Vin Scully, Voice Of The Dodgers For 67 Years, Saw Much Baseball History

When Vin Scully began his broadcast career, Harry Truman was president, Major League Baseball had two eight-team leagues, and the Dodgers were based in Brooklyn.

In a career that stretched from 1950 through 2016, he called more than 9,000 games, including 20 no-hitters, four perfect games, and 28 World Series, while lasting longer with a single franchise than any broadcaster in professional sports history.

A legend long before the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles in 1958, Scully was so good behind the microphone that worked games alone – a rare feat for a 21st century announcer.

Scully, who died Tuesday at age 94, was born in the Bronx, home of the Yankees, but grew up a fan of the New York Giants before going to work for the Dodgers. He never saw Ebbets Field before he broadcast his first game there.

When he started, the average annual salary of an American worker was $2,876 and the average baseball player earned about $13,228. As late as 1967, the minimum salary in the majors was still just $6,000.

Scully was around long enough to see the advent of the players union, multiple work stoppages that resulted from labor disputes, and a dramatic increase in team payrolls and player wages, which now range from a minimum of $700,000 to $43.3 million a year.

None of it phased Scully, at least not publicly. The soft-spoken Fordham graduate not only mastered the language but also learned to be conversational rather than controversial.

The Dodger Stadium broadcast booth and the street address of the venerable ballpark bear his name. Dodgertown, the Vero Beach, Fla. spring training complex where the Dodgers trained for 60 years, also has a street named Vin Scully Way.

Scully has a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame, which awarded him the 1982 Ford Frick Award for excellence in broadcasting. He wound up broadcasting games for more years (34) after that honor than before (33).

He was a protégé of Red Barber, who hired him in Brooklyn after listening to tapes of Scully’s Fordham games. When Barber left the Brookyn booth in 1953, Scully became the Voice of the Dodgers at the tender age of 25.

“We have lost an icon,” said Stan Kasten, president and CEO of the Dodgers, in a team-issued statement after Scully’s passing. “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 into all of our minds forever.”

From the moment Dodger Stadium opened in 1962, fans carried transiter radios so that they could hear Scully’s broadcasts. So many of them were tuned in that players said they could often hear Scully talk over the crowd noise during games.

To prove the point, Scully once stunned umpire Frank Dascoli by asking listeners to say “Happy birthday, Frank” after he counted to three.

Sports Illustrated once described Scully as being “as much a part of the Los Angeles scene as the freeways and the smog.”

A similar tribute came from the late Buzzie Bavasi, one-time general manager of the Dodgers, in his autobiography: “Scully made the Dodgers successful in California. He was the biggest asset we had coming to California.”

For a team that had Duke Snider, Gil Hodges, Sandy Koufax, and Don Drysdale, that was quite a compliment. That quartet was there in 1955, when the Brooklyn Dodgers won their only world championship, moving the normally-unflappable Scully to the brink of tears.

“All winter long,” Scully said later, “people asked me how I stayed so calm. The truth is I was so emotionally overwhelmed that if I had to say another word, I think I would have cried.”

All the announcer said when the last out was made was a simple sentence: “Ladies and gentlemen, the Brooklyn Dodgers are the champions of the world.”

A year later, Scully broadcast Don Larsen’s perfect game, the only one in World Series history. He was also on the air for the Koufax perfect game in 1965, Hank Aaron’s record 715th home run in 1974, Bill Buckner’s World Series error in 1986, and Kirk Gibson’s game-winning, pinch-homer in 1988.

Scully’s succint summation: “In a year that has become so improbable, the impossible has happened.”

He knew when to talk and when to keep quiet. After announcing the Aaron and Gibson home runs, Scully let the crowd reaction and the history of the moment sink in, keeping his thoughts to himself.

His poetic description of the last out of the Koufax perfect game was as perfect as the event itself – so good that the text of his comments found their way into a Charles Einstein book called The Baseball Reader.

When two-thirds of Dodgers fans were deprived of hearing Scully’s last season because of a dispute between the team and Time Warner Cable, the howls of protest might have been heard in San Francisco. Even Jon Miller, long-time announcer for the Giants, called Vin Scully the best sports broadcaster who ever lived.