Vin Scully Isn’t Done Yet

Photo of Broadcaster Vin Scully by Icon SMI

When I heard Sunday morning that Vin Scully had called a press conference for prior to the Los Angeles Dodgers game against the Cincinnati Reds, my heart sank. Could this be the end for the last of the legendary broadcasters from the golden era of baseball?

Fortunately, instead of announcing his retirement, Scully announced that he loves the game too much to walk away and will continue to broadcast at least through 2011.

Sometimes the great ones hang on too long and don’t know when it is time to walk away, but that couldn’t be further from the case for Scully. All you have to do is listen to a Scully broadcast to know that this is a man who truly loves what he does and that nobody does it better.

Just two nights ago, I listened mesmerized for more than an hour as Scully didn’t as much “call” the game between the Dodgers and Reds as he did tell the story of the game.

Unlike most broadcast booths that now include two people and include announcers who spend more time utilizing graphics and talking to each other instead of the audience, Scully works alone and I imagine broadcasts on television today much in the same way he did when he first started announcing games on the radio for the then-Brooklyn Dodgers in 1950.

When listening to Scully you can almost close your eyes and let his voice guide you through the game in a manner atypical of most modern television announcers. As he probably did 60 years ago, during the first game of a series Scully typically spells out the names of those players with unusual last names on the opposing team. Though fans today can simply go to the internet to find the live game box score, Scully still has one foot in an era when young boys sat at the radio scoring along with the broadcast.

While pausing only occasionally to catch his breath, Scully fills the air with tales about each player that make you feel like you have known them for years. Whether it is sharing stories about a player’s high school exploits on the field or in the classroom or how another player went from growing up in a small town to playing in the majors, Scully reminds viewers that these are young men living a dream and not simply highly paid athletes.

For three hours each night, Scully is having a conversation with you, the viewer. He occasionally will even ask questions as if to remind the viewer that you are in this together.

Even at the age of 82, Scully flawlessly transitions from one play to another with grace and ease. He often describes the nuances of the game in a manner that clearly illustrate that he has been doing this for a while.

When he broke into the game working with the legendary Red Barber and veteran announcer Connie Desmond, who could have imagined that six decades later he would still be going strong?

Scully now only works home games and road games against the NL West, but just to have a chance to hear his eloquent delivery on those occasions is magic.

He truly is a bridge from a time when the use of technology in baseball was still developing to a time now when you can watch games on a computer and see any team no matter where you live.

When Scully started with the Dodgers, it was only three years after Jackie Robinson had broken baseball’s color barrier. He was there in 1951 when Bobby Thomson hit the Shot Hear ‘Round the World and watched the Dodgers finally defeat the Yankees to win the 1955 World Series. He was also calling the action a year later when Don Larsen pitched a perfect game in the World Series.

After moving with the Dodgers to Los Angeles, he broadcast the exploits of Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax as the Dodgers won the World Series in 1959, 1963 and 1965. He then called the action as the Dodgers reached three Fall Classics in the 1970s and then finally won one for Tommy Lasorda in 1981.

Though he made his national broadcast debut in 1953, to many, Scully is best known for his work as the play-by-play voice of NBC’s Game of the Week from 1983 through 1989. This national exposure brought Scully’s style to fans every week and though he had a partner in Joe Garagiola, Scully was clearly the master of the booth.

Baseball has not been Scully’s only national exposure over the years. He was part of the CBS television broadcasting team for a decade calling NFL broadcasts from 1972 until 1982. He was in the booth during the 1981 NFC Championship Game and had the call on Dwight Clark’s game-winning catch. Scully also broadcast golf and tennis during his tenure with CBS.

But it is baseball for which he will always be remembered.

Sadly, when Scully does finally call it a career it will mark the end of an era in sports. Not just because Scully has been at it for more than six decades, but also because he is one of the final ties to the roots of broadcasting in sports and for more than 60 years has been baseball’s greatest story teller.

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