This article was written by Greg King
This article was published in the The National Pastime: Endless Seasons: Baseball in Southern California (2010)
An appreciation of longtime Dodgers announcer Vin Scully.
Chances are if one were to poll SABR members about the greatest left-hander in the 121-year history of the Dodgers franchise, the most frequent response would be, “Sandy Koufax.” But they would be incorrect. Without a doubt, the honor of greatest southpaw in organizational history belongs to Vincent E. Scully.
Since the emergence of radio-broadcast baseball, America’s love and fascination with the sport has been amplified by the play-by-play announcers who describe and interpret the strategies and resulting action with their own unique conversational style and insider baseball knowledge. On the surface it seems simple enough. The broadcaster watches the game from a booth overlooking the diamond and speaks into a microphone headset reporting the game. But it is much more than that.
The principal announcer, the team’s “voice,” is the embodiment of the link between the team and its loyal fans. No one is a better illustration of that nexus than the Dodgers’ Vin Scully, whose professional work for the organization has spanned two coasts and over sixty consecutive years. Scully’s remarkable career with the Dodgers began in 1950, eight years before the team pulled up stakes in Brooklyn and headed west. No one has called the play-by-play for one team longer. Only two major league stadiums remain from his rookie year. A full six decades? It is likely we’ll witness Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak surpassed or Cal Ripken’s consecutive games tally streak shattered before the one Scully established is matched.
Scully’s constant presence in the tapestry of Dodgers baseball history extends into the various eras and themes that run through its history. Scully was there, of course, to call the seasons that saw the Dodgers capture five National League pennants in the 1950s, and three more with Sandy Koufax-Don Drysdale-Maury Wills in the span between 1963 and 1966. He covered the swinging ’70s with the likes of the record-setting infield of Ron Cey, Bill Russell, Davey Lopes, and Steve Garvey, who brought three additional National League Championships to Los Angeles; he helped shepherd in Fernandomania and a World Championship in 1981, and he was up in the booth in 1988 when Orel Hershiser and Kirk Gibson led their team to the last Dodgers’ Series crown. He was there throughout the half-century of the O’Malley family ownership, the complete managerial careers of Walt Alston and Tommy Lasorda (totaling 43 seasons), the seasons of the 12 Dodgers who have won the National League Rookie of the Year Award in Los Angeles. He was there through the debacle of the Fox ownership of the Dodgers. When current Dodgers owner Frank McCourt wants to introduce change, his message is more palatable to the public when the words come from Scully’s mouth.
Despite being away from NBC weekly Saturday afternoon broadcasts since 1989 and CBS radio postseason broadcasts since 1997, Scully may still have the most recognizable voice in baseball, thanks largely to the universal availability of out-of-town games through DirecTV and via game broadcasts on the MLB.com website. His signature is an easy going, golden-throated delivery, displaying a great command of the English language, deployed in a manner that has been called nothing short of an art form. USA Today called him “the poet laureate of baseball.”[fn]http://officialvinscully.com/biography.php. [/fn]
