visual, transforming the sounds of the past into the pictures that run so vividly in front of your mind’s eye. When it’s the sounds of another person’s voice that make us see things so clearly, well, we call that talent. It is a gift that Vin Scully has never been short on in any of his eighty-eight years on this earth. And in emulating his seemingly meandering, but very deliberate way, I have brought you to the beginning of one of the most sincere and heartfelt good-byes of my childhood.
Vincent Edward Scully, born in the Bronx and a graduate of Fordham University, is a New York man to his core. Recruited to the Brooklyn Dodgers’ radio and television booths in 1950 by Hall of Fame announcer Red Barber, Vin has served as the voice of the organization for the past 67 years. The eighty-eight-year-old Scully is the epitome of resilience with a career spanning seven decades, nine ownership groups, twelve managers, thousands of players, and a transition across the continent. Tommy Lasorda aside, Vin is the Dodgers. All it takes is one word of his broadcast to remind you why he’s so much more.
Any fan that has spent sufficient time listening to Scully has a favorite story of the man behind the mic. With sixty-seven years of broadcasts to choose from, the specific moments each fan remembers vary substantially. He’s well known as the voice behind Kirk Gibson’s home run call in the 1988 World Series and Sandy Koufax’s perfect game in 1965. However, he’s transcended the Dodgers and baseball itself, calling Hank Aaron’s record-breaking 715th career home run, Bill Buckner’s infamous error in the 1986 World Series, and the first night game ever played at Wrigley Field. Vin is also responsible for one of the most famous calls in football history, bringing NFL fans a play-by-play of “The Catch” that propelled Dwight Clark and the San Francisco Forty-Niners past the Dallas Cowboys in the 1981 NFC Championship Game. Having called a number of golf, tennis, and football events throughout his storied career, Scully’s voice has further transcended sports in general.
As for most fans familiar with Vinny’s broadcasts, his most memorable moments are not the ones that the mainstream media remembers. Our favorite memories are the little stories and phrases Scully weaves throughout his nightly play-by-play, leaving the viewer with a tapestry of baseball history by the end of the game. His memory remains impeccable at the age of eighty-eight, spewing forth its vast wealth of baseball knowledge and personal anecdotes that accumulate over seven decades in the booth. There are very few situations in a game that Scully hasn’t seen before. For more than sixty years, Vin has diligently researched home and opposing players alike, digging up little-known facts on Hall of Famers, rookies, and everyone in between. (Did you know that outfielder Jonny Gomes survived a wolf attack when he was twelve years old? Neither did I.) In one of many tributes to the legend in his final season, fellow Dodgers’ color commentator Rick Monday described Scully’s on-air presence best:
“Vinny can start a story with two strikes and two outs, because the game seems to slow down just to hear his story be completed.”
If only the season could slow down just to hear Scully call a few more games…
I first heard Vin when I was seven years old, after my family upped and replanted its Chicago roots in sunny Southern California. I fell in love with the Dodgers that summer of 2001, and I’ve bled Dodger (not Cubby) Blue ever since. Vin was, in some ways, one of the first friends I made in California, as I began following my team religiously. As I think of my favorite childhood memories, I can’t help but remember how his broadcasts became an integral part of my summers. My nightly routine involved dragging my blankets and pillows down the hall to my parents’ bedroom, where I’d set up camp in front of the small, square television set that sat in the corner of the room. I’d stay up for the entire game, start to finish, with a notebook and the boxscores from the day’s newspaper by my side, watching the game and simultaneously taking note of players I thought the Dodgers should acquire. (Since I was eight years old, I have always wanted to be a Major League general manager.) Each game was a new adventure with Vin behind the mic, as you were never quite sure where his next story was going to take you. I undoubtedly hung on every word he said, both because of how much I loved the Dodgers and because of how much his broadcasts fostered my love for baseball. I attribute nearly everything I know about the game to my father, my coaches, and Vin Scully.
While my relationship with baseball and with the Dodgers has changed over the years, a visit to Chavez Ravine this past May and a desire to watch as many of Vin’s broadcasts as possible in his final year have brought me back to that place where the game once again holds a special place in my heart. Thanks to Vinny, I have once again connected with my team and with so many childhood memories that I had forgotten for so long. Without even trying Vin Scully continues to transcend sports.
His legacy is astounding, his impact undeniable. Perhaps the most ironic thing about the legend is that his greatest calls have become so memorable for the poignant silences Vinny leaves after incredible moments, when all you can hear is the roar of the crowd. Whether you’re watching on TV or listening on the radio, he lets you soak in the moment with the thousands of fans in attendance. So when I hear Vin’s call for the last time, much like the first thousand times before it, I will try to soak in every second I can. And I know that thanks to my “old friend,” I will once again be transported back into that place where so much magic lives.