Vin Scully's lasting legacy: 'The greatest storyteller ever'

Wed, Aug 3, 2022
MLB News (AP)

Vin Scully's lasting legacy: 'The greatest storyteller ever'
By Rowan Kavner
AP Sports MLB Writer

On Oct. 2, 1936, a skinny, 8-year-old redheaded boy walked past a laundromat and noticed the score of the'New York Yankees pulverizing the'New York Giants 18-4 in Game 2 of the World Series. The boy, himself a New York native, took pity on the Giants and became a fan.'

That was the day Vin Scully fell in love with baseball.'

Exactly 80 years later, after 67 seasons of his comforting, familiar voice carrying to living rooms of Dodgers fans from Brooklyn to Los Angeles, Scully called his final game in the Dodgers' booth - coincidentally, between the Dodgers and Giants. "This is Vin Scully, wishing you a very pleasant good afternoon, wherever you may be," Scully said, signing off for the last time.

Nearly six years later, in the midst of another division matchup Tuesday evening between the team he grew up following and the team he became synonymous with, the Dodgers announced the passing of the Hall of Fame broadcaster at the age of 94. A tribute to Scully lit up the Oracle Park video board in San Francisco.'

"He is the best storyteller I think I'll ever meet in my life," said Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner, a Los Angeles native who grew up listening to Scully's calls. "The way he could paint a picture, if you weren't watching the game, if you were listening on the radio, you felt like you were at the game when you heard his voice. His recall, his memory, his stories he told about so many players he had seen, it's remarkable."

Turner won't forget the first time he met Scully - not as a Dodger, but as a Met, when Scully ventured into the visiting clubhouse to say hello.

"He told me he was a fellow redhead, and us redheads have to stick together," Turner recalled to reporters Tuesday. "I thought it was crazy that Vin Scully walked in the clubhouse to find me and say hi to me."

An outpouring of tributes and remembrances followed for the legendary voice of the Dodgers, whose familiar tones and unmatched storytelling made him more of a friend or father figure than a broadcaster to the millions who grew up listening to him on transistor radios and television sets.'

On Wednesday, Los Angeles City Hall will be lit up in Scully's honor.'

"We have lost an icon," Dodgers president and CEO Stan Kasten said in a statement. "The Dodgers' Vin Scully was one of the greatest voices in all of sports. He was a giant of a man, not only as a broadcaster, but as a humanitarian. He loved people. He loved life. He loved baseball and the Dodgers. And he loved his family. His voice will always be heard and etched in all of our minds forever."

As a kid, Scully used to crawl under the speakers of his family's four-legged radio set. He was born for his profession, dreaming at an early age of one day becoming a sports announcer. After graduating from Fordham University, where he was an outfielder for the baseball team, his dream took shape.'

In 1949, Scully called a football game between Boston University and Maryland from the roof of Fenway Park after a seating mix-up. While persevering through the frigid conditions, he made a strong enough impression on Dodgers announcer Red Barber that Barber asked Scully to join him and Connie Desmond in the Brooklyn Dodgers booth in 1950.'

Scully was just 22 years old. Three years later, he became the youngest person to broadcast a World Series game at age 25.'

"He lived, obviously, a tremendous life," said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. "He impacted so many, myself included. I feel honored to be able to have called him a friend. I think there's endless amounts of people that consider him family, part of their families. This is a guy that was not only the voice of Dodger baseball but baseball in general."

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts speaks on the legacy of Vin Scully. "I'm so proud to say he was my friend. He was family."

Scully would go on to call 25 World Series games, 21 no-hitters and three perfect games in his decorated career. Once, it was all three.'

On Oct. 8, 1956, it was Scully behind the microphone when Don Larsen threw a perfect game in Game 5 of the World Series at Yankee Stadium: "Got him!" Scully exclaimed after Larsen struck out Dale Mitchell to finish it off. "The greatest game ever pitched in baseball history, by Don Larsen - a no-hitter, a perfect game, in a World Series."'

Behind many of sports' most memorable events was the soothing sound of Scully's voice, a solo act impossible to replicate.'

There was Hank Aaron's record-setting 715th home run, passing Babe Ruth: "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 Kirk Gibson's unforgettable walk-off homer in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series: "In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened!"'

That night stands out to former Dodgers owner Peter O'Malley - a close friend of Scully's - as much for the moments after the home run as for the homer itself. Scully's wife, Sandi, was sitting with O'Malley and O'Malley's wife at the time of the blast. The stadium erupted.'

"The game's over, and we wait for the crowd," O'Malley told AP Sports. "We're in no hurry. We're all excited. About 10 or 15 minutes later, he walks over from his booth into our box. I can see him coming through the door now with that smile - his face, I have never seen him more excited in my life than he was after that moment."

It was a rare glimpse into Scully, whose impartiality and objectivity earned him the respect and trust of his listeners. He called each game as it was, careful not to take a side.'

Barber instilled in him the virtue to "always go down the middle" as well as the importance of always being himself on the air - a piece of advice Scully passed on to current Dodgers broadcaster Joe Davis.'

"Pull what you can from the guys that you like, but be you," said Davis about what Scully told him. "I think about that advice every day that Vin passed on to me, that he had Red Barber pass on to him."

Davis called Scully "the greatest storyteller, regardless of job, maybe ever." It is the storytelling, authenticity and ability to handle big moments that Davis draws most from his predecessor.'

