He was a sports icon, a broadcasting legend. Over a 67 year career he developed his own unique style of “calling” a baseball game. More on that later. He “called” in excess of 9,000 baseball games plus 28 World Series, 20 no-hitters and four perfect games. Quite simply, he was the best.
He began his career in 1950 when the Dodgers were still in Brooklyn. He “called” games for the “Boys of Summer” of Reese, Robinson, Snider, Hodges and Campanella, among others. In 1958 he accompanied the team to Los Angeles where he “called” games for Koufax, Drysdale, Garvey, Cey and Kershaw, among many, many others. Owners, managers, and players would come and go, but through it all there was one constant – Scully. To generations of fans, he WAS the Dodgers. Even fans at the ballpark would listen to his broadcasts. It was said one could walk through the park and not miss any of the action as Scully’s voice was omnipresent. “Sports Illustrated Magazine” once characterized him as being “as much a part of the Los Angeles scene as the freeways and the smog.”
Vincent Edward Scully was born on November 29, 1927 in The Bronx, NY. When he was only seven his father died, and the family had to move to Brooklyn. Ironically, as a youngster, his favorite team was the NY Giants, which was and is the arch enemy of the Dodgers.
He attended Fordham University where he worked for the school newspaper and played center field on the baseball team. He served in the Navy during WWII. After graduation he worked at a radio station in Washington D. C. where he was “discovered” by another famous broadcaster – Red Barber. At the time, Barber was a broadcaster for the Brooklyn Dodgers. He offered Scully a job as the third man in the booth along with the veteran, Connie Desmond. Scully studied the two veteran announcers assiduously. He often said that one lesson he learned from them was to always “go down the middle” when describing a play, good or bad. They way, you will have credibility with the listeners. In 1954 Barber left to join the NY Yankees broadcasting team, and just like that at the age of just 27 Scully became the lead broadcaster for the Dodgers.
Scully developed a unique style. He generally worked alone. He would describe a play in a reserved manner, rather than over-the-top excited as many announcers tend to do. For example, when the Dodgers won their long-awaited World Series in 1955 he merely said “The Brooklyn Dodgers are the champions of the world.” Then he went silent and let the scene on the field speak for itself.
He became adept at telling stories during the action. His voice was calm and melodic, almost mesmerizing. Often, the stories would last over several batters or even multiple innings. In describing the action on the field one might say he was painting a picture. This was very effective, especially on the radio. (In the early years in LA the games were not on TV for the most part, so Scully’s style was needed and appreciated by the listeners.)
In the big moments Scully would often go silent, letting the action speak for itself. He believed that in moments such as that “less was more.” Take, for example, some of his commentary describing the action during Sandy Koufax’s perfect game: “There’s 29,000 people in the ballpark and a million butterflies.” “A lot of people in the ballpark now are starting to see the pitches with their hearts [hollering for the umpire to call “strikes.”].” He described Koufax “hitching up his belt and “mopping his brow,” and the other Dodgers pitchers “pressing up against the bullpen fence watching intently.” And, when the game ended in perfection, Scully was silent for several seconds as the fans cheered before he said: “On the scoreboard in right field it is 9:46 p. m. in the City of Angels, Los Angeles, California.
In his long career Scully had the privilege of “calling” many famous moments such as Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series, Henry Aaron’s career record-breaking homerun in 1974 and Kirk Gibson’s improbable home run in the 1988 WS, always with the same reserved, understated style. No hyperbole. No excessive chatter and shouting. He let the action on the field speak for itself.
Scully was not limited just to “calling” Dodger games. In addition, he appeared on network television “calling” many “Games of the Week”, All-Star games, World Series. NFL games, and even golf tournaments. Moreover, he appeared in the movie “For Love of the Game,” among others.
Some quotes describing Scully:
- LA Times columnist Jim Murray dubbed him “the Fordham Thrush with the .400 larynx.”
- Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax: “It may sound corny, but I enjoy listening to Vin call a game almost more than playing in them.”
- Bob Costas marveled at his “command of language, quality of expression [and] the sheer sound of his voice.”
- Entertainer Ray Charles: “His broadcasts are almost musical. The sound is what matters to me.” (Costas arranged a meeting between Scully and Charles, and afterwards declared “Ray was over the moon, like a kid meeting his favorite ballplayer.”)
- Former baseball commissioner, Bud Selig admitted that whenever he would call the Dodgers he would ask to speak to Scully “because I want to hear [him] for a few minutes.”
Some Scully quotes:
- He would open his broadcast thusly: “Hi, everybody, and a pleasant good afternoon to you wherever you may be. Pull up a chair and spend part of the day with us.”
- Describing pitcher Bob Gibson and his tendency to work quickly: “He pitches as though he is double-parked.”
- Describing Montreal Expos outfielder, Andre Dawson: [He] has a bruised knee and is listed as day-to-day…aren’t we all?”
- About a mediocre Dodgers team: “The Dodgers are such a .500 team that if there [were] a way to split a three-game series, they’d find it.”
Scully kept his personal life private. He never talked about personal tribulations such as the death of his first wife due to an accidental overdose of cold and bronchitis medication, the death of his second wife from ALS, and the accidental death of his eldest son.
During the last few years of his career, as a concession to age, Scully lightened his schedule. He stopped traveling to games east of the Rockies.
Scully passed away on August 2, 2022 at his home. The Dodgers announced his passing during their game that night in San Francisco. All the players on both teams as well as many of the fans in the stands saluted him as a show of respect of whom he was and what he meant to the sport.
Rest in peace, Vinnie. You were one of a kind, the best.