Thanks for the Memories, Vin

He was the greatest voice of the greatest game.

Vin Scully, the legendary Dodgers broadcaster who entertained millions of baseball fans for generations by turning each game into a story unto itself, died Aug. 2, 2022, at the age of 94.

Even among the Dodgers’ storied franchise history that includes celebrated personalities such as Tommy Lasorda and Jackie Robinson, Vin Scully stood out as one of the team’s iconic representatives.

After a two-year stint in the U.S. Navy, Scully, a native of The Bronx, became a student at New York’s Fordham University and did radio broadcasts for many of the school’s sports teams. He caught the ear of CBS Radio’s Red Barber, who recruited Scully for the network’s college football coverage. In his first assignment in November 1949, he braved freezing weather on the roof of Fenway Park in Boston after leaving his coat behind due to a misunderstanding about the location of the broadcast facilities.

Barber, who instilled in Scully a sense of objectivity and professionalism, then brought the young redhead over to the Brooklyn Dodgers, starting in 1950. When Barber left after the 1953 season, Scully became the team’s primary voice. He was there for the latter half of Jackie Robinson’s career, including the Dodger franchise’s first World Series win, and only one in Brooklyn, in 1955.

His arrival in Los Angeles when the team moved here in 1958 proved a perfect match for a growing city built on freeways and car culture. Fans could acquaint themselves with their new team on the go by listening to Dodger games on their car radios, and many became so accustomed to Vin’s voice they began bringing transistor radios to games at the L.A. Coliseum (where the team played before Dodger Stadium opened in 1962). Some games there were so many radios in the stands tuned to Vin in unison that the players reportedly could hear the broadcast on the field as they were playing.

Scully unsurprisingly was on hand for many of baseball’s most iconic moments during his career, from the perfect games of Don Larson and Sandy Koufax, to Hank Aaron passing Babe Ruth’s career home run total, to more somber moments such as welcoming back fans in 2001 after 9/11. He was there for the Dodgers’ L.A. title legacy in 1959, 1963, 1965, 1981 and 1988. He was there for Fernandomania. He even shared play-by-play duties with President Ronald Reagan during an inning of the 1989 All-Star game in Anaheim, Calif. Undoubtedly his two most memorable calls happened during World Series: the Mets comeback against the Red Sox in game six of 1986, and Kirk Gibson’s walk-off homer in game one to lead the Dodgers past the A’s in 1988.

For me and so many others growing up in the Greater Los Angeles area, Scully’s voice was synonymous with the sound of a baseball game. He always seemed just as knowledgeable about the visiting team’s players as the home team, and had such a knack for telling stories about players or the history of the game in between pitches that he always seemed to finish just before the inning did and the broadcast cut to commercial.

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While he was the primary voice of the Dodgers and his Gibson call remains an indelible moment of the team’s history, many forget that he was actually in the booth for that game as part of NBC’s broadcasting team alongside Joe Garagiola, just as he was in 1986. In the 1980s, World Series broadcasts alternated between ABC in the odd years and NBC in the even ones, so Scully’s presence for those two moments was something of a happenstance. He worked for NBC from 1983 through 1989.

Outside of baseball, Scully called tennis, PGA Tour golf and NFL football games for CBS from 1975 to 1982. His most famous call during this stretch was probably “The Catch,” Dwight Clark’s touchdown that put the 49ers into Super Bowl XVI.

Beyond sports, Scully hosted a number of TV shows, including the game show “It Takes Two” from 1969 to 1970 on NBC; most of the episodes are believed lost due to the common but shortsighted practice at the time of reusing broadcast tapes, though some episodes can be found on YouTube.

Scully also plays himself in the 1999 Kevin Costner baseball movie For the Love of the Game as one of the broadcasters, his most notable among several film cameos.

As a sign of his influence on Hollywood, the character of Dana Scully on “The X-Files” is named after him.

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However, he will be first and foremost remembered for his association with baseball. He was given the Ford C. Frick award, often referred to as being included in the baseball hall of fame broadcaster’s wing, in 1982. As television evolved and networks built broadcasting teams with separate play-by-play announcers and color analysts, Scully remained a throwback to an earlier era when working the booth solo was the norm. Even as the Dodgers moved past single-man booths in the early 2000s, Scully remained one of the last solo play-by-play announcers through the end of his career. More often than not, a portrayal (or spoof) of a generic baseball announcer was doing an impersonation of Scully.