For over 50 years, Vin Scully has provided the soundtrack for the Southland summer—not to mention a good part of spring and a sprinkle of fall. To say that he has a sizable following in Southern California would be an understatement. The elongated announcement by Scully at the start of every Dodgers television broadcast, “It’s time for Dodger baseball,” as it has been for decade after decade, is as familiar to Angelenos as the Hollywood sign. Yet, despite his long association with the Dodgers, he is not viewed as a “homer” by fans—a term used in reference to those sportscasters who openly root for the team whose games they cover. Scully reports the plays objectively, regardless which team made the spectacular catch, or conversely, failed to hit the cut-off man. It is for this reputation that the Los Angeles Times Sunday Magazineran a long feature piece on Scully with the banner, “The Most Trusted Man in L.A.”[fn]Los Angeles Times Magazine, 26 April 1998; Remarked during Dodgers broadcast, 15 June 2007. [/fn]
Scully has always credited his honed objectivity in reporting the game to two primary factors. First, he got his start when greater New York City sported the Dodgers, Giants, and Yankees. “I was very conscious of other fans listening to the ballgame,” he said. Second, he was teamed with Red Barber, who “had the greatest influence on my working life. He impressed upon me that I should be reporting and not cheerleading. Actually, it helped me because I was inclined to feel the emotion. But I have learned to withhold it, up to a point. Objectivity is a habit.”[fn]Interview with Vin Scully, 17 September 1991[/fn]
Scully’s love of sports broadcasting traces back to his childhood when he would shoehorn himself under the oversized cabinet radio in his Bronx apartment. He enjoyed listening to the sports broadcasting giants of the era, Byrum Saam, Ted Husing, and especially Bill Stern. The sound waves carrying crowds raucously cheering for a goal line stand, or a ball hit in the alley with men on base, washed over him like an ocean wave and induced chills. When asked by a teacher at age eight what he wanted to be when he grew up, Scully simply wrote in his composition, “sports announcer.” He practiced aloud while playing stickball with his chums in the streets of New York.[fn]Los Angeles Times, 1 June 1966; Curt Smith,Pull Up a Chair, Washington D.C.: Potomac Books, 2009, 4–5. [/fn]
The broadcaster of Irish descent was born in the Bronx near the Grand Concourse not far from Yankee Stadium in the storied year of 1927, but he became a fan of the Giants. An 18–4 drubbing at the hands of the Yankees in the second game of the 1936 World Series had Scully feeling sorry for the men in black and orange, and he immediately adopted them as his own.[fn]Los Angeles Times, 1 June 1966 . [/fn] The redheaded youngster received complimentary game tickets to the Polo Grounds from the Catholic Youth Organization or Police Athletic League, or he would scrape up enough change from selling newspapers or returning soda pop bottles to buy bleacher tickets to see the afternoon games. “I saw a complete home stand once,” remembered Scully fondly. But he couldn’t stop himself from adding in his characteristic good humor, “That was just shortly after the discovery of fire.”[fn]Remarked during Dodgers broadcast, 29 April 1995. [/fn]
He especially idolized the Giants’ southpaw slugger Mel Ott. “I just thought he was the cat’s meow,” he recalled, dropping in a popular phrase of a bygone era. Scully went so far as emulating Ott’s unorthodox batting style: elevating his right leg up high prior to swinging the bat and moving into the pitch, a technique that gave Ott 512 career home runs. “It didn’t help me,” said Scully, who played outfield on varsity baseball squads in high school and college.[fn]Interview with Vin Scully, 17 September 1991. [/fn]
Educated at Fordham University, with a short break for service in the U.S. Navy toward the tail end of World War II, he became a member of the initial class of students admitted to the new radio communications program. There, Scully received hands-on experience working at radio station WFUV, handling college football, basketball, and baseball games, as well as many other programming and station responsibilities.
