Whenever an unbelievable major news event occurs, I absorb all readings and viewings of the event so that the reality finally registers. And so it is with the passing of Hall of Fame Dodger announcer Vin Scully.
Even though I never met him (a wish that never came true), Vin Scully’s death at age 94 hits me hard.
Vin Scully outlived my father and my mother during my lifetime.
I was 14 when my father died.
I was 47 when my mother died.
I am 64 when Vin Scully died.
The year 1958 is very precious to me. It was the year I was born. And it was the year the Dodgers moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles.
Perhaps that explains why I am a lifetime Dodger fan. However, the person responsible for that love for baseball and the Dodgers is Vinny.
He was always Vinny to me because he was talking to me on my transistor radio, describing what he was seeing on the field.
I held on to each precious word he broadcast from the time he greeted us with “Hi everybody and a very pleasant good evening to you wherever you may be” to signing off with a “Good night, everybody.” His dulcet tones were soothing, comforting. He was our security blanket from April to September.
If I was driving home and putting away my car in the garage, I wouldn’t turn off the radio until Vinny finished the half-inning.
It is why whenever Vinny would do a playoff game on the radio, I would turn off the TV volume so I could hear his unique depictions of the game, always adding personal stories of baseball players he knew that spanned much of the 20th century.
I always looked forward to his history lessons on Memorial Day and Independence Day. He was a true patriot, a lover of this country as when he remarked “Can you imagine that?”
when two spectators at Dodger Stadium ran onto the field to burn an American flag (then Chicago Cub outfielder Rick Monday famously rescued it).
His calming but firm words at the start of the first Dodger game after the Sept. 11th attacks in 2001 were the appropriate way to soothe all of us shaken from that dastardly terrorist attack on U.S. soil.
All of us were truly fortunate that he had such a long life and broadcast for 67 years working for the same employer.
There will never be another Vin Scully. Besides the gentlemanly traits that he imbued—decency, kindness, class—he broadcasted in an era where only one announcer was in the booth meaning that he had a personal connection to the listener or viewer. Even when it became fashionable to have one or two analysts sit with the play-by-play announcer, Vinny held his ground that he didn’t want to lose that attachment with the fans and so the Dodgers never forced him to change his ways.
That is why the Dodger games haven’t been the same since he retired in 2016. Hearing two people talk to one another instead of talking to the fans feels remote as if we are eavesdropping on buddies joking with each other in the broadcast booth, instead of a person who we feel is a friend or a member of the family.
Here is just a small sample of the type of calls I will forever remember Vinny making:
On using poetry: “Deuces wild. Second inning, two on, two out, two and two count, tied at two.”
On a home run: “Away back, she is gone!”
On a bases clearing double: “In comes Buckner, in comes Russell, here comes Cey on a double by Garvey!”
Eerily, the very day before his passing, I emailed Los Angeles Times sports columnist Bill Plaschke about his health. I noticed that the last post on his Twitter account was from May 6.
“I find this odd considering normally he would comment on the Sandy Koufax statue ceremony last month,” I wrote. “Is he doing okay?”
“Good catch Brian,” Plaschke wrote back. “I haven’t spoken to him in a while…no idea how he’s doing…but as always, it’s worth monitoring.”
Twenty-four hours later he was gone.
This is a difficult column to write, not just because of Vinny’s passing, but it means that this will be the final time I will write about him.
There are few people we encounter in life that we wish would live forever. For me, Vin Scully would be on that short list.