Here is a story about a great American poet. He just happens to do baseball.
Former major-league pitcher and broadcaster Jerry Reuss remembered a night in Los Angeles, circa 1972. He was on the mound for the Houston Astros at Dodger Stadium. There was a buzz in the stands. It wasn't the crowd.
"It was the sound of transistor radios, people listening to Vin Scully," said Reuss, who later played for the Dodgers. "It wasn't a full house, so you could hear Vin doing the game. Maybe not as clear as if you have the transistor in your hand, but you could make it out. He was in the middle of a story. I couldn't hear exactly, but there's a certain tone and timbre to Vin's voice when he's in a story. The words come out at a different pace.
"I looked in and got my signs. But I could tell Vin was still in a story. Instinctively, I stepped off the mound, went back, grabbed the rosin bag, wiped it off my fingers, waited, then got back on the mound. Vin was just coming out of his story. I could hear his voice change, 'The 2-2 from Reuss.' I just wanted Vin to finish the story."
Vincent Edward "Vin" Scully, 88, will finish his story Sunday. The revered broadcaster will work one last Dodgers-Giants game, lyrical, graceful as ever, then walk away from the microphone after a remarkable Hall of Fame career, an unfathomable 67 years as Dodgers play-by-play man, more than 9,000 games, across 12 U.S. presidents. Baseball and baseball fans never had better, kinder company.
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"I attribute it to one thing and one thing only: God's grace to allow me to do what I've been doing for 67 years," Scully said in a conference call. "To me, that's really the story. Not really me. I'm just a vessel that's been passed hand to hand down through all those years."
As Scully's fellow broadcasters came through Tropicana Field this season, they had Scully stories and salutes. Voices of summer talking about the voice of voices. And they didn't care that they would have made their humble friend blush.
Scully's final home broadcast was last Sunday's walk-off Los Angeles win. Dodgers coaches and players remained on the field and doffed their caps to salute Scully, who waved from the booth. He has already announced he won't broadcast Dodgers postseason games. Sunday is it. He doesn't want to linger.
"And I also didn't want to say goodbye like they do in grand opera, when they say goodbye 25 times in 15 minutes," Scully said. "So, to me, we'll tie the ribbon on the package in San Francisco and that'll be that."
What a gift he was. What a buzz he made.
Top of the first
"The greatest living communicator our nation has. I truly believe that. He's the Mark Twain of our time. He's a genius."
Dave O'Brien, Boston Red Sox
Bottom of the first
"He's the poet laureate of baseball announcing."
Dick Enberg, San Diego Padres
Top of the second
"I like sitting with him. No. 1, I like to steal his stories. But it's magical. Vinny is sort of a walking history, not only of the Dodgers, but the game."
Jon Miller, San Francisco Giants
Bottom of the second
"There's a game in entertainment circles, Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, where in six moves or fewer, you can connect everyone who has ever appeared on TV or in film to Kevin Bacon. You can probably connect Vin to Abner Doubleday in three moves. Here's the thing. A rookie breaking in this year might have a 15-year career. Or a 20-year career. So someone playing in 2036 will be connected in some way to Vin Scully. How about this: Vin broke in in 1950. I guarantee you there were people playing in the major leagues who'd broken in in the 1930s. So Vin will have called players separated by a century. Think about that."
Bob Costas, NBC Sports
Top of the third
"He's the biggest star in Los Angeles, and I mean in Hollywood, too. I can defend it until the cows come home. I say it all the time. This is a city of stars. Kobe. Magic. Leo. Vin has been here since 1958. He basically imported baseball to Los Angeles. As the fan base grew, first with transistor radio and on radios where everybody lives in their car, he was the guy. He taught baseball. And to a segment of the population here, he taught the English language."
Charley Steiner, Los Angeles Dodgers
Bottom of the third
"Not to be too drippy about this, but there's a princely, almost regal feel to his name. I'm blown away at the way his mind works and his mastery over the language and his ability to weave. Probably in another life, Vin would have made great carpets. He can weave a story into the middle of play-by-play and make it seamless. And to be his age now, 88, to continue to be able to do that, is shocking."
