After 60 years behind the mic, big games are familiar territory for Los Angeles Dodgers sportscaster Vin Scully. Don Larsen’s World Series perfect game in 1956, Hank Aaron’s home run to pass Babe Ruth in 1974, Kirk Gibson’s walk-off homer in the 1988 World Series, Bill Buckner’s error in the 1986 World Series, and Dwight Clark’s fingertip catch of a Joe Montana pass in the 1982 NFC Championship game are just a few of the memorable moments that have been enhanced by Scully’s presence in the TV or radio booth.
As a kid, the rabid New York baseball Giants fan cashed in “soda pop” bottles to pay for bleacher-seat tickets to cheer on his favorite player, Mel Ott, at the hallowed Polo Grounds. “When I was a very young boy,” says Scully, “I wanted to be where I heard the crowd noise.”
Since then, boisterous crowd noise has been background music to Scully’s melodic voice, an unofficial soundtrack with Ebbets Field, Yankee Stadium, Polo Grounds, and Dodger Stadium thrills as instruments.
“My style is very conversational. It’s as if I’m sitting next to you in the ballpark, having a conversation about what’s happening on the field.”
Despite being behind the mic for 59 seasons of Dodger games, Scully says he is not a rooter. “I haven’t lost anything, I haven’t won anything,” he explains. “I’m better off being calm and going down the middle. I guess now, especially out here in Los Angeles, I’m as comfortable as an old pair of shoes.”
Legendary sportscaster Red Barber introduced Scully to Dodgers President Branch Rickey, who gave him his big break in 1950 with a one-month option to announce spring-training games. All these years later, he is still passionate about baseball and calling Dodger games.
But there is more to Scully than Dodger blue: He has called NFL games, golf, and tennis. In 1953, at age 25, he became the youngest sportscaster to call a World Series game.
“It was a remarkable period of time for baseball, especially for the city of New York,” he says of baseball’s golden age. “The Dodgers played the Yankees in 1947, 1949, and played them again in 1952, 1953, 1955, and 1956. The Giants played in the World Series in 1951 and 1954. And you had the fans enjoying competition between Mays, Mantle, and Snider.
“New York was the heart and soul of baseball in those days,” he adds. “It was a thrill for a kid born, raised, and who played in the streets of New York to be involved in it. It was a magical time.”
Scully lists Gibson’s home run as his most theatrical call, and he cites breaking in with Barber and fellow Dodgers announcer Connie Desmond as career highlights. He still recalls the roar of the crowd amid the feats of Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, and Maury Wills.
For others in the profession, Scully remains a singular icon. “Vin has a thoroughly distinctive style, sustained excellence, meticulous professionalism, extraordinary longevity, and an association with one of the most colorful and historically significant franchises in American sports,” says Bob Costas, NBC and HBO sports anchor.
Not bad for a sportscaster who resisted the urge of catchphrases and emulating others. “Red Barber told me, ‘Don’t listen to other broadcasters, because you bring something unique into the booth that no one else brings: yourself. There’s no one else in the world quite like you.’”
Sixty years later, that still holds true.