Scully maintained a cherished place in the Dodgers’ broadcast booth for 67 years, finally retiring in 2016. His most iconic catchphrase, “It’s time for Dodger baseball,” lives on as part of the pregame ceremony before every Dodgers home game. Both the press box at Dodger Stadium and a street leading to the park were re-named in his honor.

While Scully would pop up for official team appearances from time to time after his retirement, his final role as the voice of the Dodgers was to help celebrate the team’s 2020 World Series win by narrating Major League Baseball’s official championship documentary.

“I know I’ve been so very fortunate to see the celebration of every one of their championships,” Scully says in closing out the official 2020 World Series Film. “Every legend of every generation, enjoying their greatest moment on the game’s grandest stage.”

That’s the beauty of baseball — a continuity of stats, records and achievements that dates back for more than a century. And for nearly half the history of the sport, spanning the careers of thousands of players that came and went, Vin Scully was a common thread connecting them all. As baseball’s traditions struggled to meet the demands of modern entertainment, he was a calming reassurance that the game would be fine, a living embodiment of the principle that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

And still, the game will never be the same without him.

The 2020 World Series — Champions: Los Angeles Dodgers

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Shout! Factory;
Sports;
$19.98 DVD, $26.98 Blu-ray;
Not rated.
Narrated by Vin Scully.

These World Series recap videos tend to be a bit on the cookie-cutter side — mix in interviews from both teams, focus on the highlights from each game, then hire a celebrity who’s a fan of the winning team to narrate.

Soon after the Los Angeles Dodgers wrapped up the title by defeating the Tampa Bay Rays in six games, I figured since Bryan Cranston had narrated a few Dodgers vignettes over the years, no one would be better suited for the job than him.

Expect for the guy they got.

Vin Scully.

The now-93-year-old broadcasting legend who was the Dodgers play-by-play announcer from 1950 to his retirement in 2016 — right before the Dodgers’ run of making three World Series in the past four years.

Scully had been there for all the previous Dodgers championships, from their lone title in Brooklyn to the previous five since they moved to L.A. in 1958 — 1959, 1963, 1965, 1981 and 1988, the latter being famous for the Kirk Gibson home run.

Amid the global coronavirus pandemic that forced Major League Baseball into taking the unprecedented step of not only shortening the regular season, but also holding most of the postseason at neutral sites, the sound of Vin Scully talking about Dodgers baseball just makes the world seem a little bit closer to normal.

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While it’s nice to relive some of the memories of the title run, when Vin isn’t talking, the documentary kind of reverts to the usual sort of highlights package and behind-the-scenes footage MLB produces to commemorate the just-concluded season. Given how rapidly they make it to shelves after the final game, the recap videos tend to feel as if they are being cobbled together as the series progresses and then after it’s over they’ll tack on some extra footage of the team that ended up winning so as to give the hint of some sort of overarching narrative.

In this case, that means a reminder that this was the eighth year in a row the Dodgers have won the National League West title, but hadn’t converted any of the previous seven into a World Series title — the longest stretch of consecutive division titles without a championship in MLB history. Their last World Series win came in 1988, a three-decade drought they came close to breaking in 2017 before falling short in seven games to the Houston Astros — a series they may well have won if not for Astros cheating using methods that came to light a few years later (which, in accordance with the MLB’s seeming policy of wanting to sweep that scandal under the rug, is completely ignored here).

Other stories swirling around the team heading into the Fall Classic were rumblings about

future Hall of Fame pitcher Clayton Kershaw not being able to win in October, and manager Dave Roberts continually coming up so close to the title but falling short in his five years at the helm.

As Gibson had been the spark for the ’88 team, the key ingredient for 2020 turned out to be Mookie Betts, a superstar player who helped the Boston Red Sox beat the Dodgers in the 2018 World Series, and who the Dodgers acquired in a trade before the season when the Sox were looking to cut payroll. Much to the chagrin of Red Sox nation, Betts subsequently signed a 12-year extension with the Dodgers worth $365 million.

