Vin Scully, the longtime Dodgers play-by-play announcer considered by many to be the king of his profession, died Tuesday. He was 94.
“He was the voice of the Dodgers, and so much more,” the organization wrote. “He was their conscience, their poet laureate, capturing their beauty and chronicling their glory from Jackie Robinson to Sandy Koufax, Kirk Gibson to Clayton Kershaw. Vin Scully was the heartbeat of the Dodgers — and in so many ways, the heartbeat of all of Los Angeles.”
Also for years a national announcer of baseball for NBC, football and golf for CBS and baseball for CBS Radio, Scully endeared himself to fans through 67 seasons with the Dodgers, a record for one broadcaster with one team in any sport. In 2010, the American Sportscasters Assn. named Scully the greatest sportscaster of all time.
Born in New York, Vincent Edward Scully joined the Brooklyn Dodgers at age 22 as their No. 3 announcer to start the 1950 season, eight years before the team moved west to Los Angeles. He was trained by Red Barber, the preeminent baseball voice of his era, who had been impressed that Scully had done a solo radio call of a 1949 Maryland-Boston University football game from an outdoor press box at Fenway Park in the November cold without complaint.
For Scully, it was a dream come true.
“When I was 8 years old, I wrote a composition for the nuns saying I wanted to be a sports announcer,” he once said. “That would mean nothing today — everybody watches TV and radio — but in those days, back in New York, the only thing we really had was college football on Saturday afternoons on the radio. Where the boys in grammar school wanted to be policemen and firemen and the girls wanted to be ballet dancers and nurses, here’s this kid saying, ‘I want to be a sports announcer.’ I mean it was really out of the blue.”
Scully’s stature rose quickly in a New York market that not only had Barber with the Dodgers but Mel Allen with the Yankees and Russ Hodges and former Dodger announcer Ernie Harwell with the New York Giants. At 25 in 1953, Scully became the youngest ever to broadcast a World Series, a record he still holds.
Barber left that fall to join Allen with the Yankees. So it was Scully who was the Dodgers’ No. 1 voice when “the Boys of Summer” finally won their first World Series in 1955. It was also Scully on the mic at the end of the national broadcast of Don Larsen’s 1956 World Series perfect game for the Yankees against Brooklyn.
When the Dodgers uprooted from Ebbets Field following the 1957 season, the New York native and former Fordham U. outfielder came along with them. The Dodgers were a seventh-place team their first season in Los Angeles, but Scully was immediately credited with helping to bond the franchise to its new city. With the popularity of transistor radios rising, many fans attending at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum would listen to Scully and colleague Jerry Doggett during games, highlighted one day in 1960 when Scully convinced the crowd to call out “Happy birthday” in unison to an umpire.
The Dodgers surprised baseball by coming back to win the 1959 World Series in only their second season in Southern California, ushering forth an era that may have been the heyday for the Dodgers and Scully, with the baserunning of Maury Wills and the pitching of Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale boosting Los Angeles to World Series titles in 1963 and 1965. Scully’s call of Koufax’s fourth no-hitter, a perfect game on Sept. 9, 1965, remains a marvel today.
“It is 9:46 p.m. Two and two to Harvey Kuenn, one strike away. Sandy into his windup, here’s the pitch… Swung on and missed, a perfect game!” Scully exclaims before pausing for 39 seconds to allow the Dodger Stadium cheers to take over.
“On the scoreboard in right field it is 9:46 p.m. in the City of the Angels, Los Angeles, California. And a crowd of 29,139 just sitting in to see the only pitcher in baseball history to hurl four no-hit, no-run games. He has done it four straight years, and now he caps it: On his fourth no-hitter, he made it a perfect game. And Sandy Koufax, whose name will always remind you of strikeouts, did it with a flurry. He struck out the last six consecutive batters. So when he wrote his name in capital letters in the record books, that ‘K’ stands out even more than the O-U-F-A-X.”
Exceedingly literate, Scully blended quotations from great works into his play-by-play (while also becoming known for refusing to root on-air for the team that employed him). His mixture of improvised eloquence and sense of drama became his signature over ensuing years. After calling the record-setting 715th career home run by Hank Aaron in 1974 for a national TV broadcast, Scully said nothing for nearly two minutes before commenting.
“What a marvelous moment for baseball,” Scully said. “What a marvelous moment for Atlanta and the state of Georgia. What a marvelous moment for the country and the world. A black man is getting a standing ovation in the deep south for breaking a record of an all-time baseball idol. And it is a great moment for all of us and particularly for Hank Aaron.”
Scully’s longevity was such that he broadcast for more than three decades after being voted into the broadcaster wing of the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982.
His flair was hardly limited to baseball: His call of Dwight Clark’s game-winning catch in the 1982 NFC Championship game is also considered an all-time classic. Scully often found himself in the entertainment world, whether as host of gameshow “It Takes Two” from 1969-70 or as the play-by-play announcer in Kevin Costner starrer “For Love of the Game.”
But perhaps most of all, Scully will be remembered for his words when an injured Kirk Gibson unexpectedly limped to the plate in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series for an underdog Dodgers team and worked the count full against the game’s preeminent reliever, Dennis Eckersley.
“High fly ball into right field. She is… gone!” Scully called, before watching as the rickety Gibson made it around the bases. “In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened.”
Scully endured personal tragedy twice. His first wife, Joan, died at age 35 in 1972. His son Michael died at 33 in a 1994 helicopter crash. Scully rarely talked about his personal life and actively discouraged others from doing the same; he pointedly eschewed the idea of writing a memoir of his career.
Into his 80s, Scully did every inning of more than 100 games per year on television without a break. (Marathons were nothing new for Scully, who on June 3, 1989, called a 10-inning day game in Chicago for NBC and then a 22-inning Dodger game in Houston that night.)
He eventually reduced his workload by confining himself during the regular season to games west of Colorado. Nevertheless, he could not bring himself to leave the profession he so long had prized until 2016 when he was 88.
After announcing his final game, he offered a message of farewell, saying “You and I have been friends for a long time, but I know in my heart that I’ve always needed you more than you’ve ever needed me, and I’ll miss our time together more than I can say. But you know what? There will be a new day and eventually a new year. And when the upcoming winter gives way to spring, rest assured, once again it will be ‘time for Dodger baseball.’ So this is Vin Scully wishing you a very pleasant good afternoon, wherever you may be.”
“I never thought about becoming great,” Scully told Variety in 2008. “All I wanted to do was do the game as best I could. And to this day, that’s all I think about. I mean, I come here, (and) my whole idea is be prepared, do the game, and if I do it well enough, fine, and if I make a mistake, then I’ll chew myself out all the way home.
“I’ve always felt (that) I haven’t really accomplished anything. What I’ve done is spend a lifetime talking about the accomplishments of others… It’s a privilege — it really is, and I assume it as a privilege. I really don’t take myself seriously.”
Scully is survived by four children and two stepchildren as well as grandchildren and great-grandchildren. His second wife, Sandra, died in 2021.