In an age where baseball broadcast booths overflow with banter from analysts, ex players and experts, Vin Scully goes it alone. The native New Yorker, who celebrates 87 next month, starting calling Brooklyn Dodgers games in 1950, the year I was born. He followed the Dodgers when they moved to Los Angeles where he perfected his craft, weaving a mix of historical facts and fascinating anecdotes into the play by play with a style and skill that continues to set new standards.
Baseball was woven into the fabric of our family be my dad, who cheered from the cheap seats as Jackie Robinson emerged as a star playing for the Montreal Royals. We only had two channels on the old black and white, but watching the World Series was a tradition I shared with my father, testing his patience with a steady barrage of questions during the games. One of the enduring memories I have from those annual rites of fall is the richness of Scully’s voice. When he said “say friends,” the closest thing to a catch phrase that Scully employs, you sensed a sincerity that made you feel like he was speaking to you directly from the booth.
Scully’s prowess has garnered numerous awards, including being selected the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association broadcaster of the year on four occasions, as well as a Lifetime Achievement Sports Emmy award in 1996. The acclaimed Voices of Summer book published in 2005 named Scully as the best broadcaster in the history of the game, while USA Today anointed him as ”the poet laureate of baseball.” The award that stands out for me is the Voice of Vision honour bestowed on him in 1992 for his excellence in describing the action on the field for the visually impaired.
Whether you’re a casual fan of the game and the English language, an accomplished author or a journeyman journalist like me, you have to marvel at the way Scully’s narrative flows like the purest of prose. The realization that Scully is close to pulling the plug on one of the most distinguished careers in broadcast history has inspired me to pay my respects, but the impending loss has left me with a heavy heart.
A recent game between the Dodgers and the Giants captured Scully in full stride and provided the perfect canvass for his uncanny ability to paint a verbal portrait with the panache of a Picasso. After setting up the listener for a speedy pinch runner and a substitution at the plate, Scully seamlessly set the stage by pointing out that although Andre Ethier was hitting over .300 as a pinch hitter, his career average against Giants pitcher Jake Peavey was a meagre .140.
”The count is two balls and one strike. Bernardino on first, with wings on his feet.”
If you want to be a writer, you would be well served striving to arrange your words the way Scully speaks. Miss you already, Vin.