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Vin Scully, the gentlemanly, yarn-spinning play-by-play man whose mellifluous voice provided the soundtrack to Dodger baseball from Brooklyn to Los Angeles for a jaw-dropping 67 seasons, has died. He was 94.
Scully, a member of the Dodgers organization from 1950 until his retirement following the 2016 regular season, died Tuesday at his home in Hidden Hills, the Dodgers announced.
When he bid farewell to the broadcast booth, he had called nearly half of the games for a franchise that was born in 1890.
Always even-tempered and an easy listen, Scully was credited with turning Los Angeles into a “transistor town” — his broadcasts were pumped throughout the L.A. Coliseum (the team’s first home out west) and then Dodger Stadium and wafted from traffic jams and street-side venues throughout the sprawling city.
“When a game is on the air, the physical presence of his voice is overwhelming,” wrote Robert Creamer for a 1964 Sports Illustrated profile of Scully titled, “The Transistor Kid.”
“His pleasantly nasal baritone comes out of radios on the back counters of orange juice stands, from transistors held by people sitting under trees, in barber shops and bars, and from cars everywhere — parked cars, cars waiting for red lights to turn green, cars passing you at 65 on the freeways, cars edging along next to you in rush-hour traffic jams.”
It was such a shame that because many distributors refused to carry Time Warner Cable’s Dodgers channel in a cost dispute, most TV viewers in L.A. were unable to hear the great Scully at work for several years.
Inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982, Scully also called MLB games for NBC starting in 1983. (He received a Peabody Award that year.) On the network’s Game of the Week, he was partnered with Joe Garagiola.
Earlier, Scully did The Masters and other golf tournaments as well as tennis and NFL contests for CBS. It was Scully who did the play-by-play on the NFC championship game in January 1982 in which the 49ers’ Joe Montana threw a last-minute touchdown pass to Dwight Clark to stun the Dallas Cowboys.
Through all that, Scully continued to serve as the voice of the Dodgers.
“His timing is impeccable,” Dodgers broadcaster Rick Monday told Sports Illustrated in May 2016. “He’s never in a rush. It’s like the game waits for him. We have a little joke among us. When Vin starts one of his stories, the batter is going to hit three foul balls in a row, and he’ll have plenty of time to get it in. When the rest of us starts one, the next is a ground-ball double play to end the inning.”
In 2010, the American Sportscasters Association named him the greatest sportscaster of the 20th century.
Scully was smooth and cool and made it sound easy. He didn’t talk too much or hyperventilate for the home team. When the Dodgers won the 1959 National League pennant, his line was vintage: “We go to Chicago.” That was one of the few times he ever referred to the Dodgers as “we.”
Scully’s honey-soaked voice was an instrument, his pace varied, from rat-a-tat to complete silence, allowing the crowd and background noise to fill things in. He left the microphone for two minutes during the roar that followed Hank Aaron’s record-setting 715th home run in 1974.
For Kirk Gibson’s dramatic ninth-inning blow in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series that would propel the Dodgers to the title, Scully said: “She is gone! In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened.”
“Mine, I guess, is no style at all. I’m just myself, coming to chat with the audience,” he once said.
When Bill Buckner of the Red Sox allowed a grounder to slip between his legs in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, capping a crazy comeback by the New York Mets, Scully said:
“A little roller up along first … behind the bag … it gets through Buckner! Here comes [Ray] Knight, and the Mets win it!”
Another one of Scully’s more memorable calls came when he “time-stamped” Sandy Koufax’s fourth career no-hitter, this one a perfect game. “The time on the scoreboard is 9:44,” he told his radio listeners. “The date, September the 9th, 1965.”
He described the scene at Dodger Stadium: “There’s 29,000 people in the ballpark and a million butterflies.”
“More than a half-century later, it still raises goosebumps,” Bob Costas recalled in his Hall of Fame acceptance speech in July 2018. “The building of the drama and anticipation, the meticulous attention to detail, the keen eye of a reporter blended with the graceful rose of a poet. A perfect performance on the mound matched, and enhanced, by a perfect performance in the booth.”
Scully’s skill was particularly evident in the tedious games that invariably came up. His forte was his storytelling. He mixed in vivid and thoughtful digressions that kept fans glued to his words, as likely to embark on an architectural review of a ballpark, literary or historical references or other engaging info. He brought out the color and life of the game beyond the lines.