Following graduation in June 1949, he accepted a summer internship with CBS affiliate WTOP in Washington D.C., where a combination of dedication, hard work, natural communication abilities, and warm personality were in ample evidence. That fall, he adeptly covered a key Boston University-Maryland match for the nationally aired CBS Radio Football Roundup in an emergency pinch role when an announcer became ill. Despite adverse working conditions [covering the game from the roof of Fenway Park on a bone-chilling November afternoon], he made a favorable impression on the “ol’ Redhead,” Red Barber, the network’s sports director, who doubled as the Dodgers broadcaster. A few weeks later, after an unexpected opening came up on the Dodgers broadcasting team—Ernie Harwell had jumped ship to the Giants for more air time and a salary bump—Scully was recommended by Barber to Dodgers’ President Branch Rickey, who hired him to become the third man behind Barber and Connie Desmond. The young redhead had just turned 22.[fn]The Sporting News, 15 June 1955; 24 July 1989; Christian Science Monitor, 10 November 1986. [/fn]
In his first broadcast stint for the Dodgers, an exhibition game in spring 1950, Scully called a triple play, and in hindsight, more importantly, had the opportunity to meet the legendary Philadelphia A’s manager of fifty years. “I was overwhelmed to meet Connie Mack,” he remarked over the airwaves in 2010. In his first year in the booth he saw the Dodgers lose in heartbreak fashion to the “Whiz Kid” Phillies on the last day of the season. He could already understand firsthand the Brooklyn fan’s refrain, “Wait ’Til Next Year.” But the 1951 season with the crushing defeat of the Dodgers at the hands of the Giants and Bobby Thomson certainly topped it.[fn]Remarked during Dodgers broadcast 3 October 2010; The Sporting News, 15 June 1955. [/fn]
What was it like for Scully in those early years of broadcasting? “You had the Southern gentleman, the father (Barber), the good-natured Irishman, the older brother with the big sweeping baritone everyone loved (Desmond), and I was the kid off the streets of New York,” was how Scully characterized the trio.[fn]The Sporting News, 24 July 1989. [/fn] They quickly formed a cohesive partnership.
“Connie and I trained him, loved him, teased him, and rejoiced in his remarkable development,” Barber wrote.[fn]Red Barber, The Broadcasters, New York: The Dial Press, 1970, 187. [/fn] Scully, who handled the third and seventh innings, rapidly demonstrated both an understanding of baseball and an acute ability to communicate this knowledge to listeners in a naturally powerful and rich voice. Scully valued Barber’s instructions and explained, “Red Barber taught me to get to the park early, to do my homework, to be prepared, and to be accurate. He was a stickler for that. He cared.”[fn]The Sporting News, 23 January 1982. [/fn]
When Barber balked at covering the 1953 Dodgers-Yankees World Series, the plum television broadcasting assignment was offered to Scully, with his mentor’s blessing. The credible job he did [paired with Mel Allen] had viewers and the sporting press taking notice.[fn]See Red Barber, The Broadcasters, New York: The Dial Press, 1970, 185–188. While broadcasting the 1996 World Series for radio, Scully reflected back to his first fall classic and working with Mel Allen. “I remember how extra kind he was,” Scully said. CBS Radio Broadcast, 20 October 1996. [/fn] Barber soon ended his fifteen-year tenure with the Dodgers and went crosstown to the Yankees while Desmond became increasingly unreliable from periodic bouts of alcoholism. Scully was elevated to the top spot following the 1954 season.
The Sporting News wrote about Scully in 1955, “He has a clear voice and a casual, friendly manner that projects comfortably over the air. He stays alert and displays an unmistakable grasp of his subject.”[fn]The Sporting News, 3 August 1955. [/fn] Nothing in the intervening decades would change that assessment written some 55 years ago.
Though he has called thousands of games for the Dodgers, when I asked Scully many years ago what his most memorable baseball broadcast was, he responded without a moment’s hesitation: “The 1955 World Championship. But I have to preface it by saying I was younger and more impressionable then. The Dodgers had a background of frustration that you have to be aware of and I certainly was, growing up in New York. The Dodgers played the Yankees in the World Series in 1941, ’47, ’49, ’52, and ’53, and they always lost. The 1955 Dodgers club had a lot of fellows who were there when I started. It was sort of like my graduating class. I knew their frustration of getting so close and not making it. I was empathetic.”[fn]Interview with Vin Scully, 17 September 1991. [/fn]
Players like Pee Wee Reese, Jackie Robinson, Duke Snider, Roy Campanella, Gil Hodges, and Don Newcombe had long been excluded from the champagne drenching that accompanied the celebration and crowning of baseball World Champs. The 1955 Fall Classic went down to the seventh game, with Johnny Podres shutting out the Yankees, 2–0.
