‘I just happened to be there’: Vin Scully, the voice of baseball, set for final call

Legendary baseball broadcaster Vin Scully will call his final game at the end of the Los Angeles Dodgers season in a couple weeks, capping a career that has spanned 67 years.
Vin Scully shown during a Dodgers game in 2002. Paul Connors / AP Photo
Vin Scully shown during a Dodgers game in 2002. Paul Connors / AP Photo

After nearly 10,000 baseball commentaries, 25 World Series, 18 no-hitters and three perfect games, Vin Scully is finally hanging up the microphone.

For 67 years, the 88-year-old broadcaster known affectionately in the United States as the “Voice of Summer” has captivated generations of fans as the play-by-play announcer for the Los Angeles Dodgers, a job that began when the iconic franchise was based on the opposite side of the country in Brooklyn.

Scully’s distinctive, dulcet timbre and pitch-perfect descriptions have accompanied so many iconic moments that attempting to list them is something of a fool’s errand.

Whether it was Don Larsen’s perfect game for the New York Yankees in the 1956 World Series or Hank Aaron’s record-breaking 715th home run to surpass Babe Ruth in 1974, Scully’s evocative voice was there.

But within a few weeks, one of the most celebrated careers in baseball will be over.

On Sunday, Scully will call his final home game from his perch in the press box at Dodger Stadium, where he has been ever-present since the team moved into the venue in 1962.

On October 2, he will take to the broadcast booth for the last time when he calls an inning of the Dodgers’ road game against the San Francisco Giants, the last game of the regular season.

For Scully, there is a beautiful symmetry to the date of his final game, a symbolic bookend to the moment 80 years ago that he fell in love with baseball as an eight-year-old boy, walking home from school in New York.

“I was not quite nine years old. I went by a Chinese laundry and in the window was the line score of the World Series game, that would be October 2nd, 1936, and the Yankees beat up the Giants 18-4,” he told reporters this week.

“As a little boy, my first reaction was, ‘Oh, the poor Giants.’ So that’s when I fell in love with baseball and became a true fan. My last game with the Giants will be October 2nd, 2016. That will be exactly 80 years to the minute from when I first fell in love with the game.”

Scully’s love affair with radio as a medium began at the same age.

“When I was very small, about 8 years old, the only thing we had was radio. And the only sports on radio would be college football, basically, with an occasional Joe Louis heavyweight championship fight, something like that,” he said.

“My parents had this big old four-legged radio with a cross piece underneath it. And I would get a pillow and maybe a glass of milk and some crackers or whatever, and I would crawl underneath the radio on a Saturday, put the pillow on the crossbar, put my head on the pillow, and I was directly underneath the speaker.

“And I was absolutely carried away by the roar of the crowd. It wasn’t the announcer; it was just the roar of the crowd. It came out of the speaker like water from a shower head, and I would get goose bumps and think, ‘Oh, my gosh, this is the greatest sound I’ve ever heard.’”

Those childhood experiences have informed the way Scully approaches broadcasting.

“When I got into broadcasting, I was again captivated by the roar of the crowd. So what I’ve tried to do ever since the beginning was to call the play as accurately and quickly as possible, then sit back and revel in the roar of the crowd. And for that brief few seconds, I was eight-years-old again,” he said.

Unfailingly modest, Scully is quick to put his career as a witness to baseball history in its proper context.

“I’ve done some 20-something no-hitters, X number of perfect games and X World Series games,” he says. “God has been incredibly kind to allow me to be in the position to watch and to broadcast all of these somewhat monumental events. But none of those are my accomplishments; I just happened to be there.”

Scully’s modesty is reflected in his desire to avoid a protracted farewell. The uncertainty of the post-season left him anxious to avoid a “goodbye like they do in grand opera, where they say goodbye 25 times in 15 minutes”.

“We’ll tie the ribbon on the package in San Francisco, and that will be that,” he said.

While Scully admits he will miss broadcasting when he heads into retirement, he takes comfort from the role he has played in the lives of countless listeners over the decades.

“People will say to me, ‘You know, when I hear your voice, I think of backyard barbecues with my mom and dad. Or painting the garage with my father and your radio on listening to the ballgame.’

“It’s nice to be a bridge. It really is from one generation to another. I keep saying it because I mean it so much. God has been so good to me to allow me to do what I’m doing at a very young age, a childhood dream that came to pass.

“Then giving me 67 years to enjoy every minute of it, that’s a pretty large Thanksgiving Day for me. So, yeah, I’ve loved it.”

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Published: September 21, 2016 04:00 AM


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