“It’s time for Dodgers baseball.” “And she is gone!!!” “A black man is getting a standing ovation in the Deep South.” “Havana, Cuba has arrived!” Los Angeles Dodgers fans and baseball fans around the world know these phrases represent some of the most iconic moments in baseball history. Only one man has possessed the articulation and intelligence to present moments as eloquently as he has. For sixty-seven years, there has only been one man associated with Dodgers baseball as much as he was. That man is Vin Scully, the greatest sports broadcaster of all-time. Regardless of your sports background, it is easy to agree that no man is as iconic in the sports broadcasting world as Scully.
“Vin Scully is Dodgers baseball. I have never gone through a Dodgers season without him calling it. It’s a sad feeling knowing he is gone. He’s an icon. It’s something most younger LA fans have never gone through,” Menlo senior Joey Alvarez simply, yet accurately, stated.
On October 2, 2016, Vin Scully signed off one final time as the San Francisco Giants defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers 7-1 at AT&T Park. The Giants clinched a playoff berth on the final day of the regular season while the Dodgers were warming up for the postseason as National League West champions. While the Dodgers will be continuing their season in the playoffs, Vin Scully has bowed out of calling the team’s postseason run. Why is he choosing not to get one last playoff run under his belt? First, think of how unfortunate it would be to baseball fans to not know when Scully’s last broadcast would be. When is the last time we will hear his voice? Imagine a potential Game 7 of the National League Championship Series. If the Dodgers win, Scully gets to call one final World Series. If they lose, his career is over. That’s just too much to bear. Second, Scully has recounted the moment when he became a baseball fan, some eighty years prior: on an October 2nd while growing up, Scully recalled hearing of a World Series game between the Giants and the Dodgers. How fitting is it that his final game as a professional is between the Giants and the Dodgers?
His work is admired by fans and professionals alike, as Oakland Athletics radio broadcaster Ken Korach noted. A twenty-year veteran with the Athletics and California Sportscaster of the Year in 2013 (where he beat out Vin Scully for the award), Korach knows a thing or two about what it takes to be a successful broadcaster. I asked Korach about what made Scully so legendary and the answer was simple. “It’s his desire to go the extra yard to make every broadcast special: the anecdotes, the stories,” Korach says. “It’s like he’s taking
the listener on a daily journey and you never know where it is going to take you. Even now, I’ll drive around and listen to Vin and he motivates me because of his diligence. There have been several times this year when I’ve thought I was going to go to the park a little earlier the next day. Or, I’m going to do a little extra research on the other team’s starting pitcher.”
As an aspiring sports broadcaster, I have admired the work of Scully my entire life. I may personally be a fan of broadcasters who show more enthusiasm and excitement that sports capture, but Scully mastered the storytelling aspect of sports. The tone of his voice was calm, clear, and elegant. Scully was an artist during every game, with each game providing a different canvas for him to demonstrate his skills. He captured the beauty and uniqueness that each scene embodied. Broadcasters often talk about being the “eyes and ears” of the audience, and Scully did just that. When the moment was right, Scully would kick his grandfather-esque storytelling into full swing. Nothing was an irrelevant detail about a ballplayer to Scully, and while some might find these stories superfluous, it was easy to tell that he knew each player. He once explained to his audience how Atlanta Braves outfielder Jonny Gomes attempted to pet a wolf and got attacked. Have no fear, he survived well enough to become a Major League Baseball player. Want to know about the history of defensive shifts? Scully has you covered. Want to get an educational lesson on the D-Day invasion? Professor Scully’s class will be in session. Want to learn how beards evolved into a baseball fashion trend? Scully doesn’t beat around the bush. I think you get the picture.
But what he did beyond the scope of typical broadcasters was illustrate the moments that transcended the game. Take his call of Hank Aaron breaking the all-time home run record in Major League Baseball. On April 8, 1974, Hank Aaron of the Atlanta Braves hit his 715th career home run against the Los Angeles Dodgers, breaking the record for most home runs in a career held by Babe Ruth. Sure, Scully made a memorable call of the home run in the moment, but the comments made after the ball cleared the fence made it glisten with greatness. “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.” Consider the time when Aaron broke the record. 1974, a time when civil rights were coming into their own for people of color but progress was still barely being made. And yet in this one moment, color was not an issue. Race was not an issue. Geography was not an issue. It is easy to overlook this moment as just a feat of baseball lore, but Scully recognized the national significance this moment posed. This date in baseball history marks not only the passing of a record but a moment of acceptance, one that Scully captured in a way that only he could.
It is clear that Scully is a superstar among sports broadcasters, but that has never gotten to him, at least according to Korach. “Another thing about Vin is his graciousness,” the Voice of the Athletics states, “He handles his celebrity incredibly well and doesn’t do anything to flaunt it. You wouldn’t believe how many people want to talk to him or just briefly meet him before a game. I’ve always thought this could be overwhelming but he makes every one of these encounters unforgettable by being so humble and accommodating. What a role model he’s been on and off the air!”
Many sports broadcasters will follow in the footsteps of past greats and strive to be better, but they will all fall short of one man. Vin Scully will forever be the pinnacle of sports broadcasting, and baseball will not be the same without him.