“On the last out of the game in the finale, I said, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, the Brooklyn Dodgers are the champions of the world.’ Then I stopped and didn’t say another thing. All winter long people asked me, ‘How could you have stayed so calm?’ Well, the truth is, I was so emotionally overwhelmed by it all that if I had to say another word I think I would have cried.”[fn]Interview with Vin Scully, 17 September 1991. [/fn]
When the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles following the 1957 season there were those within the organization who believed Scully should adjust his style to better promote the relocated team to its new audience. And strong consideration was given to replacing Jerry Doggett (who had joined the Dodgers broadcast team in September 1956) with a local announcer already familiar to Southern California listeners. This was to be a new start. Scully made the case to Walter O’Malley for Doggett to remain his sidekick and eschewed openly rooting for the Dodgers. Doggett remained in the booth together with Scully for nearly a third of a century, each calling his own innings.
Dodgers fans picked up the knack of bringing their transistor radios, as revolutionary in their day as when iPhones were introduced, to the cavernous Memorial Coliseum almost immediately. East Coast critics of the transplanted team, ever ready to lambaste the Hollywood crowds, claimed the pocket radios were proof the fans were so genuinely ignorant of the sport that the game had to be explained to them as they watched. No doubt there was some truth to this assertion, for there were obviously those in attendance who knew little about baseball. What such commentators conveniently ignored, of course, was that a high caliber of baseball in the form of the Pacific Coast League had long been played in Southern California.[fn]Robert Creamer, “The Transistor Kid,” Sports Illustrated. 4 May 1964. [/fn]
There was another reason fans felt compelled to bring their portable radios to the ballpark: Vin Scully instantly captivated the Southland. Then, as now, his Irish lilt made baseball what it was supposed to be entertaining. It was natural for Angelenos to wonder beyond the mere statistics: just who were these guys?
“Although people were aware of some of the superstars, they weren’t aware of the rank-and-file ballplayers,” said Scully. “So they brought their radios to hear me tell them about the players.”[fn]Curt Smith, Voices of the Game. South Bend: Diamond Communications, Inc., 1987, 492. [/fn] Scully adeptly sketched their personal histories and provided color to go along with the game’s action, something in which he particularly excelled. Moreover, with the exception of road games in San Francisco against the Giants, no Dodgers games were shown on local television. For many years, from the late 1950s through the 1960s, radio would be king in Los Angeles. Another contributor was that the expansive region was dominated by cars and traffic jams. When the Dodgers played on the road against anyone but the Giants, the time zone difference meant the games were beginning as drivers headed home from work on the area freeways. Factors such as these helped cement the relationship between Scully and his listeners.
“More than anyone, Scully made the Dodgers successful in Los Angeles,” Dodgers GM Buzzie Bavasi wrote in his memoirs, Off the Record. “He was the biggest asset we had coming to California.”[fn]Buzzie Bavasi. Off The Record. Chicago: Contemporary Books: 1987, 194. [/fn] Immediately fueling Scully’s popularity was that the Dodgers, following a seventh place finish in 1958, snared a World Championship trophy in only their second year in Los Angeles, which Scully found “thrilling because it was so unexpected.”[fn]Interview with Vin Scully, 17 September 1991. [/fn] A record album, Dodgers ’59, was promptly produced following the season by the Dodgers and their flagship station KMPC, featuring nothing but Scully’s notable calls during the magical year.
The custom of the transistor-laden fan entering turnstiles intensified when the Dodgers moved into their new ballpark in 1962, as major league season attendance records were shattered. A cacophony of Scully’s voice over the airwaves could be heard wafting through the Stadium crowd when he was calling the innings of any game.[fn]The Dodgers even requested fans to turn down their radios at one point. See Los Angeles Times, 4 August 1973. [/fn] During the middle innings (Doggett’s time) batteries were generally conserved. The tradition of fans leaving the game early may have been more than just an effort to beat the traffic, as listening to Scully on the car radio was just as much fun, or better, than being at the game itself.
