Los Angeles — He was the voice of the Dodgers, and so much more. He was their conscience, their poet laureate, capturing their beauty and chronicling their glory from Jackie Robinson to Sandy Koufax, Kirk Gibson to Clayton Kershaw.
Vin Scully was the heartbeat of the Dodgers – and in so many ways, the heartbeat of all of Los Angeles.
Vin passed away at the age of 94 on Tuesday at his home in Hidden Hills.
“We have lost an icon,” said Dodger President & CEO Stan Kasten. “The Dodgers Vin Scully was one of the greatest voices in all of sports. He was a giant of a man, not only as a broadcaster, but as a humanitarian. He loved people. He loved life. He loved baseball and the Dodgers. And he loved his family. His voice will always be heard and etched in all of our minds forever. I know he was looking forward to joining the love of his life, Sandi. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family during this very difficult time. Vin will be truly missed.”
Vin reached millions upon millions of people through his work, and not just covering the Boys in Blue. For years, he served as a national TV and radio announcer of baseball, golf and football. In the 1982 NFC Championship game between San Francisco and Dallas, his call of Dwight Clark’s back-of-the-end-zone catch became an instant classic. In 2010, the American Sportscasters Association named Vin the greatest sportscaster of the 20th century.
But when you think of Vin, you think of the Dodgers. And when you think of the Dodgers, you think of Vin. No other broadcaster in history – in sports or beyond – has been more clearly identified with one organization. And it all came from a deceptively simple approach.
I’ve always tried to make the players human beings – individuals – rather than wind-up dolls down on the field running around. So I’ve always searched for the human side of the game, if I can possibly find it. That’s the character that I try to paint, the character that the man represents himself. I think that helps, especially when a team is struggling and you have something interesting to say about someone. I think on the other end, a listener might enjoy it.
Vincent Edward Scully was born in New York on November 29, 1927, and back when radio was new and television was an apparition of the future, he dreamed of the life he would ultimately inhabit.
When I was 8 years old, I wrote a composition for the nuns saying I wanted to be a sports announcer. Where the boys in grammar school wanted to be policemen and firemen and the girls wanted to be ballet dancers and nurses, here’s this kid saying, ‘I want to be a sports announcer.’ I mean it was really out of the blue.
After attending Fordham University – where he played in the outfield – opportunity knocked for Vin in 1949. Given a one-time shot to solo on the radio at a Maryland-Boston University football game, he was relegated to an outdoor press box at Fenway Park in the freezing cold. He performed his duties without complaint, which impressed a man by the name of Red Barber.
Barber was the Dodgers’ lead announcer at the time, and months later, when they were looking for a No. 3 man to join himself and Connie Desmond, “Young Scully” (as Red would say) got the job. He was 22 years old.
Vin’s profile rose rapidly. At 25 in 1953, he became the youngest ever to broadcast a World Series. Two years later, after Barber left to join Mel Allen with the Yankees, Vin was the Dodgers’ No. 1 voice announcer when “the Boys of Summer” finally won their first World Series in 1955. A year after that, he called the end of the national broadcast of Don Larsen’s 1956 World Series perfect game – one of more than 20 no-hitters Vin broadcast in his career.
When the Dodgers came west in 1958, only to finish seventh in the National League that year, it was Vin as much as anyone who bonded the franchise with its new city. Fans – not only around the city, but at the games themselves in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum – would listen on their new transistor radios to Vin and colleague Jerry Doggett. In an era long before “interactive” became a buzzword, it would be Vin who would encourage the crowd to call out “Happy birthday” to an umpire or ask them to help him to conduct an experiment on how long two seconds was.
A trip to the 1959 World Series – ushered in by Vin’s famous call of “We go to Chicago!” – the first of four National League pennants and three World Series titles over eight seasons, made Los Angeles and Vin to become inseparable. On September 9, 1965, Koufax gave Vin the opportunity to make a call for the ages.
