Vin Scully: A Life in the Game

young vin

The great Vin Scully turned 86 on Friday. That’s the same amount of years that the Red Sox went between World Series titles thanks to that whole “Curse of the Bambino” deal. Vin Scully is 86, and in 2014 he will be returning to the Dodgers broadcast booth for a record 65th season. 65 years, that’s usually the age when the average person retires. Instead, Vin Scully has spent an entire lifetime in and around the game of baseball, a feat that few ever experience. I cannot even begin to fathom what it would be like to have a chance to sit and pick his mind about everything he has seen in his 65 years.

Scully started calling games for the Dodgers back in 1950, while the team was still located in Brooklyn.

young vin2

Scully had the chance to be mentored by one of the all time greats in Red Barber and was able to witness the last moments of the golden age of baseball, a time when the mighty Yankees were challenged by the underdog bums from Brooklyn and the (baseball) Giants of New York.

By the end of his first decade in the booth he would follow along as both the Dodgers and Giants headed West leaving New York for the Yankees and expansion Mets. By 1964, Scully had earned so much respect throughout the game that he was offered the chance to be Mel Allen’s successor as the New York Yankees announcer; Vin humbly declined.

Although best known for his calls on the diamond, Vin Scully has also lent his talents to other sports throughout his 65 year broadcasting career. Throughout the 1970’s and 80’s Scully’s voice was a fixture at numerous NFL championship games and PGA tour tournaments. Surprisingly one of Scully’s most recognizable calls was during the 1982 NFC Championship game between the Dallas Cowboys and the San Francisco Giants at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park. Most people simple know the play as “the Catch.”

the catch

“Montana…looking, looking, throwing in the endzone…Clark caught it! Dwight Clark!…It’s a madhouse at Candlestick!”

Besides adding his touch to one of Football’s greatest moments, Scully’s voice has been the soundtrack to multiple memorable moments throughout the history of professional baseball. One of his earliest highlights was in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series when New York Yankee pitcher Don Larsen threw the first Perfect Game in the history of the World Series against Scully’s Dodgers.

larsen

“Got him! The greatest game ever pitched in baseball history, by Don Larsen! A no hitter, a perfect game in a World Series … Never in the history of the game has it ever happened in a World Series … And so our hats off to Don Larsen—no runs, no hits, no errors, no walks, no baserunners. The final score: The Yankees, two runs, five hits and no errors. The Dodgers: No runs, no hits, no errors … in fact, nothing at all. This was a day to remember, this was a ballgame to remember and above all, the greatest day in the life of Don Larsen. And the most dramatic and well-pitched ballgame in the history of baseball. … Mel, you can put this in your ring and wear it a long time.”

Larsen’s achievement in Game 5 wouldn’t be the only time that a pitcher had left Scully flabbergasted. During their early years on the West Coast, Dodgers fans were lucky enough to have two pitchers capable of shutting down an opposing teams offense any time they took the mound. Those two pitchers were Hall of Famers Don Drysdale and the legendary lefty Sandy Koufax.

The two of them gave the Dodgers perhaps the best starting duo in the game during the early 1960’s. Although both were dominant, it would be often be Koufax who would steal the spotlight. Koufax’s perfect game on September 9th, 1965 is still regarded as perhaps the most dominant pitching performance of all-time. Koufax would finish with 14 strikeouts, which is still the current record for punch outs in a perfect game.

koufax perfecto

“On the scoreboard in right field it is 9:46 p.m. in the City of the Angels, Los Angeles, California. And a crowd of twenty-nine thousand one-hundred thirty nine just sitting in to see the only pitcher in baseball history to hurl four no-hit, no-run games. He has done it four straight years, and now he caps it: On his fourth no-hitter he made it a perfect game. And Sandy Koufax, whose name will always remind you of strikeouts, did it with a flurry. He struck out the last six consecutive batters. So when he wrote his name in capital letters in the record books, that “K” stands out even more than the O-U-F-A-X.”

rick monday

Sometimes Scully’s calls went beyond the game itself and touched on matters that effected society as a whole. During a game in April 1976, a father and son ran onto the field and attempted to burn an American flag in protest.

Before the two had the chance to set the flag aflame, Chicago Cubs OF Rick Monday ran in and grabbed the flag. Monday, who was playing as an opponent in L.A, received a standing ovation when he came up for his next at bat. When asked why he did what he did, Monday responded:

“If you’re going to burn the flag, don’t do it around me. I’ve been to too many veterans’ hospitals and seen too many broken bodies of guys who tried to protect it.”

hank

One of the more memorable moments in both baseball history and Vin Scully’s broadcasting career was the night that Hank Aaron hit his 715th career home run and thus breaking Babe Ruth’s all time mark. For month’s leading up to the record breaking home run Aaron, a black man, received death threats and racial harassment wherever he went.

