A Tribute to Vin Scully


Vin Scully's contributions to baseball broadcasting are unmatched in the history of the game. (Courtesy of Wikimedia)

By Matthew Michaels 

Vin Scully's contributions to baseball broadcasting are unmatched in the history of the game. Courtesy of Wikimedia
Vin Scully’s contributions to baseball broadcasting are unmatched in the history of the game. (Courtesy of Wikimedia)

As the visionary class of 2020 embarks on its journey to lead Fordham into an ever brighter future, the dodransbicentennial is as good a time as any to reflect on the men and women of the past who have shaped the university into the institution it has become. If Fordham is a place where excellence is instilled in young students, nobody better exemplifies the school than Vin Scully, an alumnus of the class of 1949. A man who, at age 88, is still at the top of his profession and is a paragon for all who hope to live up to his success.

When searching for a career at a young age, common advice is to pursue what you love. However, very few people are actually afforded the opportunity to do what they love.  Vin Scully loves baseball and baseball loves Vin. Around baseball, September call-ups are trying to impress and several teams are fighting for playoff berths. Yet, baseball fans are rightly overlooking the end of the regular season excitement as they follow the Los Angeles Dodgers’ broadcaster, who is nearing the finish line of his illustrious career.

Scully joined Red Barber and Connie Desmond in Brooklyn’s broadcast booth in 1950 and became the principal announcer on Barber’s departure in 1953. In that 1953 season, Scully became the youngest person to ever broadcast a World Series game, a record which he still holds. When Scully entered professional broadcasting, three legends – Mel Allen for the Yankees, Russ Hodges for the Giants and Red Barber for the Dodgers – called baseball games in New York, but it was not long before a new hero joined the pantheon of announcers.

Scully’s career burgeoned when the Major Leagues consisted of 16 teams, the furthest geographically south and west located in St. Louis. Scully followed the Dodgers from Brooklyn to the west coast in 1958 as relocation and expansion took hold of baseball. Scully was there when Dodgers Stadium opened its doors in 1962 and his work address has been in Los Angeles for nearly 60 years. In the city of angels, a metropolis full of pretentious stars trying to fulfill their egos and familiar voices coming out of artificial mouths, Scully’s humble baritone stands above the rest on the hills of California.

His passion for the game is inherent in his broadcasts but he never roots for a team. His objectivity calling Dodgers games is exemplary for even the most respected journalists at a time when most broadcasters are overly excited by feats of the team that employs them. Scully’s work is extraordinary, and his list of accomplishments is legendary to say the least. Just halfway into his career, in 1982, he joined the Baseball Hall of Fame by winning the Ford C. Frick Award, the highest honor for an announcer. Scully’s name is etched among entertainment’s greatest with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and this season, Scully made the cover of Sports Illustrated. Scully is held in the highest esteem and is seen with equal parts awe and admiration by every person in baseball.

Every game with Scully is a treat: an acknowledgement from the baseball gods that there is greatness in this world. The one thing greater than his way with words is Scully’s longevity and ability to remain at the top of his game, even as his game changed. He was a voice on the radio when Marconi’s invention was the centerpiece of every American living room. He continued to effortlessly talk baseball as the television became commercially accessible, and later, the internet. Scully frequently mentions Twitter and understands new developments better than colleagues half his age. The way in which we consume baseball has evolved tremendously, but it has also broadened Scully’s audience. Once upon a time, you had to be in New York and turn the FM dial to hear the redhead talk about Hodges and Snider, but now Scully is heard discussing Kershaw and Seager on radio, television and online. Nobody moved with the times for such a long time as Scully.

Anyone who follows baseball knows that listening to a Dodgers broadcast is a unique experience. The first oddity one will notice is that Scully works alone, a drastic contrast to the ubiquitous two and three-man broadcast booths. With a melodic voice, colossal memory and history of telling captivating stories, Scully does not need a partner because he can simultaneously perform the roles of play-by-play and color. Scully has mastered the art of timing and silence, never talking out of place or more than needed. When Kirk Gibson hobbled around the bases after hitting a pinch-hit walk-off home run in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series, Scully let the stadium’s roar be the voice on air for 67 seconds before uttering an oft-repeated line: “In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened.”

With the prolific career he has had, historic calls are to be expected from Scully. Two years before Gibson’s blast, the Red Sox were one out away from winning the 1986 World Series. The Mets rallied and Game 6 of the series ended with a Bill Buckner error. “Little roller up along first, behind the bag! It gets through Buckner! Here comes Knight and the Mets win it!” has become an earworm for all baseball followers, as well as a noise worse than any other for Bostonians.

Sandy Koufax’s perfect game is considered the greatest pitching performance in the annals of baseball history, but Scully’s call of the game is just as iconic. Scully has announced four perfect games and 19 no-hitters, and was on hand for all four of Koufax’s no-hitters. The voice of the Dodgers has often been talking to national audiences as he announced 12 All-Star Games and 24 World Series, 13 on the radio and 11 on television broadcasts.  Scully also made calls for momentous events such as Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard Round the World,” Don Larsen’s World Series perfect game and Hank Aaron’s record-breaking 715th home run.

Scully was born in the Bronx and raised by a devout Roman Catholic family. He went to Fordham Preparatory School before matriculating to the university, learning his way with words as a literature major. As a student, Scully showed interest in sports broadcasting as a founding member of WFUV radio station and assistant sports editor for The Fordham Ram. A Navy veteran by this time, he was also a centerfielder on the baseball team and displayed his smooth voice as a member of a campus barbershop quartet. In 2000, Scully was the commencement speaker at his alma mater.

Scully started in the business after Fordham by calling college football, and would later broadcast NFL games, tennis matches and golf outings during his eight year tenure with CBS television. In 1970, he was offered the play-by-play job for Monday Night Football’s inaugural season, a position he did not accept. From 1983 until the end of the decade, Scully worked for NBC television, performing the Saturday Game of the Week.  He also worked for the PGA during this time, while also working full-time for the Dodgers in two mediums. His ability to announce different sports and to change media outlets from radio to television and back in consecutive days is impressive. A generation of fans also know him for his voice work in PlayStation’s MLB series.

Recently, his work has been simulcast, for at least three innings of every game, to both television and radio broadcasts, doubling the listeners who experience the pleasure of listening to Vin Scully talk baseball.

Scully’s final regular season game will be on Oct. 2. He will be calling an away game against the Giants, the very team that he grew up supporting and the franchise who moved westward along with the Dodgers. With the Dodgers looking more and more like a sure bet to reach the playoffs every day, it is safe to assume Scully will also work this postseason if he so desires.

Vin Scully, one of Fordham’s finest, is set to retire after 67 years calling Dodger games. There is no better way to celebrate such a career than to turn on a Dodgers game and listen to Scully while we still can.