Many have shared their appreciation of legendary Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully as he steps away from the microphone after 67 magical seasons. MLBTR joins them in honoring one of the most uniquely compelling figures in sports history.
Chances are, you didn’t first fall in love with baseball by reading about it on the internet. More than likely, it happened as you sat amidst the peanut shells at a ballpark; smelled the leather of a new mitt; stumbled onto a Wrigley day game on WGN while flipping through the channels one summer; heard your dad grumbling about a blown call in last night’s contest; picked up the glorious tones of a golden-voiced announcer through an intermittently-fading radio signal.
However it happened, what led you here was likely something quite different from the statistics, money, and rules that we discuss on a daily basis. Probably, the reason you care about the player transactions that shape Major League Baseball is that you first found yourself intoxicated by the intricate details of the game itself, while absorbing it as a fan and amateur participant.
Baseball is cherished by those who have found it because it is exponentially rewarding in its repetitive, utterly simple details. Look closer and you’re drawn further in. The punctuating moments have such meaning only because they emerge from a layered canvas, with all its patina.
And that is why Vin Scully, the now-former Dodgers broadcaster, is so important and so meaningful — and not just because he calls a good game. For all his great calls, which we’ve enjoyably relived in recent weeks, his singular excellence resided in the mundane.
Just how is that batter digging in? Where’s the happiest kid in the stands and what is it about this pleasant good evening that he’s enjoying so much? Who, really, is this mop-up pitcher who’ll handle the eighth inning of a meaningless, late-season blowout? What is the count, and the score, and how does that relate to the standings and the [insert memory/history lesson/interesting fact] and oh look! just what are those brawling players shouting at each other (give or take)?
Baseball by Vin is sharing memories, imparting and receiving wisdom, experiencing an event with the like-minded while seeking out and valuing different perspectives, exhibiting vigorous curiosity, accumulating and disseminating knowledge, building standing in a community with (and through) humility and gratitude, deriving meaning from the commonplace — whether times or moments are good or bad.
He didn’t just provide us with the best way to take in a ballgame. Broader lessons reside in the countless hours that Scully spoke into a microphone — often from the words themselves, but also from the steady cheer of the man who delivered them and the sheer fact that he did it for so long and with such obvious care. In a way, if we listened closely, he showed us how to navigate our lives, with all their ups and downs but also their sometimes-monotonous routines and easily-overlooked opportunities for appreciation.
It is bittersweet to think these thoughts now, and not just because we’ll no longer hear Scully’s perfect narration of yet another 9 innings — never again listen to his gentle cadence guide us through the game — but because baseball and life intersected more jarringly last Sunday.
The loss of Jose Fernandez was an unthinkable tragedy, a gut punch not only to his loved ones, but also — in a different but still-meaningful way — to most anyone who follows the game of baseball. That devastating blow reinforces Scully’s essential meaning, because Fernandez — whose immigrant journey was every bit as quintessentially American as Scully’s New York-to-Los Angeles epic — possessed an infectious joi de vivre different in form, but not in kind, from Scully’s.
Scully’s dependability and longevity, and Fernandez’s fleeting brilliance and flair, speak to the same fundamental messages: Life is best lived buoyantly. Its many splendors, great and meager, ought to be treasured daily. Celebrating our differences as well as our commonalities is our bond. There’s zen to be found in a ballgame, and just about anywhere else, with observation and appreciation. And the way to cope with the stultifying or the unfortunate things that life throws at us is not to despair or retreat, but to double down on joy.
Thanks, Vin, for letting us listen in. If we truly heard you, we might just end our days with only two regrets: that we didn’t absorb your life’s wisdom sooner, and that we didn’t catch enough ballgames with you at the mic.
Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The first baseball voice I ever heard was in 2002 from a TBS Braves game being called by Skip Caray. I’ve been hooked since.
Good announcers like Vin Scully are RARE, especially calling games alone. I wish him the best in his future away from the game and appreciate the character and charismatic calling of the great game of baseball!
