Mourning the Loss of Vin Scully
The greatest sports broadcaster who ever lived has died at 94.
Vin Scully died today at age 94.
Vin Scully was the greatest broadcaster in the history of sports. And for Dodger fans, for 67 seasons, he was ours.
He was great at what he did, but everyone knows that. Everyone has heard the most famous call in baseball history, when a gimpy Kirk Gibson hobbled up to pinch-hit in the ninth inning of Game 1 of the 1988 World Series. “And look who’s coming up!” Scully said, as the sold-out Dodger Stadium crowd roared. “All year long they looked to him to light the fire, and all year long he answered the demands, until he was physically unable to start tonight. With TWO bad legs. A bad left hamstring, and the swollen right knee. And with two out, you talk about the roll of the dice, this is it!”
Gibson, of course, would go on to hit a miracle home run off the mighty A’s closer Dennis Eckersley, to propel the underdog Dodgers to a Game 1 win, and, ultimately, a World Series championship over an Oakland team they had no business beating.
“High fly ball into right field! She is GONE!!!” Scully cried as Gibson whacked the ball over the fence and into the bleachers. And then in pure Scully fashion, he let the moment breathe without saying a word as Gibson rounded the bases, just so the viewer could take in the sounds of the euphoric home crowd uninterrupted by any mere mortal’s narration. “In a year that has been so improbable,” Scully continued after Gibson touched home plate and began celebrating with teammates, “the impossible has happened!”
And truly, as I sit here trying to find the words to say about Scully, it feels impossible he is no longer here. He is the reason I fell in love with baseball. He is the reason I stayed connected to Los Angeles when I moved to New York after college and fell in love with it and thought I would never return home. He is the reason millions of us knew that loving the Dodgers meant placing your heart in the hands of “Dem Bums” but going ahead and doing it anyway.
The first time I ever met Vin, I heard him singing before I even saw him. He loved to sing his favorite songs, show tunes mostly, from favorites like Music Man. It will come as no surprise to those who listened to him on the radio every night that he had a wonderful singing voice. It took me years to muster saying more than just “hello” to him in the hallways. The first time he called me by my name I must have called 10 people and told them about it.
By the time I came around, in 2007 or so, his beloved wife, Sandi, was always with him at the stadium. We were frequently two of the only women in the press box, and Vin knew that. A true gentleman, he would always hold the door open to the press box dining room for any woman he saw. He was all grace and class, the exact same person in real life as he was on the air. He was a kind and genteel human in an era that seems way too short on those kinds of people.
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He would eat dinner before every night game in a small room with the other broadcasters, while us writers sat in the main dining room. Often, when he was done eating, he would come and sit with us and ask how we were doing, what we thought about so-and-so player, and what was happening around the league. Mostly we wanted to be quiet and let him talk. He was the best storyteller, but you already knew that.
He grew up a Giants fan and idolized Mel Ott as a child. He talked about what it was like watching Ott roam the enormous Polo Grounds in New York, and made sure we all knew about Ott’s large right leg kick in the batter’s box. He would imitate Ott’s swing, but later said in a broadcast that “something happened when I swung the bat, that did not do what Mel Ott did." Since Scully pretty much saw everyone who ever played the game, I once asked him who he thought was the best. “Willie Mays,” he said without hesitation. “It has to be Willie Mays.”
My favorite story Scully told was about the time Jackie Robinson challenged him to a race on ice skates. Robinson had never ice skated before, and possibly never even seen snow, but that was beside the point. To Scully’s lifelong amusement, Robinson simply treated the skates like track spikes and sprinted down the ice.
But anyone can tell a story about hanging out with an extremely famous person and sound cool. What made Scully the greatest broadcaster to ever do it was the way he brought the same sweetness, wit and enthusiasm to spinning yarns about players whose big-league careers might only last one night. “Paco Rodriguez’s real name is Steven,” he once said of a Dodger rookie reliever. “But only his mother calls him that.”
His humility was another key to his greatness. “My career is talking about the accomplishments of others,” he said in a press conference at Dodger Stadium near the end of his career. “I haven’t accomplished anything. Some days are okay. Some days I get in the car and say, ‘You stink.’”
There were two things that bothered him about baseball. The first thing was that first and third base coaches did nor wear earflaps on their helmets. The second was that Gil Hodges was not in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Base coaches may still not wear earflaps, but Hodges was finally enshrined in Cooperstown nine days ago. I’ll forever be grateful that Scully was still alive to see it.
The loss of Vin Scully is devastating to the city of Los Angeles, and to the world. He was as embedded in the fabric of this city as any person who ever set foot in it, and his voice will echo through Chavez Ravine forever.
Thank you, Vin. Thank you.
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