When Scully was announced as the recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasting excellence in 1982, in the fifth year of the award’s existence, he already was marking his 33rd season as a Dodgers team broadcaster, roughly 25 of those years as its main voice. Perhaps what is most remarkable in hindsight is that up to that point he had been on the national television stage for baseball only during the occasional Dodgers World Series appearances or to call sporadic All-Star games. His tenure as host of the NBC Saturday Game of the Week was still ahead of him, as were his many years behind the mike for CBS Radio Network coverage of the World Series. However, he already had a monopoly over much of the West by virtue of Dodgers flagship station KFI 640, which carried its clear 50,000-watt signal across the mountains and deserts and as far away as Des Moines and Denver.
Scully was appreciated even in the enemy territory of the San Francisco Bay area where future Giants and ESPN broadcaster Jon Miller was within earshot of Scully’s distinctive baritone voice. Miller learned to mimic him. The Giants announcer remembered listening as a teenager to Scully’s call of Koufax’s perfect game in 1965. “That alone should have put him in the Hall of Fame,” Miller said.[fn]Interview with Jon Miller, 27 June 1998. Miller said that he had listened to Scully on CBS Radio in his car during the previous World Series (1997) and found his broadcast “exciting as he regaled listeners with stories.” [/fn] A word-for-word transcription of Scully’s ninth-inning call became a part of a classic anthology, Charles Einstein’s book, The Baseball Reader. As Einstein wrote as a preface to Scully’s play-by-play, “And as you read Scully’s spontaneous description, it will become hard to believe that this wasn’t written, but indeed the unrehearsed spoken word instead.”[fn]Charles Einstein, ed., The Baseball Reader. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1980, 273. [/fn]
In early 1969, Scully agreed to emcee a daytime game show on NBC, It Takes Two. He even ventured into hosting a short-lived 30-minute daytime variety show on CBS, The Vin Scully Show, in 1973, where he was able to perform some stand-up humor, act in skits, conduct celebrity interviews, and occasionally sing. “I was sandwiched around the soap operas and actually nobody knew it was on and nobody really knew when it was off.”[fn]Binghamton, NY, Sun-Bulletin, 27 January 1975. [/fn] When asked what he would have liked to have done had he not become a sports broadcaster, he answers “a song and dance man—perhaps a combination Danny Kaye and Gene Kelly.”[fn]Interview with Vin Scully, 17 September 1991. [/fn]
Not only do few remember Scully’s ventures into daytime television, his work as the primary CBS weekend sportscaster for championship tennis, golf tournaments, and pro football between 1975 and 1982 has now been overshadowed by his long and constant association with the Dodgers. At the time he signed his CBS contract, some sports media pundits questioned whether Scully could readily transfer his baseball broadcasting style and techniques to a non-baseball venue. The Sporting News soon gave Scully the ringing endorsement, “He seems proficient in describing tennis, golf, and other sports as he is in baseball.”[fn]Los Angeles Times, 14 January 1975; The Sporting News, 3 May 1975. [/fn] He became the highest paid sportscaster in the nation at the time.
When CBS Sports reneged on a promise to have Scully cover the 1982 Super Bowl, he rejected their new ten-year contract deal.[fn]Washington Post, 27 May 1982; TV Guide, 12 June 1982. [/fn] NBC acted fast to sign him to broadcast The Baseball Game of the Week. For seven seasons, from 1983 through 1989, until NBC was outbid for baseball, Scully greeted television viewers with his friendly invitation, “Pull up a chair and spend part of Saturday with us.” Fans across the country were finally treated on a weekly basis to arguably the best baseball broadcaster in the business.