Away from the field, Scully was heard on TV shows like Mister Ed, Highway to Heaven, Brooklyn Bridge and The X-Files (Gillian Anderson’s character is named for him) and in the 1962 Glenn Ford film Experiment in Terror. He even hosted a game show (It Takes Two) and his own afternoon TV talk show.
His wife of 47 years, Sandi, died in January 2021. Survivors include his children, Kevin, Todd, Erin, Kelly and Catherine; 21 grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.
“We have lost an icon,” Dodgers president & CEO Stan Kasten said in a statement. “The Dodgers’ Vin Scully was one of the greatest voices in all of sports. He was a giant of a man, not only as a broadcaster, but as a humanitarian. He loved people. He loved life. He loved baseball and the Dodgers. And he loved his family. His voice will always be heard and etched in all of our minds forever. I know he was looking forward to joining the love of his life, Sandi. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family during this very difficult time. Vin will be truly missed.”
Vincent Edward Scully was born in The Bronx on Nov. 29, 1927. His father, a traveling salesman, died when he was 4, and he grew up in an apartment in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan. His love for sportscasting was fueled when he crawled underneath the family’s wooden radio console to absorb the roar of the crowd during game broadcasts.
At Fordham University, he worked on the school’s paper, ran the radio station, wrote as a stringer for The New York Times and was a poor-hitting outfielder on the baseball team. He also sang in a quartet called The Shaving Mugs.
Scully served two years in the U.S. Navy before graduating from Fordham in 1949. He began his professional broadcasting career as a staff announcer at radio station WTOP in Washington, where a CBS executive noticed him and took him to see Red Barber, the network’s No. 1 sportscaster.
When CBS needed someone in an emergency to work the Boston University-Maryland football game at Fenway Park, Barber called Scully. Later, Barber suggested to Branch Rickey, president of the Brooklyn Dodgers, that Scully would make a good addition to the booth at Ebbets Field, and Scully was hired in 1950 at $5,000 a year.
Naive and good-natured, Scully failed to file travel expense reports, and the earnest announcer nearly went broke the first year.
He had replaced Ernie Harwell (who had left to join the New York Giants) on the Dodgers broadcasts, the No. 3 man behind Barber and Connie Desmond. Then Desmond departed and Scully moved up a notch. By the beginning of the 1954 season, Barber had jumped to the New York Yankees and the Dodgers had themselves a new golden throat, 26-year-old Scully.
With the Yankees in town on July 31, 2013, Scully reminisced on the air about the memorable home runs he had witnessed: Bobby Thomson’s shocking sudden-death game-winner that sent the Giants past Brooklyn and into the 1951 World Series; Aaron’s shot that moved him past Babe Ruth; and Gibson’s unthinkable blast.
Scully had another, less-known one — from Game 4 of the 1963 World Series, with the Dodgers one win away from sweeping their bitter rivals — that revealed the humility that marked the man and his career.
Scully talked about how the Yankees’ Mel Allen, another legendary play-by-play man, had been suffering from severe laryngitis. Doctors told him to stay subdued, and Allen remained in control through three games of the Series, broadcast by NBC (Scully also was working for the network).
But when Mickey Mantle of the Yankees homered off Koufax to tie the score 1-1 in the seventh, “Everything went for broke,” said Scully, who had worked the first half of the game before stepping aside. “Forget about the caution with his voice. Allen gave a great call, but it was too long and too hard for his throat, and he just came apart.
“Mel tried to speak, but nothing would really come out. I was supposed to go down to the clubhouse if the Yankees lost to do the Dodgers celebration. However, [NBC Sports head Tom] Gallery tapped Mel on the shoulder as if to say, ‘Give the microphone to Vin.’ And I felt horrible; my heart was broken for Mel.”
Scully called the end of the game, won by the Dodgers. Allen was fired the next season and never called another World Series.
“Here was Mel on the world stage, this great moment … that was a valuable lesson for me,” Scully said. “There but for the grace of God go I. It could happen to me anytime, anywhere.”
Nothing like that ever happened to Scully, and he bowed out on his own terms at San Francisco’s AT&T Park on Oct. 2, 2016. As Giants reliever Sergio Romo was retiring the Dodgers’ Rob Segedin for the final out, he said:
“It’s a good line, and it’s one certainly I’ve been holding on to for I think most of the year … The line is, don’t be sad that it’s over, smile because it happened. And that’s really the way I feel for the remarkable opportunity I was given and was allowed to keep for all these years.
“I have said enough for a lifetime. And for the last time, I wish you all a very pleasant good afternoon.”
Duane Byrge contributed to this report.
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