Vin Scully, Legendary Baseball Announcer, Passes Away at 94

Vin Scully, the universally-recognized great sports broadcaster who died on TuesdayAt 94, Scully is rightly associated with the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team. Scully, a Bronx native and the son a silk-salesman, was born there in 1927. He spent 67 of his years with the team. From 1950 when the Dodgers played in Brooklyn to his retirement in 2016, Scully was the first member of the team. Scully moved with the Dodgers to California in 1958, when they relocated west. The L.A. has many loyal fans. In the beginning, the Coliseum provided transistor radios for the seats of the fans so that Scully could show them how to play the game. “It’s time for Dodger baseball,” later became his signature phrase.

Scully worked as a national network operator, which allowed his poetic and economical incantations to be heard far outside of Los Angeles. So San Francisco 49ers fans heard him call a franchise-altering moment, the Joe Montana to Dwight Clark touchdown pass in the 1981 NFC championship game—a.k.a. The Catch—on CBS. “Montana … looking, looking … throwing in the end zone … Clark caught it!” On NBC, St. Louis Cardinals supporters got Scully on the call of Jack Clark’s game-deciding home run in Game 6 of the 1985 NLCS, the second straight game in which a Cardinal hit a heartbreaking homer off of Dodgers reliever Tom Niedenfuer. “You would think that the fates would be a little kinder to one man in such a short amount of time.”

With my cat on my lap and my tears in my eyes I lay in my living area on Oct. 25, 1986 in desperation. When you’re 10 years old, the fate of your favorite team is the most important thing in your world. After a successful 108-win regular season my New York Mets were down 5-3 in Game 6 of 1986 World Series. They fell behind 3-2 in this series and now were at their last out. Boston stood on the brink of its first World Series victory since 1918. This would finally end the Curse of the Bambino.

Scully wasn’t popular at my house. We thought that Scully and Joe Garagiola (NBC’s color commentator) were rooting for the Red Sox throughout the series. It was absurd. From my 10-year-old eyes, I was surely interpreting Scully’s professional approach, his refusal to be a homer for the Mets, as some sort of slight.

An unlikely rally was started by the Mets. Red Sox’s lead was cut to 5-4 by three consecutive base hits. The Mets brought Kevin Mitchell to the plate, the tie-breaking run. Ray Knight scored the winning run. Mookie Wilson got to the plate. My life was hanging in the balance.

Wilson went down on the first pitch. “55,078 here at Shea, and they’ve really been put through the wringer,” Scully said. Yessir.

Through Wilson’s now legendary at-bat, Scully offered a clinic in the old adage “show, don’t tell.” His sparse words, and the pulsations of the Shea Stadium crowd, built overwhelming tension. “Fouled away again,” Scully said as Wilson nicked a two-strike pitch, barely keeping the season alive.

A couple of pitches later, Boston’s Bob Stanley unleashed a ball that kept sailing, sailing, toward Wilson’s feet. Mookie leapt out of the way. “It’s going to go to the backstop!” said Scully. “Here comes Mitchell to score the tying run!” The crowd went berserk. My cat landed on the carpet safely after I jumped off the couch.

Scully paused for 30 seconds, letting the moment speak for itself until Wilson’s at-bat resumed with Knight, the winning run, now on second base. “5-5, in a delirious 10th inning,” Scully intoned, stretching a few vowels to keep building anticipation.

“Can you believe this ballgame at Shea?”

Wilson got in touch with the count at 3-2. “A little roller up along first,” Scully said, in a pinpoint description. Then, at the moment the ball went through the legs of Boston first baseman Bill Buckner, Scully’s voice rose to the appropriate level. “Behind the bag! Buckner is able to get it through. Here comes Knight and the Mets win it!”

I’ve heard Vin Scully say those words on, oh, dozens, if not hundreds, occasions in the ensuing 36 years. It still gives me chills. They give me chills every time.

“What resonates there is that here you have Vin Scully, the ultimate professional, and yet the 10th inning was so startling that even he registered not just excitement but surprise in his voice,” says former NBC broadcaster Bob Costas, who during the inning scurried out of the Boston locker room, where he was preparing to cover the victory celebration. “But what also was distinctive is that he never loses his place. Every little ‘i’ is dotted and ‘t’ is crossed. Vin Scully is shocked by what he’s just seen. But not shocked out of his professionalism.”

Play-by-play broadcasters trade in spoken words. They are driven to make a difference in a given moment, and that is a good thing. Scully, however, declined to address the 44.5million people who were watching Game 6 from their houses after witnessing an unlikely end. Scully remained silent for three minutes. The cameras were shaken by the noise from the crowd. Bucker was seen walking off the pitch. A tired Knight was seen lying on his back, as his teammates surrounded him.

Finally, Sully’s coda.

“If one picture was worth a thousand words, you have seen about a million words.”

He understood perspective. After Sandy Koufax’s 1965 perfect game: “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.” Following Hank Aaron’s 715th home run in 1974: “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.” After Kirk Gibson of the Dodgers, on hobbled legs, hit a walk-off home run off of dominant Oakland A’s closer Dennis Eckersley in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series: “In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened!”

“If one picture was worth a thousand words, you have seen about a million words.”

For Costas—and so many others—Scully is the GOAT. “There have been many other great announcers,” says Costas, who currently calls games for MLB Network. “I’m very partial to Jack Buck, who was fabulous with the Cardinals. People love Harry Caray’s larger than life personalities and raw emotions. There are many talented broadcasters today. But when you take the combination of everything, the history, the radio and TV aspect, the longevity, forget about ‘you can’t put anybody ahead him,’ I think he stands alone.”

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