Scully receives Presidential Medal of Freedom

Legendary broadcaster earns nation's highest civilian honor

November 16th, 2016

Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully received a Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama on Tuesday at the White House.

The legendary announcer teared up as Obama wrapped the medal around his neck and shook his hand in congratulations.

"The game of baseball has a handful of signature sounds -- you hear the crack of the bat, you've got the crowd singing in the seventh-inning stretch and you've got the voice of Vin Scully," Obama said.

Scully's star-studded day

:: Farewell, Vin Scully ::

Scully, who called Dodgers games for 67 consecutive years in Brooklyn and Los Angeles before retiring at the end of the 2016 season, was one of 21 recipients to receive the award, which is considered the United States' highest civilian honor. He sat alongside 20 other individuals presented with the honor, which awards them for their meritorious contributions to world peace, national security, culture or other endeavors.

"Most fans listen to a game's broadcast when they can't be at the ballpark; generations of Dodgers fans brought radios into the stands because you didn't want to miss one of Vin's stories," Obama said. "Most play-by-play announcers partner with an analyst in the booth to chat about the action. Vin worked alone and talked just with us."

The voice of the Dodgers captivated fans across the country through some of the most unforgettable moments in the sport's history, including perfect games by Sandy Koufax and Don Larsen, Kirk Gibson's game-winning home run in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series and Hank Aaron's record-breaking 715th homer.

"Since Jackie Robinson started at second base, Vin taught us the game and introduced us to its players," Obama said. "He narrated the improbable years, the impossible heroics, turned contests into conversations."

Obama shared Scully's naturally modest reaction to receiving the award with the audience.

"When he heard about this honor, he asked with characteristic humility, 'Are you sure? I'm just an old baseball announcer,'" Obama said. "And we had to inform him that, to Americans of all ages, 'You are an old friend.'"

After the ceremony, Scully still couldn't believe what had just transpired.

"An experience like we've just gone through is extremely humbling," he told ESPN. "I sat there and listened to the credits of all these incredible people, and then for me to wind up as if I'm one of them, makes you feel inadequate. But I'm thrilled and honored and humbled for the experience."

The Medal of Freedom was created by President Harry S. Truman in 1945 to honor civilians who aided in the war efforts of the United States and its allies. In 1963, President John F. Kennedy reestablished the award to recognize distinguished service in peacetime. Previous recipients from baseball include: Moe Berg (1945), Joe DiMaggio (1977), Jackie Robinson (1984), Ted Williams (1991), Hank Aaron (2002), Roberto Clemente (2003), Frank Robinson (2005), Buck O'Neil (2006), Stan Musial (2011), Ernie Banks (2013), Yogi Berra (2015) and Willie Mays (2015). Jackie Robinson, Clemente and Berra were honored posthumously.

Scully, who received the National Baseball Hall of Fame's Ford C. Frick Award in 1982, called his final game for the Dodgers on Oct. 2.

• Scully conducts Marine Band in 'Take Me Out to the Ballgame'

The full transcript from the official presentation of the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Scully is as follows:

"With a voice that transcended a sport and transformed a profession, Vin Scully narrated America's pastime for generations of fans. Known to millions as the 'Soundtrack of Summer,' he found time to teach us about life and love while chronicling routine plays and historic heroics. In victory and in defeat, his colorful accounts reverberated through the bleachers, across the airwaves and into our homes and imaginations. He is an American treasure and a beloved storyteller and our country's gratitude is as profound as his love for the game."

This year's honorees included Robert De Niro, Tom Hanks, Michael Jordan, Bruce Springsteen, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Ellen DeGeneres, Richard Garwin, Bill and Melinda Gates, Frank Gehry, Margaret H. Hamilton, Maya Lin, Lorne Michaels, Newt Minow, Eduardo Padrón, Robert Redford, Diana Ross, Cicely Tyson, Elouise Cobell, Grace Hopper.

• Other 2016 Medal of Freedom recipients have baseball ties, too

"Whether it was having been inspired by a song, or a game, or a story, or a film, or a monument ... these are folks who have helped make me who I am and [influenced how] I think about my presidency," Obama said in closing. "And what also makes it special is, this is America. It's useful, when you think about this incredible collection of people, to realize that this is what makes us the greatest nation on Earth."


Those words resonated with Scully.

"Oh, I agreed with him 100 percent," he said. "We went from a Cuban immigrant to a world of talent, incredible imagination. I thought to myself: We are a great country when I look at those people who were honored."

Obama, an avid sports fan, also applauded Hanks for his role as Jimmy Dugan in "A League of Their Own" and Redford for his work as Roy Hobbs in "The Natural."

The President said he pondered having Scully "doing all of these citations, which would have been very cool, but I thought we shouldn't make him sing for his supper like that."