LOS ANGELES — If there’s one name synonymous with the Dodgers, it’s not a player, manager or any team official. It’s Vin Scully.
For more than half a century, there hasn’t been a Dodgers game that hasn’t started for fans at home or in the stadium with, “It’s time for Dodgers baseball!”
Vin Scully began announcing games on the radio and then on television when the Dodgers were still playing in Brooklyn. He spent more time with one team than any other announcer in sports history before retiring after the 2016 season.
The Dodgers announced Vin Scully’s death in a tweet. He was 94.
It wasn’t just longevity that made Scully great. It wasn’t his knowledge of baseball – which was amazing. It was his signature voice…the poetic and philosophical side and his knack for making a personal connection with his listeners.
It was there from the beginning. One memorable time in 1957, catcher Joe Pignatano was about to make his first at-bat as a Brooklyn Dodger. During the broadcast, Scully wanted to make sure the player’s family didn’t miss out. “Say, I’ll tell you what. You might know Pignatanos. If you do, maybe his wife is taking care of the kid [and] not listening to the game. Call her. Looks like Joe’s breaking into the Major Leagues tonight.”
Veteran announcer Larry King remembered Vin Scully from his time in Brooklyn and L.A. “There’s a comfort zone. You feel at home,” King said, recalling a game one year when the Dodgers weren’t in contention. He said the sound of Scully’s voice was mesmerizing. “Minor game. I’m driving from L.A. to San Diego. I turn the game on and can’t turn it off.”
Former L.A. announcer Dodgers Vin Scully addresses fans before Game 2 of the 2017 World Series between the Houston Astros and L.A.
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Scully was as much a part of the team as the players on the field. You heard Scully’s voice coming from the radios that people brought to Dodger Stadium. Some fans, like Cary Gepner, preferred his radio play-by-play to the telecast without him. “You can listen to Vin Scully call a baseball game and not have to watch him because he paints a better picture than television has ever been able to paint. I love him.”
Vin Scully had the baseball stats ready. But he didn’t count on them. He once said, “Statistics are used much like a drunkard uses a lamp: for support, not for illumination.” They 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 was like, ‘I wonder why the background of Friday the 13th, why is it such a big deal?’ So I looked it up and it goes back to 1800 so and so.”
Between individual pitches, the fans learned something new. When the big moment happened on the field, he conveyed the excitement. And there have been many great moments in his career. 1965 – Sandy Koufax’s Perfect Game:
“One strike away. Sandy goes into his drive. Here’s the pitch. He swung and missed. Perfect play!”
1974 – Hank Aaron’s historic and record-breaking 715th home run, surpassing Babe Ruth:
Vin Scully was the announcer for Hank Aaron’s record 715th career home run against L.A. Dodgers in 1974. Scully has chronicled some of the most memorable moments in baseball history since he began his career calling Brooklyn Dodgers games in 1950.
Bob Daugherty/Associated Press
“Fastball. It’s a line drive to deep center field. Buckner goes back to the fence, he’s gone!” Scully didn’t say a word for another half minute. Accepting it while the crowd in Atlanta cheered and roared the milestone. And then, Scully said, exactly what the home run meant: “What a wonderful moment for baseball. What a wonderful moment for Atlanta and the state of Georgia. What a wonderful moment for the country and the world. A black man gets a standing ovation in the Deep South for breaking a record baseball idol of all time. And it’s a great moment for all of us.”
1988 – Dodger Kirk Gibson’s improbable home run in game one of the World Series:
“High fly to right field. She. Is. Gone!”
He also did network televised sports for CBS and NBC for years. He had a famous call from the 1986 Red Sox-Mets World Series game in which Bill Buckner let a ground ball through his legs at first base.
“Little roller up front, behind the bag. It goes by Buckner. It’s coming and the Mets win it!”
Vincent Edward Scully was born in 1927 in the Bronx. He grew up a Giants fan. But after graduating from Fordham University, he was recruited by 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 got older, he asked God if he should return 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.”
He finally decided that age had caught up with him. After 67 seasons, 2016 was his last. Before the final home stand, the team held a touching ceremony at Dodger Stadium. Finally, Scully stood up and spoke. He told the crowd that they kept him going every time they roared. And with his understated humor he answered the question “What are you going to do now?” His response was classic Scully:
“Well, you know, when you’re 65 and you retire, maybe you’ve got 20 years left to live and you should have some plans. When you’re 89 and they ask you what you are – I’m going to try to live…”
Vin Scully once said the player had an injury that made him “day by day”. Then he paused and added, “Aren’t we all?”