Scully called "The Catch" by the San Francisco 49ers' Dwight Clark against the Dallas Cowboys - "It's a madhouse at Candlestick!" - and Sandy Koufax's perfect game. The iconic broadcasts further endeared him to fans. The eloquence included an'understanding that he never needed to say too much, content to let each occasion breathe and speak for itself.'

In Game 6 of the 1986 World Series between the'Mets and'Red Sox, Scully explained the situation as Mookie Wilson's 10th-inning ground ball made history: "Little roller up along first, behind the bag. It gets through Buckner. Here comes Knight, and the Mets win it!" More than a minute passed before Scully continued.'

"I asked him one time, what's your advice for those big moments?" Davis said on Tuesday's broadcast. "How do you handle those? How do you nail them every time?"'

Scully told Davis to picture his house burning down.'

"I'm like, 'Wow, Vin, OK, that's kind of a morbid place to go,'" Davis quipped on the air. "I said, 'OK, I'm with you, my house is burning down.' He said, 'If your house is burning down and you start freaking out, your heart rate goes high, you're probably not getting the cat out. So, you've got to take a deep breath, be calm, and you're probably going to get everybody out safe.'"'

Scully got everyone out safe more often than not.'

He coolly and calmly rose to the grandest moments. He was the soundtrack of summer in good times and bad, the link from Brooklyn to Los Angeles, from Sandy Koufax's perfect game to Clayton Kershaw's no-hitter.

"He was the best there ever was," Kershaw said. "When you think about the Dodgers, there's a lot of history here and a lot of people that have come through. It's just a storied franchise all the way around, but it almost starts with Vin."

Scully's influence spanned from the East Coast, where he raced Jackie Robinson on ice skates in the Catskill Mountains, to the West, where he once got fans at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to wish an umpire happy birthday.'

Fans were glued to his broadcasts on transistor radios, even while watching games live. O'Malley used to walk around the Coliseum and Dodger Stadium and would know what was going on by hearing the transistor radios.'

They were all tuned in to Vin.'

"I was one of those guys who brought the transistor, even though you didn't have to because so many other people had transistor radios," said sportscaster Al Michaels, who grew up within walking distance of Ebbets Field in Brooklyn before moving west the same year the Dodgers did in 1958. "He was able to almost permeate the sound to the degree that you heard him clearer and louder than John Ramsey, the PA announcer. He was that kind of a presence."'

In 1976, Scully was voted the "most memorable personality" in Dodgers history. He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982 - and continued broadcasting another 34 years. His 67 seasons with the Dodgers mark the longest tenure of any broadcaster with a single team in professional sports history. Scully earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom Award in 2016, his final year in the booth.'

"Vin Scully is the greatest of all time, period," Koufax said earlier this year. "No discussion. It's him."'

Former Dodgers utility player'Charlie Culberson will never forget Scully's final home broadcast.'

On Sept. 25, 2016, Dodgers players tipped their helmets to the booth as they walked to the plate. In the 10th inning, Culberson's walk-off home run clinched the division for the Dodgers and sent Scully off with fireworks. Culberson, now an infielder for the'Rangers, still considers it the biggest moment of his career.'

"It's kind of crazy to talk about," Culberson told AP Sports in July. "People ask me about it, and I get chills every time just because of how it worked out. It was like it was meant to be for Vin."'

A year later, Scully returned to Dodger Stadium for his induction into the franchise's Ring of Honor. When he looked up at the Left Field Pavilion, he didn't see numbers. He saw faces.'

The No. 39 reminded him of sitting at Roy Campanella's feet in Vero Beach, Florida, listening to stories from "Campy." The No. 24 reminded him of the time Walter Alston challenged the team on a bus ride to the airport in Pittsburgh.'

"I can do that with every number up there," Scully said. "Those numbers are not numbers at all to me. I can hear them. I really can."'

It is a gift unique to Scully, whose contributions through the decades have been honored in a number of ways. The press box at Dodger Stadium now bears his name. Dodger Stadium itself sits on Vin Scully Avenue. Beyond the tangible odes to Scully, it is the memories that keep his voice echoing in Dodgers' fans ears six years after his final broadcast.'

"It's really hard, because it's a portion of your life that you don't want to lose," said Dodgers broadcaster and former pitcher Orel Hershiser.'

Scully leaves behind five children, 21 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. When he retired, the chance to spend more time at home with Sandi - who passed away in January 2021 - was among the primary reasons. He got off the road his final year in the booth, with a couple exceptions, including the final series of the season in San Francisco.'

His humble words in his final sign-off on Oct. 2, 2016, 80 years after he first fell in love with baseball, carried with them the kindness that made Vin Scully feel like family.'

"Now, all I can do is tell you what I wish for you," Scully said. "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 sends, 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 needed you more than you ever needed me. And I'll miss our time together more than I can say."

Rowan Kavner covers the Dodgers and NL West for AP Sports. A proud LSU alumnus, he credits his time as a sportswriter and editor at The Daily Reveille for preparing him for a career covering the NFL, NBA and MLB. Prior to joining AP, he worked as the Dodgers' editor of digital and print publications. When not at a stadium or watching sports, Rowan enjoys playing with his dog, hiking, running, golfing and reminiscing about the Mavs' 2011 championship run. You can find him on Twitter at @RowanKavner.

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