If you're connected at all with the baseball world, you're probably aware that Vin Scully will soon be retiring as the broadcaster for the Los Angeles Dodgers. I grew up as both a Dodger fan (thanks in part to the free tickets I got from the Herald Examiner for getting good grades in school) and as a Vin Scully fan. My team loyalties shifted over the years as I moved away and as the team that I knew (Russel-Lopes-Garvey-Cey) moved on in their careers. But I never stopped loving to hear Vin Scully's broadcasts.
I didn't know how good I had it as an Angeleno at the time. In baseball we had Vin Scully. Dick Enberg ("Oh my!") broadcast the Ram games (in their first LA incarnation). Chick Hearn (too many quotes to list, but "mustard off the hot dog" comes first to mind) held forth with LA Laker games (with, at one point, an assistant named Pat Riley). But as Dick Enberg became a national figure, and as I moved away and experienced other announcers, I realized how special it was to listen to this group.
I had thought I would put together a tribute to Vin, but others have done such a good job I'm going to just reference them here, with a couple of thoughts.
This piece from Jayson Stark at ESPN is very good. And there's this video from MLB. So just a couple of thoughts. My favorite quote from the MLB video: "For many Angelenos he's the soundtrack of our lives."
- Vin understood never to get in the way of the game. His best example of this, and one of my clearest memories, was his call of the Henry Aaron home run to break the record then held by Babe Ruth. Al Downing was pitching, and Vin made the call as Aaron smashed a pitch over the fence. And then (as Jon Miller, who I am now blessed to hear) recalled in the ESPN piece, Vin said... nothing. Silence. For several minutes. Silence in radio is death, but in this case Vin hit it perfectly. There was nothing to add and he just let us experience the moment.
- Vin's voice and tempo was so melodious, it wrapped around you like a warm blanket. He could create a sense of drama in just announcing the next batter. I remember thinking that I could get up and get a beer from the fridge before he was finished announcing that "Willllbuh Starrrrgelll" was coming to the plate.
- Vin didn't just announce the game; for many of us he was the game (though to this day, he insists that it's not about him). As noted in the MLB video, fans would go to the ball game and still be listening to Vinnie on their transistor radios. It was as if the game didn't happen until Vin described it.
- Vin emphasized LA's position in any game, but we was no "homer." For Vin, he transmitted his love of baseball through his narration. You could hate LA, but you couldn't hate Vin. Even after moving to Stanford, I would still try to tune in late evenings to LA radio stations to see if I could find Vin on the radio.
- Last, Vin always made you feel like a welcome guest, whether this was your first or hundredth time listening to the broadcast. He was like a favorite uncle, that you couldn't wait to visit.
Typical of Vin, he has announced that he will not stay on to announce any Dodger games past the end of the regular season. He has said that he feels like he's already had his "farewell tour" and doesn't want to reprise it in the playoffs. In typical fashion, he's concerned that he doesn't overshadow the players on the field.
So thank you Vin, for all the great times. There are other very good announcers out there, but there will never be another one like you. So I'll wait with a smile for one last "Hi everybody!" And if I'm lucky, I'll get to hear his, "back, back, a-waaay back" home run call, kind of like this one.