Vin Scully, legendary broadcaster, dies at 94

August 3rd, 2022

In the apartment home of a Bronx silk salesman and his red-haired wife, the boy would lie beneath his family’s large, four-legged radio. A young Vin Scully had a pillow to rest his head and a glass of milk and plate of saltine crackers to satiate his stomach. His soul, though, was stirred by the sounds of sport that rode the airwaves into his living room.

Enchanted by the evangelistic Southern drawl of Red Barber’s Brooklyn Dodgers play-by-play, Ted Husing’s candid college football commentary and the voices of other radio luminaries, such as Bill Stern and Byrum Saam, Scully first experienced the sensation that would lead him to a long and legendary broadcasting life of his own.

“My thermometer for the love of the game,” Scully once said, “is those goose bumps.”

In a radio and television career that touched eight decades, including 67 seasons as the trusted voice of the Dodgers, Vincent Edward Scully used his special talent and timeless touch to not only relay the game’s biggest moments but to evoke countless goose bumps of his own. Millions of sports fans who never met the man considered him a friend and a faithful companion. And so his death on Tuesday at the age of 94 elicited an outpouring of emotional tributes from around the world.

Commissioner Rob Manfred issued the following statement on Scully:

“Today, we mourn the loss of a legend in our game. Vin was an extraordinary man whose gift for broadcasting brought joy to generations of Dodger fans. In addition, his voice played a memorable role in some of the greatest moments in the history of our sport. I am proud that Vin was synonymous with Baseball because he embodied the very best of our National Pastime. As great as he was as a broadcaster, he was equally great as a person.

“On behalf of Major League Baseball, I extend my deepest condolences to Vin’s family, friends, Dodger fans and his admirers everywhere.”

Dodgers president and CEO Stan Kasten said, “We have lost an icon. The Dodgers' Vin Scully was one of the greatest voices in all of sports. He was a giant of a man, not only as a broadcaster, but as a humanitarian. He loved people. He loved life. He loved baseball and the Dodgers. And he loved his family. His voice will always be heard and etched in all of our minds forever. I know he was looking forward to joining the love of his life, Sandi. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family during this very difficult time. Vin will be truly missed.”

"He was the best there ever was," Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw said. "Just when you think about the Dodgers -- there's a lot of history here and lot of people that have come through, it's just a storied franchise all the way around. But it almost starts with Vin, honestly.

"He's just such a special man. I'm grateful and thankful I got to know him as well as I did."

Scully’s wise way with words (“In a year that has been so improbable,” he famously said of Kirk Gibson’s equally famous home run in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series, “the impossible has happened!”) enlightened us, entertained us, engaged us. He was the standard by which all other broadcasters were judged, and his was an impossible standard to match.

As Joe Buck once said of Scully, “His voice, his cadence, his rhythm just lend themselves to the game of baseball.”

Of course, Scully lent his talent to a variety of assignments and an array of sports. His voice augmented that milestone moment on national television when Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s record with his 715th home run on April 8, 1974. When the 49ers’ Dwight Clark made “The Catch” against the Cowboys on Jan. 10, 1982, Scully made the call. He was behind the mic for Bill Buckner’s error, Joe Carter’s walk-off and many other seminal moments.

In national roles for CBS Sports and NBC Sports, Scully handled World Series, All-Star Games, NFL games, tennis matches and golf tournaments. He was feted not just with the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s Ford Frick Award (1982) and the Commissioner’s Historic Achievement Award (2014) but with a Lifetime Achievement Emmy Award from the National Radio Hall of Fame (1995). He was a four-time winner of the National Sportscaster of the Year honor (1965, 1978, 1982, 2016), an inductee of the American Sportscasters Association’s Hall of Fame (1992) and the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame (2008), and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2016), among many other honors.

It was Scully’s Dodgers duty, though, that stood out above all others. The iconic franchise has had many heroes, including the barrier-breaking Jackie Robinson, the beloved Tommy Lasorda, and the remarkable and reclusive Sandy Koufax. But having entered people’s homes, cars and ears for so long -- first in his native New York, then for 58 seasons in Los Angeles -- Scully developed a more intimate relationship with fans than any other representative of the Dodgers. This was reflected in his final sign-off, on Oct. 2, 2016.

“You and I have been friends for a long time,” he told his audience, “but I know in my heart that I’ve always needed you more than you’ve needed me, and I’ll miss our time together more than I can say.”