I also grew up with a heavy dose of TBS Braves (as well as the WGN Cubs I mentioned in the article). Many children of the 90’s did, via cable.
That old Braves TBS crew was not bad at all Jeff.. Carey, Van Wieren and of course? Ex pitcher Ernie Johnson. He was the really class act, but they all blended together so well when many of us were listening to broadcasts mainly on radio and they and WGN were about all we could constantly see,except for what a local station would broadcast sometimes of various teams.
I definitely remember watching the Braves about as much as the Cubs in my youth. Long summer days with nothing to do … where did those go?
Agreed. Luckily here, so many teams had ST in central florida during the 60’s and 70,s, plus many local stations radio stations would broadcast games.. Could listen to half a dozen, or more games at just about any time.
Used to keep a radio above my bed, would fall asleep many nights during my youth listening to games..
Well said, Jeff.
As a grade and high school kid in the 60’s and early 70’s, I would fall asleep with a transitor radio under my pillow.
Here in So Cal, we have now lost the best in basketball in Chick Hearn and now Vinny retiring. Bob Miller, also hall of famer is reducing his load due to last year’s heart attack.
Good luck Vinny and we’ll see you at Staples, Bob.
One of the best articles I’ve ever read on here (and that’s saying a lot). Nicely done, Jeff!
Thanks so much.
Fantastic tribute to the greatest of all time. What I would give to sit next to him during a game…
Y’know, every time someone has posed the question to me, “who would you want to meet, dead or alive?”, the only answer I’ve ever been able to come up with is Vin. Once he referenced something on the air that made me think he might be an MLBTR reader, and I nearly feinted at the thought, ha.
I “grew up” with Vin; his voice IS baseball, to me. What gets to me is that other broadcasters have never figured out his secret, that he actually calls the games. Most networks broadcast games with at least 3 in the booth, 1 in the stands and another on the field, and they’re all fighting to have their voice heard. I tune in to hear a game, and all I hear from the press box is people chatting it up, an interview with some clueless fan, or a commentary from a field reporter; who cares! Are baseball games too long because of the game, or what we have to listen to? We need more single person broadcasts, people who just want to talk about the game at hand, like Vin did; then, baseball will return to it’s roots as America’s game. May Vin’s legacy wear off on the industry!
“He actually calls the games.” Nailed it, from someone lucky enough to have absorbed a lot of Vin!
Thank you for this comment. I really never appreciated the importance of Vinnie being alone in the booth and being able to establish that direct connection with the listener until recently. He spoke at length about this in his press conference. Obviously, he had the ability to demand this format until the end of his career; but it appears the Dodgers will move exclusively to the three-announcer format. I enjoy Orel and Nomar very much; but no individual or group of individuals can ever replace Vinnie. Truly the last and best of an era.
Vin worked for a number of years during the ’80s with Joe Garagiola broadcasting the Game of the Week and several postseasons for NBC. They were a good team. Working alone wasn’t nearly as important as never forgetting the listener is your audience, not the other person in the booth. This is what the current sportscasting teams seem to not understand.
Well said thanks for the article! I have loved seeing all the people pay respect to Vin. It’s been tough dealing with saying good bye to this man. He’s been a very big part of my life for the last 30 years. There will never be anyone like him. Don’t get me wrong, there are always great announcers and always will be but there will never be one like Vin. What he did was incredible. Not just doing this for 67 years but doing it at such a high level for 67 years and just the way he did what he did. He painted a picture like no other and told a story. He had some of the best stories. Really going to miss it. Thankful I was able to grow up listening to Vin and I really am happy for him, his wife and his family that they get to spend more time together now.
Check out the piece Grant Brisbee wrote at SB Nation. He talks about those unfortunate souls (such as myself, and most of us) who weren’t saturated by Vin, but only caught him when we could. You experienced something truly unique.
We will miss you Vin, thanks for all the great moments!
The greatest broadcaster of all time.