It is 9:46 p.m. Two and two to Harvey Kuenn, one strike away. Sandy into his windup, here’s the pitch. … Swung on and missed, a perfect game!
On the scoreboard in right field it is 9:46 p.m. in the City of the Angels, Los Angeles, California. And a crowd of 29,139 just sitting in to see the only pitcher in baseball history to hurl four no-hit, no-run games. He has done it four straight years, and now he caps it: On his fourth no-hitter, he made it a perfect game. And Sandy Koufax, whose name will always remind you of strikeouts, did it with a flurry. 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.”
If asked, Vin would downplay his own abilities with words, yet he was without a doubt the most gifted linguist ever to broadcast a sporting event, a chef mixing sacrifices with Shakespeare – and possessing the Bard’s inherent sense of drama. When Hank Aaron hit his record-setting 715th career home run in April 1974, Vin stood quietly aside for nearly two minutes, before speaking.
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. And it is a great moment for all of us and particularly for Henry Aaron.
Even as others were crowning him the greatest in his field, Vin’s head never swelled. His humility was evident in 1982, when he was voted into the broadcaster wing of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
If I’m to be honest with you and myself today, I have to ask the same question when good fortune comes my way, ‘Why me?’ Why, with the millions and millions of more deserving people, would a red-haired kid with a hole in his pants and his shirttail hanging out, playing stickball in the streets of New York, wind up in Cooperstown? Why me, indeed? I don’t have the answer … but I do know how I feel. I want to sing, I want to dance, I want to laugh, I want to shout, I want to cry, and I’d like to pray. I’d like to pray with humility and great Thanksgiving.
Remarkably, after that lifetime achievement, Vin would broadcast for 34 additional seasons, concluding his Dodger broadcasting career from the final game in San Francisco on Oct. 2, 2016. He would broadcast his last home game on Sept. 25, 2016 at Dodger Stadium. During his final season, the city of Los Angeles renamed Elysian Park Avenue to 1000 Vin Scully Avenue in his honor.
His 67 seasons with the Dodgers represent the longest tenure of any broadcaster with a single team in professional sports history.
In addition to his Hall of Fame honor, Vin received the Commissioner’s Historic Achievement Award in 2014 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom Award in 2016. On May 3, 2017, the Dodgers inducted Vin into their Ring of Honor.
His great career includes the moment, on October 15, 1988, when a gimpy Kirk Gibson unexpectedly limped to the plate in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series for an underdog Dodger team that trailed with two out in the bottom of the ninth, and worked the count full against the game’s preeminent reliever, Dennis Eckersley.
High fly ball into right field. She is … gone!
In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened.”
Vin cherished his life as much we cherished him. He rarely looked back, except when prompted, and on those occasions, he offered the perspective on life that only he could capture and pass along, a perspective formed during his first year with the Dodgers in 1950.
Going all the way back, if I went all the way back, I would think of Carl Furillo, for instance. The Dodgers were playing the Phillies, the final game of the year, winner goes on to the World Series. And it was a great matchup, Don Newcombe and Robin Roberts, two great pitchers of that era. And to make a long story short, the Dodgers lost that game – 10th-inning home run by Dick Sisler – and I went down to the clubhouse to kind of commiserate. It was my first year. I walked by, and there was a door open and I saw a station wagon piled with stuff on top of it, and I thought, ‘Well, only a player can park there.’ And I thought, ‘Why would a player be all ready to go home – don’t you think he’d be thinking of winning and staying?’ And I said ‘Whose wagon is that?’ And they said, ‘Oh, that’s Carl Furillo.’ Well, Carl Furillo was a solid, blue-collar, worked hard day after day after day, and I said, ‘I saw you’re packed out there.’ And he said, ‘Yeah, you either do or you don’t.’ And that really struck me as the complete professional. ‘You either do or you don’t.’
For Dodger fans, Vin Scully always did. And it is our heartbreak to say goodbye.
Scully leaves five children—Kevin, Todd, Erin, Kelly and Catherine, 21 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
Funeral services are pending.