“There is only one thing that guaranteed Scully’s success,” said the late Leonard Koppett, who toiled for several New York papers—“Talent!”[fn]Interview with Leonard Koppett, 8 November 1997. [/fn] Revered by his peers, Scully remains a master of the art of baseball broadcasting and the English language. In the grand Irish tradition, Scully is a consummate storyteller. Does Scully trace his own communication talents to his family’s Gaelic roots? “I think there might have been a horse thief and a poet in the tribe,” Scully joked.[fn]Interview with Vin Scully, 17 September 1991. [/fn]
Vin Scully’s choice of words is a delight, the lan-guage fresh, witty, and original. A change-up “squirts out like a wet bar of soap.” A batted ball “squirts foul.” The ball springing off a broken bat sounds like it was “hit with a morning newspaper.” A pitcher unable to find the strike zone is “wild as anything this side of Barnum & Bailey.” The two pitchers in a scoreless duel “are like two bucks with their antlers locking.” The lanky, pencil-thin pitcher standing on the mound with his arms close to his chest “looks like six o’clock.” A breaking ball left up in the strike zone to a menacing batter, who clobbers it for a home run, came in “like a letter from home.” Arizona’s relief pitcher is “built like a 2-iron.” When two Dodgers in their white uniforms fall down going after a base hit, Scully remarks, “It looks like a bowling alley out there!” The first baseman stretching his reach for the ball with his foot on the bag “opened up like a pair of scissors.”
Yet, as colorful as these descriptions might be, to conclude Scully’s popularity is due solely to his command of language would certainly miss the boat. The secret behind Scully’s broadcast is that he loves people and finds them interesting. Added to it is a sense of compassion that could not be feigned. Scully is invariably intrigued by any ballplayer who has overcome difficult personal circumstances and he will masterfully weave these personal narratives into the play-by-play without missing a pitch. They are the vignettes of players who toil for years in the minors but do not give up their dream to find a way to the big leagues. They are the stories of players who were considered washed up but whose careers are revived by another big league club. They are the accounts of players who grew up amid poverty in Third World countries. In listening to Scully’s broadcasts, and without being entirely conscious of it, a fan cannot help but be moved to have a larger appreciation of the human dimension. These are not just men with bats and gloves—and in recent years, lots of money—but people with their own personal life stories.
Although he has kept pace with technology and conducts prodigious research before each game via the Internet, Scully has never abandoned his instincts as a reporter to gather information on opposing players from the visiting press or lifelong contacts including coaches and scouts he knows with virtually every team the Dodgers play. Nevertheless, in many ways he would have to be considered old-school. When he walks into a broadcast booth he usually is decked out in an elegant suit from which a handkerchief spills on a front pocket, and he always sports a tie—for no more than about a minute of face time per televised game. He does this as a consummate professional who wants to be reminded when he is in the broadcast booth he is all about business. Not that he thinks of broadcasting baseball as work. “Learn to do something you love, and you won’t have to work a day in your life,” Scully has said from time to time.[fn]Baseball Weekly, 8–14 March 1995. [/fn] He is the rarest of broadcasters; he prefers to work alone, speaking to the audience in a one-on-one conversation, and not in reaction to a color man’s comment. He covers each inning of all the locally televised Dodgers home games and travels with the team on road trips to Denver and all points west, sitting behind the television mike between 110 and 120 games a year. He is heard on radio as part of a simulcast for the first three innings. The television contract is too lucrative and sponsors too demanding to share Scully more than that.
