Six memorable moments to celebrate Vin Scully’s return for a 65th season
For my money, the happiest day of the year arrived in the wee hours of Friday morning: the official announcement that Vin Scully will lend his golden voice to Dodger broadcasts for yet another season. The Los Angeles Times‘ Bill Shaikin broke the news that the now 85-year-old Scully — considered by many to be the finest broadcaster in all of sports history — will return for his 65th season behind the microphone.
Invigorated by the excitement that Clayton Kershaw, Yasiel Puig and the rest of this year’s Dodgers have generated in recent weeks, Scully sounded as though the decision — which he takes on a year-to-year basis — was an easy one. Via Shakin:
“It has been such an exciting, enjoyable, wonderful season — the big crowds in the ballpark, everybody is talking about the ballclub and I really respect, admire and love the management — so everything just fell into place,” Scully said.
“I really still enjoy it immensely. My health is good, thank God. So why not? And my wife said, ‘Why not?’ as well.
“Just the thought of walking away from it to retirement — and looking out the window or something? It’s just too good. As a baseball man, and someone who has always loved the game, the situation and the conditions are perfect.”
Scully has been the voice of the Dodgers since 1950, when the team was still in Brooklyn and he was the junior partner of Red Barber and Connie Desmond. In addition to his Dodgers duties, he covered various golf, tennis and football events on television from the 1970s to 2000, and worked national baseball broadcasts on TV and radio for NBC and CBS on and off as well, with the last of those obligations ending with the 1997 World Series. In recent years, he has pared back his Dodgers schedule to around 100 games a year, no longer traveling east of Denver for road games except upon rare occasions. Even so, the magic of MLB.TV has furthered his reach by making it possible for fans outside of the Los Angeles area to see and hear him whenever the Dodgers are at home or playing on the road within the NL West.
Over the course of his 64 seasons, Scully has been at the microphone for some tremendously memorable moments. What follows is my own idiosyncratic top six, counted down in order and accompanied by whatever audio or video clips I could pull together.
6. Don Sutton’s 50th shutout, Aug. 10, 1979
I’ve got no audio or video to share on this one, but it’s included here because it was the first time I ever heard Scully call a game. As a nine-year-old riding in the back of our Chevrolet station wagon on a family road trip from Salt Lake City to somewhere in California, I listened to the dulcet tones of Scully as he traded off innings with broadcast partner Jerry Doggett in a 9-0 win against the Giants. His voice brought to life the parade of Dodgers runs, including a grand slam by Derrell Thomas and the first major league homer by rookie Mickey Hatcher, not to mention the significance of staff ace Sutton’s accomplishment in twirling a five-hit shutout.
5. Bill Buckner’s error, Oct. 25, 1986
In Game 6 of the World Series between the Mets and Red Sox, Boston went into the 10th inning up 5-3 and was one strike away from clinching its first championship since 1918 when all hell broke loose. Here’s Scully calling Bob Stanley’s wild pitch, which allowed the tying run to score in the form of Kevin Mitchell, and then Mookie Wilson’s groundball, which squirted through the legs of Buckner and allowed Ray Knight to score the winning run, setting up a Game 7 that New York would win:
4. Sandy Koufax’s perfect game, Sept. 9, 1965
This one’s from before I was born, but the audio of Scully’s call of the ninth inning of Koufax’s gem against the Cubs has been widely circulated all over the internet. Here’s what he had to say after the game-ending strikeout of Harvey Kuenn:
“On the scoreboard in rightfield it is 9:46 p.m. in the city of the angels, Los Angeles, California. And a crowd of 29,139, just sitting in to see the only pitcher in baseball history to hurl four no-hit, no-run games. He has done it four straight years, and now he capped it, on his fourth no-hitter, he made it a perfect game. And Sandy Koufax, whose name will always remind you of strikeouts, did it with a flourish. He struck out the last six consecutive batters. So when he wrote his name in capital letters in the record books, that “K” stands out even more than the O-U-F-A-X.”
3. The “4+1″ game, Sept. 18, 2006
This one’s from a tense late-season battle with the Padres, who were half a game up in the NL West coming into the night. They led Los Angeles 9-5 going into the bottom of the ninth before Jeff Kent, J.D. Drew, Russell Martin and Marlon Anderson uncorked consecutive solo homers — the first time four batters had done so since 1964. The first two came off Jon Adkins, the last two off Trevor Hoffman, who was closing in on Lee Smith’s all-time record of 478 saves but would get no closer that night.
The homers sent the game into extra innings. The Padres scored once in the 10th, but the Dodgers won when a gimpy Nomar Garciaparra followed Kenny Lofton’s walk (“The Dodgers have a rabbit with the tying run,” said Scully) with a two-run homer off Rudy Seanez. Here’s the montage of the five homers (the “4 +1″ shorthand for the game came from Dodger Thoughts blogger Jon Weisman) featuring Scully’s calls:
“And a high flyball to leftfield, it is away, out and gone! The Dodgers win it 11 to 10. Oh-ho-ho, unbelievable!” exclaimed Scully during Garciaparra’s homer before letting the crowd noise take over for a full two minutes. He came back to add, “I forgot to tell you: The Dodgers are in first place!” and after another minute silently letting the moment breathe, he finally signed off: “I think we’ve said enough from up here. Once again, the final score in 10 innings — believe it or not — Dodgers 11, Padres 10.”
2. Hank Aaron’s 715th home run, April 8, 1974
Braves announcer Milo Hamilton had the call on television, but Scully’s call on radio is one for the ages. Once he informed viewers that the ball had gone out, he stayed silent for more than a minute and a half, letting the noise of the crowd and the accompanying fireworks tell the story. When he resumed speaking, he said:
“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. A black man is getting a standing ovation in the Deep South for breaking a record of an all-time idol. And it is a great moment for all of us, and particularly for Henry Aaron.”
1. Kirk Gibson’s home run, Oct. 15, 1988
Injured during the National League Championship Series to the point that he could barely walk due to injuries to his left hamstring and right knee, Gibson came off the bench in Game 1 of the World Series to deliver a walk-off pinch-homer off off Dennis Eckersley, kicking off the Dodgers’ upset of the heavily-favored A’s. His at-bat starts around the two-hour, 29-minute mark:
Scully’s call as Gibson came to the plate: “And with two out, you talk about a roll of the dice, this is it. If he hits the ball on the ground, I would imagine he would be running 50 percent to first base.”
As he connected: “High fly ball into right field, she is… GONE!”
After more than a minute of sheer pandemonium while Gibson circled the bases and was mobbed by his teammates: “In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened!”
I’ve missed many a key moment in his career here, but you can find some of the missing calls via this audio montage and this video one, from the end of Don Larsen’s 1956 World Series perfect game to Don Drysdale’s scoreless streak in 1968 to Rick Monday’s rescue of the American flag in 1976 to Bo Jackson’s leadoff homer in the All-Star Game in 1989:
They can’t all be ice skating with Jackie Robinson, but here’s to looking forward to more great work from Scully.