Vin Scully Was the Best

The voice of the Dodgers was born in Yankee country, in the Bronx, a month after Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig’s Bronx Bombers capped a 110-win regular season by sweeping the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1927 World Series. Being drawn to the underdog, however, Vin Scully grew up as a New York Giants fan. Yet his identity soon became intertwined with the third of New York’s baseball clubs of that era, as he would come to personify Dodger blue.

Scully, who died Tuesday, was the voice of the Dodgers for more than six decades. But he was more than that. He was the voice of baseball and hence the voice of summer in America. 

After a brief and uneventful (by his own account) stint in the Navy and some time patrolling center field while studying English at Fordham, Scully caught the ear of the great Red Barber while calling a college football game. By the age of 22, he was behind the mic at Ebbets Field, helping Barber and Connie Desmond call Brooklyn Dodgers games in the summer of 1950. 

When Barber, and then Desmond, reportedly balked at being offered only $200 a game to help call the 1953 World Series for NBC television, Scully got the gig. “The first thing I did was check with Red and Connie to see if it was OK with them,” Scully later told the Los Angeles Times. “I told them I was just a kid and could wait, that I wasn’t going to do it without their blessing. They said, ‘If you don’t do it, then somebody else will.’”

The Yankees won that World Series (their fifth in a row, with the majority coming at Brooklyn’s expense). When Barber left the Dodgers after that season, Scully became the club’s lead announcer for the 1954 season, when he was just 26. He would call Dodgers games until he was 88, spanning a dozen presidencies.

That first year that Scully was the primary voice of the Dodgers, their lineup included Duke Snider, Pee Wee Reese, Gil Hodges, Roy Campanella, and Jackie Robinson. That rather formidable squad was done in by poor pitching and finished second in the National League to Willie Mays’ Giants. (Brooklyn’s pitching staff that year included a rookie named Tommy Lasorda, who would go on to manage the Dodgers from 1976 to 1996—so, essentially, during the middle third of Scully’s tenure with the club.) 

In 1955, however, Brooklyn rebounded to win the National League pennant. After losing the first two games of the World Series to the dreaded Yankees, the Dodgers won three in a row in Brooklyn, before the Yankees forced Game 7 with a win in the Bronx behind the strong pitching of Whitey Ford. 

On October 4, before more than 62,000 fans in Yankee Stadium, 23-year-old southpaw Johnny Podres (aided by a spectacular catch by left fielder Sandy Amaros on a drive by Yogi Berra) shut out the Yankees, 2-0, marking one of the two proudest days in Brooklyn sports history. (The other was when Robinson took the field on April 15, 1947.) It was the Dodgers’ first World Series championship. Five years ago, Scully recalled that wonderful experience.

Scully’s objectivity, however, is evident in his enthusiastic call of Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series, thrown at the Dodgers’ expense. Scully later conveyed that Red Barber “had the greatest influence on my working life. He impressed upon me that I should be reporting and not cheerleading.” In other words, while Scully loved the Dodgers, he wasn’t a homer. He called it as he saw it.

After Larsen’s historic feat, the Yankees went on to win Game 7 of the 1956 World Series, in what turned out to be the last game of Robinson’s career and the last World Series game ever played in Brooklyn. Brooklyn fans’ hearts were broken when the team moved starting with the 1958 season to Los Angeles, where Scully would call Dodgers games for the next 59 years.

It was quite the time to be in Los Angeles. Disneyland had just opened three years earlier. The beautiful L.A. basin wasn’t nearly as crowded as it is today. And the jewel that is Dodgers Stadium opened in 1962.

Across his decades in L.A., Scully called such legendary moments as Sandy Koufax’s perfect game in 1965 (on the radio) and Kirk Gibson’s Hollywood-ending home run in the 1988 World Series (on TV). In each case, listening to Scully’s voice is half the reward.

That mellifluous voice greeted fans with an unequaled combination of good cheer, knowledge, class, folksiness, command of the language, and love of the game. It used to be that sportscasters—and sportswriters—added appealing descriptiveness to sports coverage. Nowadays, the color and the class are largely gone, replaced by the mediocre announcing stable epitomized by ESPN. 

Worse, current sports coverage is often tinged with wokeness. In contrast, after NFL players started kneeling during the National Anthem, Scully quietly said he’d never watch another NFL game. 

Indeed, it wasn’t just the love of America’s national pastime that was evident in Scully’s warm voice. It was his love of America. 

To say that he lived a full life would be an understatement. In addition to his extraordinary professional career, he was blessed to have five children, two step-children, 16 grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.

Mr. Scully, you will be greatly missed. But your 94 years—67 of them spent gracing the Dodgers’ mic—enriched millions of Americans’ lives. And your singular voice will live on, both in recordings and in our memories. Well done, sir, and thank you.

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