You never know what Scully will say next. There is his journalist’s innate curiosity about most anything. That unpredictability makes each and every broadcast unique. He might incorporate the lyrics from a classic show tune, or a recent country ballad, or a verse from a poem, if it seems to fit the occasion. For example, when Chipper Jones was approaching Dale Murphy’s Atlanta team records, Scully remarked, “As the great Pearl Bailey sang, that ‘ain’t no bad crowd to hang around with!’”[fn]Remarked during Dodgers broadcast, 2 April 1997. [/fn]
On one occasion he might discuss the connection between Wrigley Field and Mexican General Santa Anna of the Battle of the Alamo (hint: gum) and on another describe outfielders climbing the terrace at Cincinnati’s Crosley Field or the Gashouse Gang rolling around in the dirt in old Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis. He might discuss a current book he is reading, such as David Maraniss’s biography of Roberto Clemente, or ask whether listeners are familiar with the writer James Lee Burke and his descriptions of New Orleans as a player hailing from Bayou Country made an appearance on the mound. He can dust off a Winston Churchill quote in World War II speaking of Europe’s “soft underbelly” and smoothly transition to say, “Well, the ‘soft underbelly’ for Colorado is its pitching.” Miss this story or that observation expressed in a creative fashion—and told within the context of this particular game—and you might never hear it again.[fn]Remarked during Dodgers broadcasts on: 17 August 2003; 24 June 2006; 16 April 1996; 18 September 2004. [/fn]
Is there any broadcaster better at weaving baseball’s past in with the present? Something might remind Scully during one game of a story involving Preacher Roe throwing his equipment into the crowd. Harkening back to the play of Jackie Robinson, Stan Musial, Henry Aaron, and Willie Mays, or the lesser known likes of Ron Hunt, Chico Ruiz, and Bob Friend, or any of thousands of other players he has observed, Scully is well aware that the simple demographics of those tuned into the broadcast will necessarily mean most were born after these players had long called it a career. Scully may not consciously believe he carries some responsibility to convey to today’s fans some of the game’s history. He obviously feels that by connecting to the past the game becomes more enjoyable for the fan and provides a context for watching or listening to today’s game. Regardless, it never seems forced when the story involves players or other references to earlier eras.
For example, in one game not long ago a demonstration of timely hitting by an opposition player got Scully pondering great past hitters. “I’ll always remember meeting Paul Waner,” Scully explained during the game’s lull. “He had very intense, bright blue eyes.” Scully called a pitch. “I would look at his eyes and think of a fighter pilot.” A ball was fouled off. Scully then went on to relate a story concerning the longtime outfielder for the Pirates; Waner had a small flask in his hip pocket as he stood in the on-deck circle. “He took a nip. And a second one. Umpire Bill Klem chastised him, ‘Young man, you’re a disgrace to this game!’ Waner replied something to the effect, ‘oh yeah?’ and proceeded to set a record that day for most doubles, or some such,” Scully told listeners. “Boy, he could reeaalllly hit.” Scully then laughed.[fn]Remarked during Dodgers broadcast, 23 June 1998. [/fn]
Since 1950, Scully has been getting behind the mike to not just call the play-by-play, but to provide word pictures to make each game truly entertaining, regardless of the score and team standings. He is endowed with several gifts that have put him at the top of his profession, including a great voice, a rich imagination which enables him to incorporate seemingly perfect similes into the broadcast, a contagious enthusiasm for intelligent ball-playing regardless of uniforms, and an ability to speak to listeners as if he were merely an old friend. Despite his rise to prominence, having received virtually every national sports broadcasting award possible, including having the press box at Dodger Stadium named in his honor, Scully has remarked many times that he is not special.
He has never taken himself too seriously, as illustrated in the following short recollection told over the air in 2010. “Wilver Stargell hit the first ball out of Dodger Stadium in 1969 off Alan Foster,” Scully recalled before asking his audience, “Who called it?” Scully would then answer his own quesion with the confession, “Jerry Doggett—bless his heart. I was in the rest room.”[fn]Remarked during Dodgers broadcast 29 April 2010. [/fn] His is just a simple story of a kid with a hole in his pocket growing up in the Bronx—who was able to realize his boyhood dreams.
GREG KING has been a SABR member since 1993 and co-founded the Sacramento Chapter in 1994. A public historian by professional training, he taught ten years at CSU-Sacramento. He joined the Parsons Transportation Group in San Francisco in 2009 after retiring from the California Department of Transportation, where he served as an environmental manager. Read his BioProject essay on Scully here.