The series itself would end up awash in historic quirks as a result of the pandemic. After cutting short Spring Training in March, MLB shut things down until July, when teams began an abbreviated, regional 60-game regular season with no fans at the ballpark, as opposed to the usual 162-game campaign. As an added wrinkle, the playoffs were expanded, and the Division, League Championship and World Series were played at stadiums neutral to the teams involved, so the league could maintain a COVID-free bubble. The Dodgers essentially spent October making the Texas Rangers’ stadium near Dallas their home away from home.

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The World Series film doesn’t really delve into the earlier playoff matchups (except in the bonus materials), and thus doesn’t mention one of the more amusing coincidences resulting from the unusual playoff circumstances — all of the qualifying Central Division teams from each league lost in the first round. So the Division series were all contested between teams from the same division. And the League Championship series were each West vs. East affairs in which neither team had played each other before during the regular season.

Likewise, with the Rays winning the American League pennant over the hated Astros, the World Series was also an East/West matchup — featuring the teams with the best records in each league, the best combined record since 1906, and were similar unfamiliar with each other.

In another coincidence, bubble delays to the NHL and NBA pushed their playoffs back several months, with the Tampa Bay Lightning and Los Angeles Lakers winning their respective league titles just a few weeks before the World Series — making Dodgers vs. Rays a sort of tie-breaker for the region seeking bragging rights and the moniker of “Titletown” for 2020.

But that’s just trivia for the sports-minded in general. Bringing in Scully to narrate the movie really pays off in the end, when he adds a personal reflection linking the Dodgers’ seventh title to the six that came before — a montage of historical moments that will surely bring a tear to any Dodger fans’ eye.

It should be noted there seems to be a brief audio glitch during Scully’s wrap-up ruminations — one that’s part of the audio mix since it’s consistent on both the Blu-ray and the DVD offered in the combo pack.

Extras on the 2020 World Series Blu-ray include a five-minute recap of the Dodgers’ season, eight minutes of Dodgers season highlights, a nine-minute montage of highlights from the Dodgers’ games to clinch a playoff spot, the NL West, the Wild Card series over the Milwaukee Brewers, the NLDS over the San Diego Padres, and the NLCS over the Atlanta Braves, in which the Dodgers had to rebound from being down 3-1 in the best-of-seven series.

There is also a 14-minute video of select post-game interviews with Dodgers players following their title win.

Highlight Film of Dodgers’ 2020 World Series Championship Arriving Dec. 8, Narrated by Vin Scully

Shout! Factory Dec. 8 will release The 2020 World Series, the highlight film of Major League Baseball’s 2020 championship season that saw the Los Angeles Dodgers win the Fall Classic. The film will be narrated by longtime Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully, who retired in 2016. It will also be available on the same date digitally, to own and rent from all major platforms.

The coronavirus pandemic presented many challenges to the 2020 baseball season, cutting short spring training and forcing the league to adjust to an abbreviated 60-game schedule with expanded playoffs in a quarantine bubble and a World Series played at a neutral site for the first time in history.

Through it all, the powerhouse Dodgers lineup, one of the favorites going into the season, emerged with the team’s first championship since 1988, after coming back from a 3-games-to-1 deficit in the National League Championship Series to win a dramatic seventh game against the Atlanta Braves, then defeating the Tampa Bay Rays in the World Series in six games.

The official World Series film features in-depth Interviews with Dodgers superstars including Mookie Betts, World Series MVP Corey Seager and pitcher Clayton Kershaw.

“It was 32 years since the Dodgers won a World Series and the seventh in the history of the organization, bringing great joy to their fans and the city of Los Angeles in particular,” Scully said in a statement. “This is their winning story against the Tampa Bay Rays, and it’s an honor for me to recount just how they did it.”

Bonus features include regular season highlights, clinching moments, featurettes and more.

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Dodger fans can also get the 2020 World Series Collector’s Edition: Los Angeles Dodgers Blu-ray Disc set Feb. 9, 2021, featuring eight complete game broadcasts — the six games of the World Series against Tampa Bay, plus the final games of the National League Division Series against the San Diego Padres (Game 3 to complete a sweep) and the National League Championship Series against the Braves (Game 7 to complete the comeback, capped by Cody Bellinger’s home run in the seventh inning).

The games will include multiple audio options — the network TV broadcast, the Dodgers radio announcers, and the Spanish-language broadcast.

The packaging will include a “Sleevestats” insert containing game trivia, official statistics and more.

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