There aren’t enough words to fully explain what Vin Scully meant to me as a kid growing up as a Dodgers fan in Los Angeles during the 1970s and 1980s. There aren’t enough moments. of sadness to fully capture my pain and loss since learning of the 94-year-old broadcaster’s death on Tuesday.
Wine – and I’ll call him “Wine” because all who loved the man called him Wine and never Scully – belonged to every Dodgers fan before sharing his talents on the national stage and belonged to everyone.
“He wasn’t just the voice of the Dodgers,” Tigers manager AJ Hinch told reporters in Minnesota on Wednesday, “he was the voice of baseball.”
He certainly was. But he was ours in LA first.
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Most of all, though, I thought of Vin as mine, a friend, maybe a caring uncle. It was there on my transistor radio that echoed throughout Dodger Stadium with all those other transistor radios, ringing in raspy unison all those decades ago, serving as the soundtrack to the games of my youth.
When I was shopping with my dad in suburban LA – we always went to Levitz Furniture for some reason – we listened to Vin. Sometimes we’d sit in the parking lot for a few extra minutes to hear Vin call the end of a round or finish one of her entertaining stories. I can still hear my dad laughing at all the twists and turns.
If you want a simple way to understand how good Vin was and how much he meant to me, my dad, and countless other Dodgers fans, here’s an example. My father is a Mexican immigrant and I speak Spanish fluently. The Dodgers also had Jaime Jarrin — who was also honored by the Baseball Hall of Fame with the Ford C. Frick Award, 16 years after Vin — broadcasting games in Spanish. As great as Jarrin was (and still is in this final season), my dad and I never thought about not listening to Vin.
Vin’s real magic was his talent for telling a story. Any broadcaster could call bullets and strikes and tell you who’s on deck or what Tommy Lasorda was mad about at some point. Vin knew it. So he decided that instead of calling a game, he would tell you a story. Any Dodgers game Vin called should have been titled: “The History of the Dodgers Game, by Vin Scully.” You could have transcribed his show and read it to the kids as a bedtime story.
Around Detroit, we will forever remember Vin for calling Kirk Gibson’s two most famous World Series circuits, first in the Game 5 clincher against Goose Gossage and the San Diego Padres in 1984: “And that’s it !” Then in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series with the Dodgers, against Dennis Eckersley and the Oakland Athletics: “Up in right field, and she’s gone!”
If Vin has ever been criticized for anything, it’s because he’s talked a lot on a show, which was necessary because he’s worked much of his career alone. But after calling Gibby’s dinger in 1988, arguably the most famous home run in baseball history — don’t even start with Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” — Vin got the moment and waited. 68 seconds before speaking again. He waited over 90 seconds to speak after his initial call on Gibby’s home run against Gossage – staying quiet for the entire next batting attack.
Imagine a broadcaster these days having so much self-control and letting the moment speak for itself.
Speaking of Thomson, I can’t think of him or Vin without remembering another legendary broadcaster: Ernie Harwell. I never met Vin, partly because I never wanted to meet one of my few remaining heroes. But I got to know Ernie when I helped edit one of his books for the Free Press in the early 2000s. Ernie was as much to Tigers fans as Vin was to Dodgers fans, but I’m here to tell you, with absolute certainty, that Ernie was also one of the most beautiful and kindest humans to ever walk the earth.
And Ernie got robbed because he was on the televised call for NBC during Thomson’s home run for the New York Giants against the Brooklyn Dodgers for the 1951 National League pennant. from NBC was not taped. The iconic “Giants Win the Pennant” by Russ Hodges! Radio appeal was and has become one of baseball’s time capsule treasures. I still feel bad for Ernie.
Of course, all of Vin’s famous calls have been recorded and will live on. This is why the American sports world will always remember Mookie Wilson’s grounder who passed Bill Buckner in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series between the New York Mets and the Boston Red Sox: “Small roll first. Behind the bag! It goes through Buckner!
So there is “The Catch” by Dwight Clark by Joe Montana during the NFC Championship game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Dallas Cowboys in January 1982: “Montana. Watch, watch. Throw in the end zone. Dwight caught it! Dwight Clark!”
But those iconic calls were rare when you consider a broadcasting career that spanned 67 years. Everyday Dodgers genius fans were treated to Vin’s storytelling ability that involved a lot of preparation whether the story is about a Dodger or the opposing team. But he also delights in the banal, which he elevates to the sublime.
Towards the end of his career, Vin told Dodgers fans a story about the ubiquity of player beards and the historical significance of beards. The five-minute story involved Leviticus, Deuteronomy, and Alexander the Great, among others. He started the story with two outs in a game against the Padres, and here’s how he neatly fit the story into the tapestry of calling the action with Ross Stripling and Chase Utley.
“Did you know that the first female king of Egypt wore a fake beard to convince people that she was a man and her name was Hatshepsut?” Vin told the audience. “Here is the first pitch in progress. Stripling’s throw into the dirt, thrown at Utley, out of time. A ball and a strike count. Then, of course, you come to Abraham Lincoln.
I love the idea of a kid watching this game and then going, “Hey, Dad, I was watching the Dodgers game. Who is Leviticus, Deuteronomy and Hatshepsut? »
He wasn’t above anything that tickled him, and bird poop definitely tickled him. It was clear when he told the story of St. Mike Matheny, coach of the Louis Cardinals, who got splashed on his way to his first class in Michigan and took it as a sign that he had made the right decision not to sign with the Toronto Blue Jays as a 31st round draft pick.
Vin’s last season as a Dodgers broadcaster was in 2016. I subscribed to MLB.TV that season and watched every last syllable he said, and cried several times during of his last matches. Even though it’s been several years since Vin called a game, it was comforting to know that he was probably still telling a story to someone somewhere.
Now he’s gone and I miss him already. What do we say of a man when he lives 94 and we think he died too young? I bet Vin could tell us exactly what it says, with a long story that could involve Methuselah, Dracula, and Dorian Gray. And maybe even a little bird poo.
Contact Carlos Monarrez at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.