I fell in love with baseball in 1988. Forever etched into my memory is his legendary call of one of the great moments in baseball history:
“High fly ball into right field, she is goooonnnneee!!!!…In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened!”
Great read…thank you Jeff. I am not a Dodger fan so I have never heard anything about who is the “unlucky” son of a gun who has to follow in his gigantic legendary footsteps as the next Dodger announcer? Have they ever said whom?
Jeff, this is also one of the best articles I ever read on here. I grew up outside Chicago, my grandfather would have us watch a Cubs game, sing the 7th inning stretch and then after the game have us play wiffle ball. Then I moved to So Cal as a teen and fought the ability to appreciate Vin. It took some maturity to acknowledge that he was the best to listen to. I had to fight my Homer tendencies and acknowledge how great he was. His sign off to god career was tear jerking. He is just a fantastic personality and a delight to listen to most of the summer. I will miss him.
Man, Cubbies and wiffle ball with your granddad, doesn’t get any better than that!
I struggled to adapt after the Orioles parted ways with Jon Miller. When I was the most into baseball – mid-nineties O’s – he was their voice. He’s the only guy other than Vin who I can actually hear narrate things inside my mind from time to time!
Just looked it up on Wikipedia to recall what happened there … ugh.
Wikipedia: “At the end of that season, Orioles owner Peter Angelos, displeased with Miller’s often candid commentary on the Orioles play, declined to renew his contract, citing a desire for a broadcaster who would ‘bleed more orange and black.'”
Thank you Jeff. Such a personal and thoughtful reflection, I truly appreciate the time and care you put into this article.
I saw my first game in 1961. A double-header in the Coliseum. I was 7 years-old. We sat out in left-field behind the screen and I remember Frank Robinson, Vada Pinson, that Sandy Koufax pitched game 1, that the Reds swept. and I remember Vinnie’s voice. It seemed to be everywhere that evening.
For those of you who aren’t in LA or read the paper, I wanted to provide this link to Vinnie’s final press conference held a week ago last Saturday–following his Friday tribute on the field. If you haven’t heard it, I recommend it to you all. It is approximate 45 minutes of pleasure and treasure.
On a personal note, in one of the final segments of the press conference, Vinnie was asked to recall his worst moment in the booth. His LA memory was the 1962 game 3 playoff loss to the Giants. This is also my worst memory as a fan. I was 8 and Vinnie was 35….a shared memory we will each take to our grave, I suspect.
Thank you very much. I will give that a watch.
Coliseum, that must have been an experience. Young fan experiences will never leave us, eh? For me: watching Tony Tarasco stand in vain with his back to the wall as Jeffrey Maier stuck his glove over the fence and turned a harmless flyball into a homer.
I’ve always pined for Ebbets Field myself … that’s the one place I’d pick to go see a game if I could travel back in time. I must say, though, going to Dodgers Stadium is an amazing trip back in time in and of itself. It was awesome to be there, just knowing Vin was in the same place, watching the same game.
Amazing article Jeff.
I’ve been a fan of Vin since the late 90’s. As a Jays fan, I’ve been stuck with some mediocre broadcasters for much of my life and I remember the first time I ever heard Vin call a game and it was as if I was hypnotized. Vin oozes knowledge and his stories of the all time greats(Sandy, Duke, etc) were a pleasure to hear. I’ve gone out of my way on many occasions just to hear Vin call a Dodgers game. Oh how I envy Dodger fans and having the greatest calling their games for all these years.
Thank you. Hypnosis is an apt metaphor … I have enjoyed just putting Vin-called games on softly in the background while writing for the site. Even if you’re not really listening, it’s somehow comforting.
Just Another Fan
Scully was truly the best, a legend in the game.
It is a true shame that the mlb network and all local team networks operate the opposite way to Vin’s method. All baseball fans really want, are guys like Vin calling the game.
Unfortunately, I think that model is largely gone. In Jayson Stark’s piece, Bob Costas commented on the fact that Vin could never get a shot at a booth if he was trying to crack into it now with his style.
