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.
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.
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.