"I think of the melodic tones, I think of his integrity, I think of him as being a role model," former Dodgers pitcher and current broadcaster Orel Hershiser said on the Spectrum SportsNet postgame show. "People are saying he was a soundtrack, but I would say it's the voice from our highlight film of life."

"He was not one to preach, he was not one to explain, he was one that just lived his life in front of you, as a Dodger and as a broadcaster and as an icon and as a friend. Some fans saw him as a father, grandfather and a friend, but it was someone they never met. They just heard him and saw him on TV but he became their friend. For us that got to shake his hand and be with him, he was one of the most impactful people that you will ever meet."

During Tuesday night's broadcast, Dodgers play-by-play man Joe Davis, who succeeded Scully full time in 2017, said: "We lost the greatest ever to do it. Vin Scully was and is and always will be the Dodgers. His voice will always be the voice of baseball."

Though born in the Bronx, near Yankee Stadium, in that epochal year of 1927 and eventually associated with the Dodgers, Scully grew up a New York Giants fan. He would emulate the batting stance of his favorite player, Mel Ott. But as early as age 8, Scully knew that he wanted to announce games even more than he wanted to play in them.

Fordham-educated and Navy-trained, Scully got into broadcasting at just 22 years old, and he did so by making an impression on a man who had been a major influence. Scully was a fill-in at WTOP in Washington, D.C., when one day a message was left for him at his parents’ home. His mother relayed it.

“Red Skelton called!”

Actually, it was Red Barber, who was heading CBS network sports and looking for a backup voice for “College Football Roundup.”

It didn’t take long for Scully to distinguish himself. His first assignment was a Maryland-Boston University game at Fenway Park. Temperatures that day were in the low 40s, and Scully, figuring this network gig would have him in a cushy press box booth, showed up with no coat, hat or gloves.

Turns out, the “booth” was on the roof. But although Scully was freezing for every single play of that game, the listener would have never known the difference.

Barber noted this, and he quickly took a liking to Scully. And so it was that, mere months later, after Ernie Harwell left the Dodgers’ broadcasting team to work for the Giants, Barber once again tapped Scully -- this time to be the No. 3 man in Brooklyn.

“He was a green pea,” Barber would later write in his autobiography, “but he was a very appealing young green pea.”

In 1953, Barber’s paycheck dispute would lead to Scully’s most high-profile assignment to date -- the World Series. At 25, he was the youngest to call a Fall Classic. And two years later, he’d call the final out of Johnny Podres’ Game 7 shutout of the Yankees, which sealed the Dodgers’ long-awaited first Series title.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” Scully’s call went, “the Brooklyn Dodgers are the champions of the world.”

That’s it?

“That winter, a lot of people said, ‘How could you have been so calm,’” Scully said in his later years. “The truth is, I empathized with the Dodgers and all they had been through. I don’t think I could have said another word without breaking down and starting to cry.”

Tears would be shed by many a Brooklynite two years later, when owner Walter O’Malley moved the team to Los Angeles. Scully, somewhat reluctantly, followed. A new coast would be graced with the sweetest voice in baseball, and the Dodgers had an adept ambassador in their bid to win over a new fan base. Millions took his advice to “pull up a chair” and tune in.

What they heard was a dulcet voice making even the simplest situations sound like pure poetry. In an essay on Scully in his book “Voices of Summer,” the historian Curt Smith recalled Scully describing twilight as “little footsteps of sunshine” or a player catching the ball “gingerly, like a baby chick falling from the tree.” When Sandy Koufax was in the middle of his 1965 perfect game, Scully noted, “There are 29,000 people in the ballpark, and a million butterflies.”

Scully’s poetry and precision won him a devoted audience in L.A. and elsewhere. He handled moments big (21 no-hitters, three perfect games, six Dodgers World Series titles) and small with class, grace and an almost literary craftsmanship. He had a way with words and a way with no words. Scully knew when to turn off his so-called “Voice of Heaven,” step away from the microphone and let the moment breathe.

Never did he demonstrate this more adroitly than when Aaron hit No. 715. As the Fulton County Stadium crowd went wild and Aaron was mobbed on the field, Scully poured himself a cup of coffee and stood in silence for a while.

“It’s during that listening period,” he once said, “where my mind has a chance to evaluate the impact of this particular moment.”

And when the listening period was over, Scully perfectly punctuated that historic event.

“What a marvelous moment for baseball. What a marvelous moment for Atlanta and the state of Georgia. What a marvelous moment for the country and the world,” he said. “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 Henry Aaron.”

Listen to the call, and you can still feel Vin Scully’s goose bumps. Look down at your arm, and you can see your own.