Vin Scully, one of the most respected broadcasters in baseball, died at the age of 94. Stan Kasten, President and CEO of the Dodgers, said that “We have lost an icon,”
In 1950, when the Dodgers were still playing in Brooklyn, Scully joined their broadcast crew. In 1958, he followed the team to Los Angeles. For generations of Southern California fans, he was “the soundtrack to summer,” a personification of “Dodger baseball.”
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He was also a nationally known voice for NBC’s “Game of the Week” baseball broadcast, and he has been a host of numerous World Series. He left the Dodgers booth in October 2016 at the age of 88. This was the end of his longest tenure as a professional sports broadcaster.
He was honored by the Dodgers in an emotional farewell ceremony. He was hailed by the U.S. Congress as a “national treasure” and received standing ovations from both players and fans. He was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom at a White House ceremony shortly after his retirement. This is America’s highest civilian honor.
President Barack Obama was told about the honor and said, “Vin asked with characteristic humility, ‘Are you sure? I’m just an old baseball announcer.’ And we had to inform him that, to Americans of all ages, you are an old friend.”
Scully said, “In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened,” shortly after Kirk Gibson’s homer to win Game One in the 1988 World Series for the Dodgers. Scully stated, “There`s 29,000 people in the ballpark and a million butterflies,” as he set the stage for Sandy Koufax’s September 1965 perfect game against Chicago Cubs.
Many commentators consider Scully’s call for the final inning to be a worthy calling. “You`re the patron saint of all baseball announcers.” Michael Kay, New York Yankees` announcer, said to Scully while interviewing him in 2013, “All we do, is want to be like you.”
NEW YORK TO L.A.
Scully, a tall, red-haired man, was born in New York City on Nov. 29, 1927. He attended Fordham University in the Bronx. In 1950, he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers’ broadcasting team at Ebbets Field. He was trained by Red Barber, a well-known play-by-play announcer.
Barber taught him the importance of using precise, vivid language and how to describe the action objectively, rather than following the example of many announcers who openly support the home team.
Scully stated that Brooklyn and the Dodgers were more important to Red Barber than almost anyone in an interview with Kay. “But on the mike, he was always objective, always fair. Barber has been a big influence in my life.”
Scully wasn’t 26 when he assumed the Dodgers’ telegraph booth role in the 1953 World Series. This was after Barber had resigned due to a dispute over his fee. Scully was appointed the team’s play-by-play chief after Barber left for the New York Yankees. Roger Kahn called “The Boys of Summer” the Dodgers of that time, and they featured greats like Jackie Robinson, who broke the color barrier in baseball, Duke Snider (with Pee Wee Reese), and Roy Campanella.
After suffering several painful Fall Classic losses to the Yankees, Scully was present on television in 1955, when the team won the World Series in Brooklyn. The following year, Scully was on the air to do the television play-by-play for the final half of the World Series, which saw Don Larsen pitch against the Dodgers.
Scully later criticised his description of the game being too dry. However, he can be heard telling viewers on preserved television: “Let’s all take a deep breath as we go to the most dramatic ninth inning in baseball history. I’m going to sit back, light up, and hope I don’t chew the cigarette to pieces.”
“IT’S TIME TO DODGER BASEBALL”
Scully rose to the top of the game’s most prominent announcers when he was able to announce the Dodgers’ move west following the 1957 season. Scully’s trademark is greeting listeners and viewers before every game was “It`s time for Dodger baseball.”
From the beginning of the Dodgers’ West Coast team, when they played in the Los Angeles Coliseum (a cavernous facility), his voice was indelibly tied to the team. Fans brought transistor radios to follow the action at the Coliseum’s vast expanses. This practice was carried to Dodger Stadium in 1962.
The 1960s Dodgers were hugely popular with their fans. They were led by Don Drysdale and Koufax, both Hall of Fame pitchers. Maury Wills was a record-breaker base-stealer, and Maury Wills, who Scully once stated: “When he runs, it`s all downhill.” In 1976, the fans voted Scully “the most memorable personality in Los Angeles Dodger history.”
Scully was also a prominent figure in the 1970s national sports broadcasts. He called the National Football League games and PGA Golf for CBS-TV between 1975 and 1982. From 1983 to 1989, he called baseball’s “Game of the Week” and CBS radio broadcasts of the World Series (1990 to 1997).
In his last years, he reduced his broadcast schedule to announce home games and those in the Western States. Dodgers fans still felt his presence. Scully acknowledged the inspiration of the Dodgers fans, as he was overwhelmed by the adulation at his farewell ceremony.
“When you roar, when you cheer, when you are thrilled, for a brief moment, I am eight-years-old again.”
Scully, who died at Hidden Hills’ home, has left behind five children, Kevin, Todd and Erin, as well as 21 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. Sandra Scully was Vin’s 47-year-old wife. She died at 76 in January 2021.
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