Joe Buck, Fox Sports
Top of the fourth
"When I was growing up in Santa Monica, Vinny brought the game of baseball to me. My mom was a single parent. When we got in my mother's car, the Dodgers were playing and Vin Scully and Jerry Doggett were in the back seat of our car. When they were televising, Vin Scully and Jerry Doggett were in our homes. We, along with millions of other people, got a new friend in Vin Scully, even though we'd never met him."
Rick Monday, Dodgers
Bottom of the fourth
"I grew up in Orange County. My dad was a huge Dodgers fan. That's how I fell in love with baseball. And that's how I learned to throw my curveball, listening to Vin Scully describe Sandy Koufax's drop back then — big drop, straight over the top."
Bert Blyleven, Minnesota Twins, Baseball Hall of Famer
Top of the fifth
"It's so lyrical. His announcing is a work of art. The rest of us are hacks."
Michael Kay, New York Yankees
Bottom of the fifth
"Vinny could tell you the time and it could sound like the most important thing you'd hear that day."
Joe Angel, Baltimore Orioles
Top of the sixth
"Vin's broadcasts are simultaneously past and present. It's tonight's game, but it's also every game you ever listened to, or every game you ever watched, even if he didn't call it, because in some sense his voice transports you to whatever time in your life you wanted to go. Vin has been around all of our baseball lives. His broadcasts are flashback and news bulletin at the same time, the present and nostalgic."
— Bob Costas
Bottom of the sixth
"It was hard as a young broadcaster to do a four-game series out there in Los Angeles. You'd hear Vin. People would bring radios to the ballpark. You'd hear them. You'd fall into his cadence, his rhythm."
— Dewayne Staats, Tampa Bay Rays
Top of the seventh
"Here's the thing: Everything people say about Vinny as a broadcaster, it doesn't scratch the surface of who Vinny is as a person."
— Rick Monday
"When you meet him, it's easy to forget that you've never met him, because he's so incredibly kind. After 10 minutes, he makes you feel as if you'd done him a favor by stopping by."
— Andy Freed, Tampa Bay Rays
"We walked by his booth, and we peeked in. … I told Andy that if we're going to do it, we need to do it now. I said, 'Mr. Scully …' He turns and says, 'Boys, I was looking around for you.'
"As we get done, I told him, 'Vin, I was doing some math, and if I could do 67 years of play-by-play, I'd be 116 my last year. He looked at me and goes, 'Well, you know, people are living longer nowadays.' "
— Dave Wills, Tampa Bay Rays
Bottom of the seventh
"He handles adulation so gracefully. We played the Dodgers in '08, an exhibition game out there, 108,000 people, and they honored him before the game, and the first thing was a standing ovation for him. And the first thing he said was, 'It's only me.' "
— Joe Castiglione, Boston Red Sox
Top of the eighth
"When you think Dodgers, he's what you think of. Back in the '70s, they had some kind of vote and the fans could vote for the all-time favorite Dodger. And Koufax got a lot of votes and Drysdale got a lot of votes. But the guy who won was Vin Scully. He was the favorite Dodger of all time.”
— Jon Miller
Bottom of the eighth
"We live in a world now where we want everything yesterday. I just believe the game has to change to appeal to younger games. It has to be faster. It has to be more video like. I don't know if we could have a Vin Scully in the future. But even if we did, we're not getting him. There was one of him. That's it."
— Michael Kay, New York Yankees
Top of the ninth
"You see people coming into the stadium now who are bringing radios. They're not on their iPhones with their earphones. People are bringing radios. I think everyone is trying to soak up as much Vinny as they can possibly get in the remaining time."
— Rick Monday
Bottom of the ninth
"I really and truly would rather be remembered, 'Oh, he was a good guy.' Or he was a good husband, a good father, a good grandfather. The sportscasting, that's fine if they want to mention it, but it will disappear in time … the sands of time blow over the booth. I just want to be remembered as a good man, an honest man and one who lived up to his own beliefs."
— Vin Scully