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As a kid in Catholic school we were constantly bounced between the vengeful God of the Old Testament and the less violent deity of the New Testament. One was forever threatening us with eternal hellfire while the other was more a glass half-full kind of guy. Sometimes we longed for heaven simply because we feared hell, and sometimes heaven seemed a nice enough place all on its own.
In our heads these Gods had voices. The scary God was in our heads as Darth Vader. The nice God? Vin Scully.
Vin Scully was the greatest baseball announcer of all time. He was the voice of the Dodgers for over 50 years, and became so beloved that the sight of fans at the ballpark with transistor radios pinned to their ears was common. Being there wasn't enough. They wanted Scully to be with them. His voice was validation.
That was the thing with Scully. He wasn't some know-it-all professorial type. It was like listening to the game alongside the smartest man in the bar. He had a million tid-bits, a million little stories that he'd save and sprinkle in between pitches and pitching changes and batters stepping in and out. He always said the right thing. And when the right thing was saying nothing at all, he said that too ("If something happens and the crowd roars, I shut up"). He never got in the way. Never interfered. The game was a wave, and he rode it like a world-class surfer.
He loved the Dodgers. But he never rooted for them. There’s a lot of guys out there who should take note of this.
So many legendary calls. That Kirk Gibson home run ("you talk about a roll of the the dice...."). That excruciating (for Red Sox fans) 9th inning collapse against the Mets (“There’s a little roller up along first, behind the bag! It gets through Buckner! Here comes Knight and the Mets win it!”).
And then there was 1955, when the Brooklyn Dodgers won their only World Series. After the last out, Scully simply said, "Ladies and gentlemen, the Brooklyn Dodgers are the champions of the world..", and that was it. He didn't say another word. He was asked later how he could have possibly stayed so calm in that moment and said "I was so emotionally overwhelmed by it all that if I had to say another word I think I would have cried.”
He was everything that is good about sports.
The things he'd say.....so simple and direct and perfect....
“Statistics are used much like a drunk uses a lamppost. For support, not illumination.”
“Andre Dawson has a bruised knee and is listed as day to day......(long pause) Aren’t we all?”
"Bob Gibson pitches as though he's double-parked."
“He’s like a tailor; a little off here, a little off there and you’re done, take a seat." On Braves pitcher Tom Glavine.
“It’s a mere moment in a man’s life between the All-Star Game and an old-timers’ game.”
“Roberto Clemente could field the ball in New York and throw out a guy in Pittsburgh.”
He stands alongside Jackie Robinson as the greatest Dodger of them all. And he never wore a uniform.
He was born in 1927, the same year as my father. When I hear Scully today, it’s through the summer screen door of the front porch. My Mom and Dad sitting on the stoop, with the game on the radio. My father, forever a Dodger fan, eventually getting over the move from Brooklyn. He adored Vin Scully as much as he hated the Yankees. I hope they get to meet someday. They’d have lots to talk about.
Scully ended his Dodger broadcasting career in 2016. And this is how he signed off...
“You know, friends, so many people have wished me congratulations on a 67-year career in baseball, and they’ve wished me a wonderful retirement with my family, and now, all I can do is tell you what I wish for you. May God give you, for every storm, a rainbow; for every tear, a smile; for every care, a promise; and a blessing in each trial. For every problem life seems, a faithful friend to share; for every sigh, a sweet song, and an answer for each prayer. You and I have been friends for a long time, but I know, in my heart, I’ve always needed you more than you’ve ever needed me, and I’ll miss our time together more than I can say. But, you know what, there will be a new day, and, eventually, a new year, and when the upcoming winter gives way to spring, ooh, rest assured, once again, it will be time for Dodger baseball. So, this is Vin Scully wishing you a pleasant good afternoon, wherever you may be.”
I cannot imagine anybody from my generation uttering such words. We don't have the type of empathy and love for the game that Scully had. We haven't seen what he's seen, and felt what he's felt. He had the soul of a lion, and the heart of a little boy.
Baseball will never quite be the same.
In a bit…