11 calls that reveal that even in his final game, Vin Scully was at his quintessential best
Vin Scully has called his final game. After 67 years, thousands of hours of baseball and more memories than could even fit inside the warehouse from "Indiana Jones," Scully finally set down the microphone after the Giants' 7-1 victory against the Dodgers on Sunday. Given that it was Scully's final broadcast, you could forgive him if he relaxed a little -- if he didn't put his entire heart and soul into every call. Most retirees get a cake, a watch and spend most of their time just wandering around the office until it's time to go home. But not Scully.
Even after all these years, if this was the only game you ever heard the Dodgers legend call, you would have heard the quintessential Scully.
Here were 11 moments from his final broadcast that showed off his genius and made it that much harder to say goodbye:
Turns of phrase
Sometimes you can forget that there is pure poetry coming from Scully's mic. When Adrian Gonzalez came to the plate, he called him the "Butter and egg man," because "he's been delivering for years." When the Giants left the bases loaded in the bottom of the third, he said that "the Giants are full, so they leave three and push the plate away."
He's Billy Collins -- a master of mixing the mundane with the sublime in a way that sounds brand new -- even if, like "deuces wild," on a 2-2 count, he's been saying them for years.
Eye for detail
Of course, Scully doesn't just call things differently, he sees them unlike anyone else. When Angel Pagan stepped to the plate in the bottom of the third, Scully noted his "piercing eyes" that could go "right through the equipment."
Beyond just making everything sound ever-so-sweet, Scully has perfected the art of the on-the-spot pun. When Conor Gillaspie fell into the photographer's well and emerged victorious -- ball held aloft and somehow with nary a scrape -- Scully said "All's well that ends well."
Perhaps you caught the pun immediately. Or perhaps you were like me and, after a few minutes, you realized what Scully had just done, the broadcaster too good to hang a lantern on the joke if you weren't following along closely enough to catch on.
The one-man time travel machine
When you call baseball games for 67 years, you're going to see more baseball than almost anyone else. Heck, when Scully took over, the legendary Connie Mack was still in the game.
What separates Scully from other longtime baseball fans, though, is his ability to witness something and immediately connect it to another moment far across time. In the bottom of the second, Scully noted that the Giants' infield seemed wet. His Delorean-esque brain firing at 88 mph, he was transported back to 1962, recalling that manager Alvin Dark had the Giants spray the infield dirt to slow down the speedy Maury Wills.
Of course, Scully brought this up on Wills' 84th birthday. Any person can throw out some interesting factoids, but Scully stitched his life experience with all of these baseball-playing characters into a rich narrative stew larger and more complex than anything even George R.R. Martin would dare toy with.
If you, the viewer, and Scully are best friends, then the players on the field are your acquaintances. Just as you would talk about an old college roommate over coffee, Scully can drop in information about the "fidgety" Hunter Pence, who "lives in a 55 story building here in San Francisco that is not only sinking, it is also tilting."
That extends far beyond the stars on the field, though. Just as Scully said that it's the "people, that's what I will miss," during the Dodgers' ceremony, he cares about anyone and everyone associated with the game. So, on Scully's last day, he wished a happy 29th birthday to Champ Pederson, Joc's brother and the team's batboy for the day.
Everyone gets their time and everyone's story is worth hearing. Of all the things that Vin leaves behind, this may be his greatest legacy.
His personal history
When Scully injects himself into the narrative, it's usually to talk about something like racing Jackie Robinson on ice skates -- his own role in the story that of the observer. On Sunday, Scully broke from form and revealed his own history as "a little red-headed kid," who fell in love with baseball. Naturally, his own story is interrupted by baseball -- his preamble about walking home from school and passing a laundromat punctuated by "I'll tell you the rest of the story, but let's get back to the game."
Only in Scully's world would that game have taken place 80 years to the day before his final broadcast:
Scully also admitted that he did his best to imitate the great Mel Ott's swing -- including his large right leg kick -- but "something happened when I swung the bat, that did not do what Mel Ott did."
He even had to kick his family -- large enough to fill a small assembly room -- out of the broadcast booth, so he could "go back to work."
Considering the millions of baseball fans that were borne out of listening to Vin, it is only right that we hear his history on his last day.
Somehow, despite the thousands of ballgames he's witnessed, Scully always finds something new. Just as the viewer at home might be watching their first game, the Dodgers legend is able to look at the game his way, too.
Yasiel Puig chewing on his bat? That was a new one:
That's an ethos Scully confirmed during the ninth inning as he quoted 1920s sportswriter A.J. Liebling (of course he went back almost 100 years -- he's a one man liberal arts education):
"The world isn't going backwards if you can just stay young enough to remember what it was like when you were really young."
The final call
Years from now, when people look back at Scully's career (perhaps doing it the same way that Scully recalled the fan who captured Russ Hodges' "Shot Heard Round the World" call from 1951 in the top of the third), they'll note that Rob Segedin was the final batter and how fitting it was that the boy who grew up rooting for the Giants announced their clinching of a postseason spot -- even if it was against his employer for the last 67 years.
While that will fit on a trivia card, what will really stand out will be the emotions. "Don't be sad that it's over," he told us. "Smile because it happened." That same kind of platitude might make you roll your eyes when read on a greeting card, but when it comes from someone as friendly, warm and earnest as Vin, it just may be the most touching thing you've heard all day.
As he noted after the game, "there will be a new day, and, eventually, a new year. And when the upcoming winter gives way to spring, rest assured that once again it will be time for Dodger baseball." Other broadcasters will come and go and they will make their mark, but none will ever be quite like Vin Scully.