When you think about baseball, who do you think about? Maybe your favorite pitcher or hitter, maybe the best coach of your favorite team of all time. For me, it’s Vin Scully. It’s been a long, long time. As a kid, I always wanted to be a baseball commentator, and even before I knew what a great commentary on the game was, I could tell that Scully was one step above everyone else. He passed away on Tuesday, just over a year after his wife Sandra lost her battle with ALS. He was 94 years old.
“We’ve lost an icon,” said Dodgers president and CEO Stan Kasten. “Vin Scully of the Dodgers was one of the greatest voices in all of sports. He was a giant not only as a TV presenter, but also as a humanist. He loved people. He loved life. He loved baseball and the Dodgers. And he loved his family. His voice will always be heard and will forever remain in our minds.”
I don’t think I can overstate how legendary Scully was as a TV presenter. Having started in Brooklyn in 1950 with his mentor, the legendary Red Barber, before moving with the team to Los Angeles, Scully mumbled colloquial expressions and jokes with vernacular ease. Stories were easy to slip off the tongue, and they were always within reach. You’ve heard stories of people attending a baseball game in the ’60s still putting their transistor radios to their ears just to hear Scully call a game that was right in front of them. He was part of the Dodgers experience, whether you’re at home or in the stands.
He was a myth, a legend of the broadcasting booth, whose techniques were so simple that it seemed anyone could repeat them, but no one could repeat his genius. Did you know that Scully had a little sand timer that he kept in front of him during broadcasts? Every time the timer ran out of sand, he had to announce the score of the game. He would flip the timer and the cycle would start over. Little things like that demonstrate how well Scully knew the inside of the radio booth, because when someone listens to the radio, they can’t see the score or the runners on base, so Scully knew he had to regularly inform viewers who might have just tuned in. It’s a technique that other legendary actors have also adopted over the years, and it should demonstrate Scully’s influence on the game of baseball.
“The red—haired barber inspired me to always walk in the middle,” Scully once said. “I like to think that if I say that someone made a good catch, the fans will believe me because I will also say the same if he messed up the game.”