More Remembrances of Broadcaster Vin Scully

From The Poynter Report with Tom Jones:

You could make an argument that Vin Scully is the best sports broadcaster of all time. There really is no debate that he is the best baseball announcer to ever live.

In an obituary for The Los Angeles Times, David Wharton wrote, “The way Vin Scully called a baseball game, it felt like bumping into an old friend. There were stories to tell and memories to share, his soothing banter as familiar as green grass and warm breezes on a sunny afternoon.”

Between pitches, Scully could expertly and entertainingly weave in stories touching every and any topic, and yet he made sure the listener never was at a loss for what was happening in the game. Scully once used an at-bat by an Arizona Diamondbacks player named Socrates Brito to talk about hemlock, which poisoned the philosopher Socrates in 399 B.C.

Or check out this video of Scully telling a story about San Francisco Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner and rattlesnakes and jackrabbits, while never losing track of the details of the game. It’s classic Scully, as is this story of a player who survived a wolf attackas a kid.

Scully never missed even a pitch in between his compelling storytelling.

Scully began calling Dodgers games in 1950 when they played at Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field. He was only 22 at the time. He moved across the country when the Dodgers relocated to Los Angeles in 1958 and continued as the voice of the franchise until his retirement in 2016. That’s 67 years as the Dodgers’ announcer.

Scully was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982 — and then continued broadcasting for 34 more years! In 2016, President Barack Obama gave him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Los Angeles Times’ sports columnist Bill Plaschke wrote, “He was more than a sports announcer; he became the most trusted public figure in this city’s history. He was not only the greatest Dodger broadcaster, he was the greatest Los Angeles Dodger, period.”

In addition to calling Dodgers games, Scully also called baseball and football nationally for NBC and CBS, and he was behind the microphone for some of sports’ most legendary moments.

In 1974, he called Hank Aaron’s 715th home run to break the then-all-time record held by Babe Ruth. Scully’s call on that homer, like many of his calls, was not about him. It was about the moment. He simply said, “To the fence. It is gone.” After letting viewers enjoy the moment, Scully added the proper perspective, saying “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.”

Near the end of Sandy Koufax’s perfect game in 1965, Scully said, “You can almost taste the pressure now. There are 29,000 people in the ballpark, and a million butterflies.”

He called Kirk Gibson’s stunning homer to win Game 1 of the 1988 World Series, punctuating it by saying, “In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened.”

As Gibson circled the bases and Dodger Stadium went wild, Scully didn’t speak for more than a minute, letting fans soak in and comprehend one of the most thrilling moments in major league history. ESPN baseball writer Tim Kurkjian said on the air Wednesday, “He was such a regal and elegant man. And his use of the English language was absolutely breathtaking. And he also knew when not to speak.”

Scully captured the New York Mets beating the then-still-cursed Boston Red Sox in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series after what seemed like a harmless ground ball went through the legs of Boston first baseman Bill Bucker. His call, getting more excited and louder with each word: “So the winning run is at second base … with two out … 3 and 2 to Mookie Wilson. Little roller up along first … behind the bag! It gets through Buckner! Here comes Knight, and THE METS WIN IT!”

After letting viewers and listeners soak in the sights and sounds, Scully perfectly summed it up by saying, “If one picture is worth a thousand words, you have seen about a million words.”

The New York Times’ Jonathan Ellis put together five of Scully’s most famous calls.

While Scully’s broadcasting is synonymous with baseball, he also is one of the most underrated football announcers ever. Despite the fact that the pace of a football game is so much quicker than baseball, Scully had no problem making the transition and, again with a sparse use of just the right words, he allowed the game to take center stage.

His most famous football call was Dwight Clark’s “The Catch” to lead the San Francisco 49ers over the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC Championship Game following the 1981 season. After announcing that Clark had caught the winning touchdown pass, Scully didn’t speak for a half minute before saying, “It’s a madhouse at Candlestick!” — referring to the home stadium of the 49ers.

And it wasn’t just great plays where Scully was at his best. Check out this clip where the Dodgers throw the ball around like a bad Little League team. Or this clip when he translates (and cleans up) what a manager who was ejected is screaming at the umpires.

For nearly 70 years, Scully’s style never became outdated and he achieved something that is truly a rarity even among the best of broadcasters: He seemed to be universally loved by those who listened to him. Also just as rare from someone who talked that much for that long: He never said anything that got him in trouble or embarrassed himself, his employers or anyone else.

The Washington Post’s Marc Fisher wrote, “He was something that’s pretty much vanished from the American landscape: a genial truth teller, well-liked because he was honest, beloved because he was reliable, trusted because he loathed phonies, frauds and showboats as much as his audience did. Vin Scully’s act never fell out of fashion because it wasn’t an act and it was never in fashion.”

Fisher added, “What he delivered each night through six decades as the voice of the Dodgers — really, the voice of baseball; no, really, the voice of the nation — was a clear, unvarnished report of what happened, along with plain-spoken pearls of wisdom about what it all meant. He issued each night a fanfare for the common man, an American anthem of constancy that never flinched from controversy but never hyped anything either.”

The Wall Street Journal’s Bruce Orwall wrote, “As the team, and broadcasting, changed, Scully remained reassuringly the same. He unfurled long, conversational stories, sometimes lasting several innings, in a style that felt like a good friend describing the game rather than a far-off announcer. On Dodgers broadcasts in later years, he typically worked alone, with no one to banter with but himself. His style was rooted in radio broadcasting, which favored languid exposition over hyperbole.”

On a national level, Scully called 25 World Series and 12 baseball All-Star Games. He was NBC’s lead baseball announcer for most of the 1980s. He also called golf.

But he will always be most remembered for baseball and his work with the Dodgers, as well as his connection with Southern California.

Los Angeles Times columnist Gustavo Arellano wrote, “That sobbing you’re hearing is hundreds of thousands of Latinos in Southern California mourning the loss of one of our own. Along with the late Kobe Bryant — another local sports legend with a huge Latino fan base — no other non-Latino Southern California luminary will ever evoke the same emotion among us. Vin Scully was more than just the soundtrack of our lives. He was our lives.”

How big was Scully in Los Angeles? In 2020, the Los Angeles Times ran a March Madness-style bracket where readers voted to determine the biggest icon in L.A. sports history. Scully won, defeating none other than Magic Johnson in the final. As the Times noted at the time, if Joe Davis, who replaced Scully as the Dodgers announcer in 2016, were to have as long of a career as Scully, he would broadcast until 2083.

For more, here’s the Los Angeles Times’ full coverage of Scully.

But let’s end with a portion of Tom Verducci’s wonderful appreciation of Scully for Sports Illustrated. Verducci wrote, “What made Vin Scully the greatest baseball broadcaster ever, one of the most trusted media personalities and one of America’s best 20th-century storytellers? Mastery of language? Timing? Technical brilliance? The intersection of car culture, the transistor radio and few televised Dodger games in the team’s first decade in Los Angeles? Sure, all of that. But what made Vin the voice of summer, not just baseball, was the natural ease of his manner. His unselfishness in a business that wreaks of ego and privilege. Do yourself a favor and read the profile I wrote on Vin in his final season as Dodgers broadcaster, not because I wrote it, but because it captures Vin on Vin. Vin simultaneously was a giant and America’s best friend.”

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