Originally published in the September 17, 2010 issue
“All year long they looked to him (Kirk Gibson) to light the fire and all year long he answered the demands … High fly ball into right field. She is gone! [pause] In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened.”
This year’s summer soundtrack probably includes a little Katy Perry and some Drake among other faces that could probably see some short-lived fame.
But one voice has remained the Soundtrack of Summer for 60 years and counting.
Dodgers play-by-play announcer Vin Scully has seen it all. Literally.
Hank Aaron’s 715th home run, Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series, the two longest scoreless inning streaks by a pitcher, the largest crowd for a baseball game at 115,300 people, his Dodgers win seven World Championships, Bill Buckner’s famed error in the 1986 World Series, Kirk Gibson’s famous limp around the bases after hitting a game winning home run in the 1988 World Series and Barry Bonds’ 71st, 72nd and 73rd home runs in 2001 were not just witnessed by Scully but his smooth voice provided the calls of each famed moment.
There aren’t many people in baseball, let alone sports, who command a 100-word sentence to contain all of their achievements. Scully is in a league of his own.
On the surface, it’s easy to identify why Scully is so great. His voice doesn’t overpower a game yet complements it quite perfectly. He works alone and lets the sounds of the game work as his color commentator. He keeps his words light and the game in perspective. He famously let the crowd tell the story for more than a minute after Gibson’s beyond improbable game winner in the ’88 World Series.
Scully has held the same job for 60 years and is recognized as the most influential member in Dodgers’ history without ever taking a single at bat or throwing a pitch.
But it digs deeper than just the game or the perfect announcer score that he received from the American Sportscaster’s Association. He embodies the game.
Baseball is something that not everyone loves. Sure, everyone has a favorite team, but how many people truly watch every game or even half of them?
Most people claim it’s boring and clamor to football for its once a week action. But it takes a true love for the game to become one with the game of baseball.
Scully once said, “Football is to baseball as blackjack is to bridge. One is the quick jolt. The other the deliberate, slow-paced game of skill, but never was a sport more ideally suited to television than baseball. It’s all there in front of you. It’s theatre, really. The star is the spotlight on the mound, the supporting cast fanned out around him, the mathematical precision of the game moving with the kind of inevitability of Greek tragedy. With the Greek chorus in the bleachers!”
Scully, at 82, announced that he is returning to the Dodgers next season to call his usual home games and close road games for the team.
At 82, most people have settled into the final stages of their life. They’ve left behind “work” long ago and begun to do things they couldn’t when they worked full time. But not Scully.
This brings me back to the reason I wrote this. Vin Scully is the kind of person I want to be, a lifer in the greatest game on Earth. I have no desire to be the focal point but rather to be a subtle part of the most majestic game in the world. Most importantly, he has devoted his life to something he loves.