Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Vin Scully: Soundtrack of the Summer Game

Vin Scully loves the challenge of describing things. With his voice, Scully creates vivid word pictures that colorfully illustrate America's Pastime ~ and nobody does it better.

Scully, 82, has broadcast thousands of Dodgers games on radio and television for the past 60 years. From the team's "Boys of Summer" glory days in Brooklyn to its move west to Los Angeles, Scully's voice is synonymous with Dodgers baseball.

A native of New York City, Scully was hired by the Dodgers in 1950 a year after graduating from Fordham University. At age 25, he became the youngest broadcaster of a World Series Game. His distinguished career has spanned 12 presidential administrations from Harry Truman to Barack Obama. In 1982, he was inducted into the broadcasters wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

On Sunday, unbeknownst to him, Scully celebrated the 60th anniversary of his first regular-season Dodgers broadcast, which took place on April 18, 1950. Fast forward to April 18, 2010 where he was behind the mike as the Dodgers beat the Giants 2-1 behind an eighth inning pinch-hit home run by Manny Ramirez ~ a homer exuberantly described by Scully on the Dodgers' TV broadcast.

Scully told the Los Angeles Times that he had "no particular memory" of his first Dodgers broadcast, which was against the Phillies at Philadelphia's Connie Mack Stadium. However, he added, the memories of his first season with the team were clear.

"That first team, the so-called Boys of Summer, that was my graduating class. That was such an amazing collection of players," said Scully. The 1950 Dodgers team included Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, Duke Snider and Roy Campanella. "So I guess that was the team that made the most impression on me."

Among Scully's many broadcast highlights for the Dodgers, there are two that stand out for me, both of them from radio: One I heard as a 10-year-old kid growing up an avid Dodgers fan in southern California; the other happened a generation later after I had become a Twins fan living in St. Paul, Minn. Both show Scully's mastery of the English language and each brings out his enviable personality.

The first highlight is Scully's call of the ninth inning of Sandy Koufax's 1965 perfect game against the Cubs broadcast on Dodgers radio. (An audio link to Scully's play-by-play is below.)

The other highlight is Scully's call of Kirk Gibson's two-strike, two-out, two-run game-winning homer in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series against the A's broadcast nationally on CBS radio. (A partial transcript of Scully's play-by-play call is below.)

"High fly ball into right field, she is gone," said Scully, who then remained silent for more than a minute, allowing listeners to absorb the drama and excitement of the moment. He resumed: "In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened.

"And, now, the only question was, could he make it around the base paths unassisted? You know, I said it once before, a few days ago, that Kirk Gibson was not the Most Valuable Player; that the Most Valuable Player for the Dodgers was Tinkerbell. But, tonight, I think Tinkerbell backed off for Kirk Gibson. And, look at Eckersley ~ shocked to his toes. They are going wild at Dodger Stadium ~ no one wants to leave!"

How has Scully maintained his enthusiasm for his profession after six decades in the broadcast booth? "I feel only overwhelming gratitude," said Scully, in the the Los Angeles Times interview. "You feel blessed that you've lived that long, that you've been allowed to do what you love to do for that long, and that my health has held up all those years. It's humbling to think that you've been that fortunate and that God has blessed you with that time."

It's this gift of time Scully has given to baseball ~ and for the Dodgers ~ that is truly an enduring legacy. His voice is the soundtrack of the Summer Game.

(Below, I have attached some Vin Scully links of interest.)

Vin Scully ~ Wikipedia entry.

NPR feature from 2007 with audio of Vin Scully's 1962 call of Sandy Koufax's first no hitter

Vin Scully ~ Biography from Dodgers' website

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