Baseball, like all things in life, has changed over the years. New rules and new technology have brought new aspects to the game we love. But one thing that has been constant? The voice of Vin Scully.
I sit in the living room of my rural Rochelle, Illinois home on a rainy Wednesday afternoon. Thanks to the era I live in, I’m able to fire up the television and browse the internet for something to watch. I tell myself that I’m going to watch an episode of Seinfeld or Curb Your Enthusiasm, and I have every intention of doing that. However, before I get to either of the streaming services that offer those two all-time great TV shows, I open YouTube.
A video immediately catches my eye, and before you know it I’m lost in the Kirk Gibson game. Everyone knows that game, it features one of the most iconic moments in baseball history. It may be the defining moment of the modern World Series.
There are many reasons why the crack of Gibson’s bat off of a Dennis Eckersley backdoor slider has become famous. The setting of the World Series, the dominance of Eckersley throughout the 1988 regular season and playoffs, and the storybook factor of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ hobbled star hitter coming through when his team needed him the most. All of those factors, and more, helped to make for baseball history.
There was one other important element at play–and that’s Vin Scully. He was doing play-by-play for NBC on that night, and baseball couldn’t have asked for a better person to give voice to a timeless moment. It’s funny that I can now look back and watch moments such as the Kirk Gibson game and focus in on the welcoming tones of Scully.
I was, and still am, a Chicago Cubs fan. That meant that I grew up with Harry Caray and Steve Stone as the voices of my baseball education. They were a great announcing duo; a pair who I thought fit the Cubs like a glove. But, that’s all they were at the end of the day–a glove to help complete an outfit. Baseball was the key attraction, and the only reason an announcer mattered was to keep me entertained in between pitches.
The older me realizes how silly I was in my younger musings on baseball announcers. The main reason for that is my discovery, as if I were the only person to ever find him, of Scully. Listening to the longtime Dodgers play-by-play man call a game was a revelation. He wasn’t just informing me of what was happening on the field or keeping me entertained, he was engaging me in a deeply personal conversation.
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I felt as if every night I was pulling up a seat to the dinner table of Casa de Scully and listening to the collective world’s grandpa tell me all that I needed to know about life. No announcer has ever had the same effect on me, and based on my interactions with other baseball fans I feel it’s safe to say that statement is true for just about everyone who has heard a Scully called game.
Where else can one turn to be told about the history of the stripes of the American flag? Where else in the year 2016 can a baseball fan hear stories about someone growing up with dead horses in the streets? The answer is nowhere else, because there’s only ever been one Vin Scully.
If all Scully possessed was the ability to tell good stories, I wouldn’t be writing about him today. At the end of the day, Scully is still a baseball announcer providing analysis and play-by-play accounts of a game taking place on the field. In that realm he is also first class, possessing a knowledge of the game that is hard to fathom. He has an uncanny ability to relate the why of the action on the field.
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He’ll inevitably tie that why into one of his stories, and the knowledge of what is happening and why it is happening is still very present. He imbues the game with an importance, a sort of earned reverence that we like to think is present most of the time, but is usually naught to be found. In his 67 years of broadcasting, Scully has managed to do this by presenting the story, the knowledge, and the game itself as items that cannot exist without the other.
On October 2nd, Scully will call his final baseball game. His Dodgers will be in San Francisco to play the Giants, which is a fitting finale to his stellar career. Personally, I’m not sure what I will do in a baseball world devoid of Vincent Edward Scully.
Most of my nights during the regular season these past few years have been filled with the recognizable Brooklyn-turn-Los-Angeles accent of Scully. Like any good conversation, I don’t want it to end. But, end it must, and when October 2nd turns into October 3rd, it will be time for Vin Scully to take his place on baseball’s Mount Rushmore.
No announcer has ever meant as much to the game, but more than that, no conversation has ever been as delightful to partake in. That’s the Vin Scully touch, and it will be greatly missed.