BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- Guaranteeing that nobody would exit the Beverly Hilton ballroom early to beat the notorious traffic, the Los Angeles Sports Council wisely saved the brightest star for last in Thursday night's 11th annual LA Sports Awards presentation.The incomparable Vin Scully was in midsummer form, spinning tales of
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- Guaranteeing that nobody would exit the Beverly Hilton ballroom early to beat the notorious traffic, the Los Angeles Sports Council wisely saved the brightest star for last in Thursday night's 11th annual LA Sports Awards presentation.
The incomparable Vin Scully was in midsummer form, spinning tales of yore and so much more while accepting the Council's first Lifetime Achievement Award from Peter O'Malley, former president of the Dodgers.
Closing the show with his emotional response to one of O'Malley's "tough questions," Scully chose Henry Aaron's 715th home run, eclipsing Babe Ruth's hallowed record in 1974 in Atlanta, as the "most significant" call of his thousands across 66 seasons.
"If I have any trademark," the Hall of Fame announcer said, "it's as soon as the play is [completed], I sit back and listen to the roar of the crowd. When Henry hit that home run, I made the call, got the headset off, walked around and got a drink of water ... and listened to the crowd roar.
"Scully made his greatest contribution by saying nothing. Thank you."
Kirk Gibson's home run off Oakland's Dennis Eckersley in the 1988 World Series at Dodger Stadium might be the most memorable of his calls by Dodgers fans, but Aaron's homer clearly stands alone for the social impact.
"I realized," Scully said, "here was a black man breaking a record of a white icon -- in Atlanta, Ga. I said, 'This is more than a record-breaking home run. It's not enough for the Braves, the city of Atlanta or even baseball for what it means. It's one of the great moments in American sports.'
"And, I should add, Henry was a sweet, sweet guy."
Before Scully and O'Malley delivered the grand finale, the Special Olympics World Games staged in Los Angeles last summer was revealed as the greatest sports moment of 2015 in a vote of media and fans.
Also making the list at No. 5 was a spectacular catch by the Angels' soaring Mike Trout and a bittersweet No. 3: the Dodgers' dominant duo of Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. They are a duo no more, with Greinke moving to Arizona.
About to embark on his 67th and what he anticipates will be his last season in the booth, Scully had the audience eating out of both hands from the moment he appeared with his familiar greeting: "Hi, everybody, and a very pleasant good evening to you."
Scully talked about growing up as a "New York street kid playing stickball," how "before long I was known as two-sewer Scully." He reminisced about his college days at Fordham as a smooth-fielding, light-hitting center fielder -- and that memorable 1947 game against Yale and its first baseman, future United States President George H.W. Bush.
"The first time we played golf together," Scully said, "I said, 'Mr. President, as long as you're in the White House, if you say anything about your baseball days ... you know we both went 0-for-3 in that game.'"
After hitting the only homer of his college career, Scully eagerly picked up the local newspaper the next day only to find "Jim Scully" credited with the blast. Another slight, he mentioned tongue firmly in cheek, played a role in his move to the radio side of the game.
"It was Fordham against NYU, something like SC and UCLA out here," Scully said. "I had my only game with three hits and got two runs batted in. I couldn't wait to pick up The New York Times the next day."
The game story, Scully recalled, referenced his strikeout and nothing else.
"The only time I made an out, and that's what they printed in the paper," Scully said. As the audience broke up, he added, "That's when I decided I should give up playing and talk a good game."
There were several hilarious tales involving Hilda Chester, one of the colorful Brooklyn fans of the 1940s and '50s, and a classic featuring an unintended suicide squeeze gone awry with Gino Cimoli at third base and Gil Hodges at the plate -- in an exhibition game in Mesa, Ariz.
Remarking how Cimoli was fortunate that Hodges, backing away, didn't slay him with a line drive or with the bat, Scully tied it to the Dodgers' first World Series championship in Los Angeles in 1959 after they'd finished seventh in their debut season at Memorial Coliseum.
"What, you must be thinking, did that squeeze play have to do with winning the World Series?" Scully said. "Well, the Dodgers traded Gino Cimoli to the St. Louis Cardinals [after the '58 season] and in return got a hitter named Wally Moon. It was Wally Moon who hit all the home runs that led to the pennant and World Series."
The night had begun with a glowing tribute to Scully by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who recalled how the play-by-play master "narrated my childhood."
Garcetti expressed delight in the city naming a street for Scully on the drive into Dodger Stadium, concluding, "You represent the spirit of the city. You are an angel in the City of Angels."
Lyle Spencer is a columnist for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @LyleMSpencer.