Recently, the great iconic baseball broadcaster Vin Scully celebrated his 92nd birthday.
For those who are not aware, Scully is regarded as the greatest of all time. It is one of the rare declarations in my profession that is not debated.
It is not challenged, and not a matter of conjecture.
When the name Vin Scully is brought up, those who have heard him on the air simply say, “he’s the best”.
I realize there are legendary announcers in every sport who have distinguished themselves in careers that have spanned decades.
But Vin Scully is in a class by himself.
He finally retired in 2016 after a mind-boggling 67 years as the voice of the Dodgers. First in Brooklyn, then mostly in Los Angeles.
Scully in Brooklyn
Scully began in 1950 as the number 3 man in the booth behind the great Red Barber and Connie Desmond.
His run was the longest tenure of any broadcaster with a single team in professional sports history. He was 88 when he hung up the microphone.
He’s won every broadcasting award including the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Growing up in Queens, a suburb of New York City, I was a fan of the New York Giants. My first year seriously following them
ironically was in 1951, the year the Giants won the pennant on Bobby Thomson’s indelible “shot heard ’round the world”,
the ultra-dramatic three-run homer in the bottom of the 9th inning of the third and deciding playoff game against the
hated Dodgers. The Giants had trailed the powerful Dodgers by 13 1/2 games on August 13th.
By capturing 37 of the last 44 games, the Giants forced a playoff.
When I was a youngster, you were either a rabid fan of the Giants, Dodgers, who played in the National League,
or the Yankees, who played in the American League, and were baseball’s dominant team.
We hated the Dodgers, our mortal enemy. Back then, teams played each other 22 times a season. So the Giants
and Dodgers faced each other on 11 occasions at the Polo Grounds, the Giants home, or at Ebbets Field.
The rivalry was intense, to say the least.
The three New York teams would televise every home game, but the entire schedule would be broadcast on radio.
I remember watching the Giants on WPIX, channel 11 with my father, but when an inning ended and it was time for the commercials, my Dad would implore me to turn the dial on the television to channel 9, WOR, to see what the Dodgers were doing.
I had to sit right in front of the set, since the dial was on the TV, and I had to be quick to make the move.
If you’re wondering why I just didn’t use the remote from where I was sitting, realize there was a time people traveled by horse
and buggy before there were automobiles.
That’s when I first heard Vin Scully on the air. Both on TV and radio. He didn’t do many innings as the number 3 voice,
But you knew even then, he was a cut above.
The Giants and Dodgers moved to the west coast in 1958, Scully moved to Los Angeles with the Dodgers.
Before they moved to their spanking new home, Dodgers Stadium in Chavez Ravine, the Dodgers played at the Los Angeles
Coliseum, the 100,000-seat football palace which housed the LA Rams, USC and UCLA.
It was Vin Scully who in reality taught baseball fans in Los Angeles what the major league game was all about.
L.A. had a minor league team, but when the city went big-league, it was Scully, who captivated fans to the degree they carried
transistor radios into the Coliseum and faithfully listened to his descriptions, as they watched the game themselves.
Often, the echo of Scully’s voice resounded throughout the stadium.
The practice continued when the new ballpark was built and until transistor radios went out of vogue.
Scully’s career expanded well beyond the Dodgers.
He was the voice of NBC’s national baseball presentation, broadcast NFL football for CBS, and covered major golf tournaments for CBS as well.
But the Dodgers were his staple.
Imagine, this youngster listening to this treasure as a kid, then getting to know him later on.
In 1987, Scully was working NBC’s national coverage of the NLCS between the Giants and the St.Louis Cardinals.
His partner was Joe Garagiola, I was assigned to broadcast the series on CBS Radio with Johnny Bench.
Scully and Joe Garagiola
We were both waiting to board a flight to San Francisco after the first two games in St.Louis.
I had heard he was an avid reader of detective and suspense novels.
I asked him if he knew of a novel that was similar to the “Caine Mutiny Court Martial”, an all-time great story that was
made into a legendary film starring Humphrey Bogart.
He was quick with a reply.
” Read, “Word of Honor” by DeMille, as in the movies, DeMille. You’ll love it”.
I was mesmerized, hearing that from the golden voice.
I read that super novel by Nelson DeMille, and never forgot the recommendation. As it turned out, we sat
next to each other on the flight west.
Talking continually on airplanes is not good for a broadcaster, so there was no constant chit-chat.
But there was one thing Vin Scully told me I never forgot.
Scully in LA
Despite his countless years as the Dodgers broadcaster, he grew up a fan of the New York Giants, as I did.
He revealed that he had a painting in his home of a wrecking ball hovering over the Polo Grounds, the Giants home,
ready to demolish the ballpark and pave the way for low-cost apartment housing.
So, the Polo Grounds was a symbol of HIS youth.
I guess your childhood never leaves you. But we all know that.
I would see Vin when we had similar assignments, and we would briefly talk. The subject was usually about recent
novels we had read.
When I worked games at Dodgers Stadium for Fox on a Saturday afternoon I would announce the game in his
booth. There was no local broadcast on those days, so Scully had the day off.
I felt I was in hallowed grounds.
My sports jacket was hung on his own hanger. I have a photo of that. Who ever takes a picture of a hanger?
The Coat Hanger
We also shared the same agent. His name was Ed Hookstratten, who negotiated Scully’s contracts with the Dodgers.
Whenever I saw Ed, I always asked about his other client, one of the many big-time stars he handled.
Yours truly was well down the totem pole of Hook’s clients.
So when Vin Scully turned 92 on November 29, I felt it was time to put down on paper what this man meant to me
as a youngster, and how fortunate I was that I got to know him in some small way.