Vin Scully’s Best Calls—From Don Larsen to Hank Aaron to Kirk Gibson

From a Washington Post story by Cindy Boren headlined “Vin Scully’s best calls, from Don Larsen to Hank Aaron to Kirk Gibson”:

It was easy to listen to Vin Scully, a home companion for Dodgers fans in Brooklyn and Los Angeles for 67 years.

In calling ordinary games over the breadth of a baseball season, he brought knowledge and flair, wit and an ability to entertain without losing sight of his reason for being in a broadcast booth. He was fortunate to be present as history and baseball often collided, as they did so memorably when Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s home run record in 1974. His words were iconic, but, just as importantly, he knew when to let silence tell the story, as he did after Kirk Gibson hit his home run to win Game 1 of the 1988 World Series.

All these years later, the way he captured big moments can still make a fan’s soul tingle. “He was the best there ever was,” Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw said after Tuesday’s Dodgers’ game in San Francisco. “Just such a special man. I’m grateful and thankful I got to know him as well as I did.”

Hank Aaron breaks Babe Ruth’s record

In 1974, when baseball still was America’s pastime, Scully was on the call when the Atlanta Braves’ Hank Aaron hit his 715th home run, moving past Babe Ruth on the all-time list. Scully pulled it all together, noting the significance in baseball and, more importantly, American history.

“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 … It is over, at 10 minutes after 9 in Atlanta, Georgia, Henry Aaron has eclipsed the mark set by Babe Ruth.

“You could not, I guess, get two more opposite men. The Babe, big and garrulous and oh so sociable and oh so immense in all his appetites. And then the quiet lad out of Mobile, Alabama — slender and stayed slender throughout his career. Ruth, as he put on the poundage and the paunch, the Yankees put their ballplayers in pinstripe uniforms, because it made Ruth look slimmer. But they didn’t need pinstripe uniforms for Aaron in the twilight of his career.”

Don Larsen and Sandy Koufax were perfect

If there was a perfect game and Scully wasn’t on the call, did it really happen?

Don Larsen did the unthinkable by pitching a perfect Game 5 in the 1965 World Series and Sandy Koufax did the same on a smaller stage that same season in a regular season game.

For Larsen, the commentary was pure and simple: “Got him. The greatest game ever pitched in baseball history, by Don Larsen. A no-hitter, a perfect game, in a World Series.” In the moment, did you need to know more?

Scully was a little more effusive when it came to Koufax, who had pitched three previous no-hitters, when he threw a perfect game against the Chicago Cubs on Sept. 9, 1965.

“And Sandy Koufax, whose name will always remind you of strikeouts, did it with a flourish. He struck out the last six consecutive batters. So when he wrote his name in capital letters in the record books, that K stands out even more than the O-U-F-A-X.”

When Buckner met Mookie

In Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, a routine “little roller” took on epic proportions. Boston Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner was on the play and … the ball hit by Mookie Wilson of the New York Mets went through his legs.

It was an epic error, captured perfectly by Scully, who always preferred description to hyperbolic nonsense.

“Little roller up along first … behind the bag!” he exclaimed as what appeared to be a routine play was unfolding. And then, “It gets through Buckner! Here comes [Ray] Knight, and the Mets win it!”

As pandemonium erupted, Scully was silent for three minutes, then summed up what he’d seen perfectly. “If one picture is worth a thousand words, you have seen about a million words, but more than that, you have seen an absolutely bizarre finish to Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. The Mets are not only alive, they are well, and they will play the Red Sox in Game 7 tomorrow.”

Kirk Gibson all but ends the World Series with one swing

Technically, the Los Angeles Dodgers had to win four games to beat the Oakland Athletics in the 1988 World Series, but what happened in Game 1 all but sealed it, thanks to one man’s sole plate appearance.

Kirk Gibson was hobbled with injuries to both legs and was not expected to play in the Series. But, with the Dodgers trailing 4-3, Mike Davis on first and two outs in the ninth inning, manager Tommy Lasorda called on Gibson.

“High flyball into right field, she i-i-i-is … gone”!” Scully said. More importantly, he let the insanity of the moment tell the story, keeping quiet for 65 seconds. When he did speak, he added, “In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened.” Then he was quiet for another 29 seconds before taking it all in again as cameras replayed the reaction of A’s pitcher Dennis Eckersley, who had given up what he called “the mother of all walk-offs” years later.

“Look at Eckersley,” Scully said, “shocked to his toes.”

Scully the storyteller

Scully would open his broadcasts with a folksy “Hi, everybody, and a very pleasant good evening to you wherever you may be.” When history wasn’t happening, his garden variety observations could be special, too.

In 2016, he offered his research on the history of beards. Of course, he never missed a pitch or a play even as he spoke of “Greek dramatists” and Alexander the Great.

We’ll let Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts have the last word.

“There’s not a better storyteller and I think everyone considers him family,” Roberts said Tuesday night. “He was in our living rooms for many generations. He lived a fantastic life, a legacy that will live on forever.”

Cindy Boren arrived at The Post in 2000 as an assignment editor in charge of baseball and NFL/Washington Football Team coverage. She switched to full-time writing, focusing on national sports stories and issues, when she founded The Early Lead blog in 2010.

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