The fact that he was breaking a white man’s record and doing so whilst playing in the Southern U.S, caused Aaron stress that few could ever comprehend. So when Hammerin’ Hank connected on #715 and sent it into the Atlanta night, who better than Vin Scully to poetically offer insight into a very sensitive moment in American History.

“What a marvelous moment for baseball; what a marvelous moment for Atlanta and the state of Georgia; what a marvelous moment for the country and the world. A black man is getting a standing ovation in the Deep South for breaking a record of an all-time baseball idol. And it is a great moment for all of us, and particularly for Henry Aaron. … And for the first time in a long time, that poker face in Aaron shows the tremendous strain and relief of what it must have been like to live with for the past several months.”

Scully has had the rare opportunity at being able to celebrate and call both the highest of highs, and the lowest of lows. Bill Buckner’s heartbreaking botched play of a Mookie Wilson ground ball, ended both Game 6 as well as any hope of a Red Sox victory. Buckner’s infamous blunder is perhaps the most memorable of all errors and blunders throughout the rich history of baseball.

Bill Bucker Error

The sad thing is that it wasn’t really Buckner’s fault and he shouldn’t have been in that position to make that error in the first place. The fact that it effectively ended the Red Sox chance to win their first title since 1918 didn’t help Buckner’s case. Sadly Buckner’s name would be dragged through the Massachusetts mud like those of Bucky Dent’s and Harry Frazee’s before his. It wouldn’t be until the Red Sox finally got the job done in 2004, that all was completely forgiven between Buckner and the Boston faithful.

“So the winning run is at second base, with two outs, three and two to Mookie Wilson. (A) little roller up along first… behind the bag! It gets through Buckner! Here comes Knight, and the Mets win it!”

I still cringe everytime I hear Scully yell “BEHIND THE BAG!” It’s like watching a car crash unfold in front of you. Sometimes you can’t away.

gibbyk

If Buckner’s blunder was as low as one can feel, than Kirk Gibson’s heroics in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series have to be the complete opposite. The Dodgers entered the 1988 World Series as an underdog compared to the powerhouse Oakland A’s. What didn’t help the Dodgers situation was the fact that Gibson, their best player in the regular season, was doubtful to play in the series due to injuries sustained in the NLCS. However, prior to Game 1, Gibson notified Dodgers Manager Tommy Lasorda that he could be available as a pinch hitter if necessary.

Cue the drama. Bottom 9th. Two out. Runner on 1st. Dodgers are down 4-3 and are facing the best closer in the game Dennis Eckersley. Suddenly Kirk Gibson emerges from the dugout to pinch hit. The atmosphere and mood is that of a gunfight in the Wild West. Scully adds to the moment by proclaiming “Look Who’s Coming Up!” as Gibson hobbled to the plate. Despite falling down 0-2, Gibson was able to find “his pitch,” a back door slider, and deposited it into the Right Field bleachers for a two run, walk off home run.

The Dodgers would carry that momentum with them throughout the series and onto a 4-1 series win. The home run has been called both the greatest home run in baseball history, as well as the greatest plays in baseball history. The LA Times named it the Greatest moment in the history of LA Sports in a 1995 poll. That home run would also prove to be Kirk Gibson’s only at bat during the whole World Series. Still going 1 for and adding your name with the other legends isn’t bad either.

“High fly ball into deep right field, she i-i-i-is… GONE!!”

As he enters his 65th season, Scully has done and seen pretty much everything you one can see on a baseball field. He even knows how to make the best of any situation that comes his way.

He has had the privilege to broadcast 3 Perfect Games, 19 No-Hitters, 25 World Series, and 12 All Star Games. When his career first begin in 1950, baseball was less than three years removed from racial segregation, and even that didn’t mean that the game or society was welcoming blacks and latinos with open arms. Both the game and society have come a long way from those days and Vin Scully was there as a witness to the change in society.

It’s amazing to think that during Scully’s illustrious career he has been exposed to almost every single technological breakthrough that has come through the world of sports and sports broadcasting. His career started on the radio and on black and white television sets and now he has the ability to take over the Dodgers official Twitter account and interact with a whole new generation of baseball fans.

It’s hard to think of a baseball world without Vin Scully as it is hard to picture a hockey world without Don Cherry. Sadly these legendary figures do not last forever and we should cherish the time we have left with them doing what they’ve done their entire lives. Scully is the voice of baseball in my books. MLB should come with an option to have him take over any game that you are currently watching. I mean even he, the great Vin Scully, would be able to make an Astros/Twins game seem riveting. I don’t understand why this hasn’t been done yet? So until that becomes a reality, cherish what may very well be a legends last season. I know I will be.

vin

– $

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