Just Another Fan
If only MLB would poll the fans on this:
Would you rather one person call the game, or seven?
Would love to see the results! Everyone I know loved Vin because he was entertaining, he called the game perfectly, he dropped random factoids about literally every player on the screen, and his last few weeks were really marvelous as he went into anecdotes on his own life. Sigh.
Isn’t that a sad commentary? Vin’s secret, and he even said as much, was he always imagined he was talking directly to a fan. No specific fan, but someone on the other side of the microphone who was as interested in the game as he was. Carve away all the wit, wisdom and poetry Vin added to his calls, and that single feature of his work stands out as the key to why he was so beloved for so long. You’d think sportscasters would be lined up ten deep to borrow this trick, since it works so brilliantly, and it isn’t patented, after all. But no, the current generation of sportscasters are content to sit in the booth and yack with each other, as if the listeners (and often the game) aren’t part of what are doing. They all say how much they admired Vin, but they haven’t taken in the basic lesson of sportscasting that he taught anyone who wanted to learn it.
Anyway, thanks for the wonderful tribute, Jeff. Vin was not only the last of his kind, he was also the best.
A blind man listening to Vin Scully sees more of the ballgame than most people can see on an HDTV.
Broadcasters seemingly get paid by the syllable these days. They have to fill every second of airtime with something and the end result is that they just BLAB and BLAB and aren’t even talking about the damn game half the time.
You’ll be missed, Vin!
Just Another Fan
Strongly agreed, compared with Vin about 75% of guys currently calling games are insulting to the profession. No one deserves Harold Reynolds, ever.
I heard CIA enhanced interrogation techniques involve putting enemy combatants on a leather recliner in front of a TV equipped with a surround sound system. Then they turn the ALDS on. Loud.
Vin was the thread that connected us to past. He didn’t have to read articles about the baseballs greats, he knew them, and would share first hand knowledge of games, incidents, and moments that everyone else could only wonder about. Vin loved working the booth alone because he felt he could talk directly to the listener, realizing all too often that we were the ones left out of the conversation with multiple sportscaster booth. His kind will not pass this way again, and it’s sad. Being able to listen to him exclusively for the last 10 years has spoiled me. Even in the twilight years, he was far and away above his colleagues. I wish they would’ve had Vin scout out and groom his replacement. Not that it’d be Vin, but at least it be something. God bless, Vin.
You don’t listen to Vin Scully tell you what’s happening, it’s like you hear the game itself.
Based Vin also destroyed socialism in one of his somewhat recent broadcasts.
So well put, Jeff, thanks! I grew up in Southern California in the 60’s and 70’s, and so I was fortunate to watch and listen to Vin Scully on Channel 11 and Dick Enberg calling the Angels games on Channel 5. Add to that the Saturday game of the week with Curt Gowdy, Tony Kubek and Joe Garagiola, and how could I not get hooked?! I also grew to love listening to Jerry Coleman calling the Padres games, and was fortunate enough to meet him and sit in on his broadcast. He, along with Bob Chandler, were probably two of the nicest men I’d ever met. I heard the same about Vin, and would have loved to meet him, and sit in as well. Now I am fortunate enough to get to listen to some of the outstanding remaining “local” broadcasters throughout North America on MLB Extra Innings. The fact we still have some greats like Jon Miller, Gary Thorne, Don Orsillo (what a loss for the Red Sox), and many others makes me hope that kids are getting hooked in the same ways today…maybe not, but we can hope!!
I grew up on the East Coast as a Mets fan listening to Ralph Kiner and Lindsay Nelson. When I moved out here in the mid-70s I was so completely taken by Vin that it was easy to quickly shift over to becoming a Dodgers fan. I mean, if every time you turned turned on the radio or TV that voice floated out, how could you not?
For a kid from Toronto, hearing his dulcet tones on late night Dodgers games was a treat. Hearing him call Kirk Gibsons home run is a memory I’ll carry till my grave. Thank you Vin