This was a piece I knew would have to be written one day, but I’m probably not the only writer who wasn’t prepared to write it just now. It became inevitable last night when, right before bedtime I read that Vin Scully had passed away, at age 94. He spent 67 of those years broadcasting for the Dodgers, first in Brooklyn, then in Los Angeles.
Everybody will have the basics, from Ken Rosenthal to Jeff Kallman. So I’ve been asking myself what a small time writer like me can say about an icon.
Vin Scully learned his trade on radio station WFUV at Fordham University. For a long time, they were the gold standard for college radio. As a matter of fact, Scully is listed as one of the station’s founders. They no longer broadcast sports on the air, but when they did, WFUV produced the Yankees’ Michael Kay and Ryan Ruocco, the Nationals’ Charlie Slowes and the Knicks’ Mike Breen.
When I found baseball, in 1971 at age 8, it wasn’t possible to hear Vin Scully, the Dodgers’ broadcaster from my home in New Jersey. It was unimaginable that one day anybody would be able to hear any baseball game from anywhere in the country. Such an idea was science fiction then. Vin Scully wouldn’t pull up a chair on the NBC Game of the Week for a few years yet. Who knows when I might have heard him if he hadn’t broadcast the National League playoffs in 1971 and 1973. He and Bob Gibson were the broadcast team on a patched-together radio network that didn’t cover the country since the playoffs lacked the cachet of the World Series. Many years later, I would say I had to grow into Vin Scully. That might not have been the case if I lived in the Los Angeles area where fans by the thousands brought their transistor radios to hear him describe the games.
He didn’t call either the 1977 or the 1978 World Series when the Yankees beat the Dodgers. His broadcast partner Ross Porter called the games on CBS radio. A year later though, Scully and Sparky Anderson carried the World Series as Pittsburgh beat the Orioles in 7 games. By then, I was old enough to understand more of the things Scully said during his broadcasts. Going forward, if he wasn’t doing CBS radio, he was calling the Game of the Week, the All-Star game or the World Series on TV. He was notably unimpressed when Morgana, the Kissing Bandit made an appearance during the All-Star game in Seattle in 1979. She kissed George Brett, but for Scully the highlight was the cops leading her off the field.
I rarely watch baseball on TV if I can hear it on radio. Game 1 of the 1988 World Series was an exception. Vin Scully and Joe Garagiola were calling it on NBC, and with my first Seeing Eye dog at my side I watched the game in our living room. The Oakland A’s scored all 4 runs they would score on a grand slam early in the game. The Dodgers manufactured the 3 runs they had as they went to the 9th inning. With two out and a man on, Kirk Gibson limped to home plate. All night, the talk on both radio and TV had been that he wouldn’t appear in the World Series at all because of two injured legs. Later, we would hear that he spent some time in the tunnel under the stadium trying to warm up so he could be available if he was the only option. His atbat lasted nearly 9 agonizing minutes. What the world remembers is the last 3 words Scully said after the ball was hit, “She is gone.”
NBC lost the TV rights to the World Series, and for most of the 1990’s Vin Scully and Johnny Bench called the action on CBS radio. The most memorable game during those years was game 4 of the 1993 World Series. The Phillies were hosting the Toronto Blue Jays.
The game broke all records for scoring in a World Series game. The Blue Jays mounted a 6-run rally in the 8th inning to pull out a 15-14 win. Somehow, drawing on over 50 years of experience, Scully called it right down the middle, as Red Barber taught him to.
While his career in Los Angeles would continue through 2016, he drew a line in the sand when it came to the World Series. In fact, you could say he drew a line in the snow. The series featured the Florida Marlins and the Cleveland Indians, and the host cities showed the weather they are known for. The four games in Miami were played under delightful warm conditions. The 3 games in Cleveland should have been part of the Winter Olympics. That was all Vin Scully needed. He let it be known that he would never broadcast another World Series … and he never did.
The Dodgers celebrated the end of Scully’s career with a night in his honor on Friday night, September 23, 2016. Two days later, he was calling the TV coverage for his final home game, which the Dodgers won with solo home runs in the 9th and 10th innings. Can you imagine a better way to call it a career.
R I P Vin Scully. To say you’ll be missed doesn’t cover it. Nothing does.0