He was Venice Beach, Pink’s hot dog stand and the Hollywood Bowl all rolled into one. He was Los Angeles, the sound of summer, the poet laureate of the Dodgers – Brooklyn and Los Angeles – for 67 seasons.
We knew Vin Scully wasn’t going to last forever. It was as if he could. Even in retirement, years after it last aired in 2016, its presence has remained both pervasive and ethereal, like ocean and air.
“There are two words to describe Vin: Babe Ruth,” said Charley Steiner, the Dodgers’ play-by-play radio man since 2005 after moving west from the Yankees stand (2002 -2004). “The best that ever did. Babe Ruth will always be defined as baseball. Vin will always be remembered as the voice of baseball.
The wild ride that was Tuesday’s major league trade deadline suddenly and abruptly gave way to heaviness in the quiet of that night, when the Dodgers announced that Scully had died at age 94. The life cycle of baseball, distilled in one day: new beginnings and sad endings. Scully had been in poor health for the past few months, and those who knew him well had been bracing for the phone call. But when he came, it was still a punch.
“It doesn’t make it any easier because we’ve lost a friend,” said former Dodgers outfielder and longtime broadcaster Rick Monday. “Whether we met Vin Scully or not, he was our friend.”
Like best friends, he was full of wonder, joy, humility and surprises.
“When I was in college I wrote for The Times, so you’ve probably seen my byline,” Scully said eagerly to begin an interview with The New York Times earlier this summer for a story on Gil Hodges. , as if his days at Fordham University were just around a recent corner. “It says ‘Times Special Correspondent.’ I was under an assumed name. Anyway, I just wanted you to know my literary journey.
Another time, late at night after an interleague game at Angel Stadium at the start of the 2013 season, some members of the media were waiting for a press lift home in the evening when Scully joined them for the downhill. He wore a splint on his left hand and wrist, the result of tendonitis.
“I was telling someone earlier that I should just tell people that I got interested in falconry and I’m waiting for the bird,” he said with a broad smile. “That would be a better story, wouldn’t it?”
His instincts were perfect and his zest for life constant.
“It was so well read,” Monday said. “He also had the English language. When you listened to Vin, you felt you had to go back to school immediately. But he never spoke to anyone, ever. He was amazing.
In what was one of his last public acts, Scully wrote a letter to the then Baseball Hall of Fame committee supporting Hodges’ Hall of Fame bid – a letter that would have been highly influential. . But the ever-humble Scully refused to believe he had enough clout to sway voters and, moreover, wanted no credit.
“Even when I wrote it, I was crossing my fingers that it wouldn’t be made public to a point where suddenly I’m trying to be in the spotlight because I didn’t want to at all,” Scully said this summer. “Yes, I wrote the letter, and it was true as far as I know in every aspect. But I don’t want to dwell on it at all.
“I’m extremely sensitive now that I’m retired. I just don’t want to do anything where I might seem out of place.
But Scully’s “place” was everywhere, a friend welcomed by all, starting with his warm invitation at the start of every show to “pull up a chair.” And for nearly seven decades, from the mansions of Bel Air to the blue-collar neighborhoods of Southland, on behalf of the Dodgers, he created an incredible extended family.
Monday grew up in Santa Monica, California with a single mother who fell in love with the Dodgers when they moved west in 1958. Every time they were in the car when the Dodgers played, Monday recalled, Scully was their companion.
“His voice was like a gentle hand on our shoulder saying, ‘Hey, it’s going to be okay. Whatever’s going on in the world, whatever’s going on in your life, for these next three hours, I got you,” Monday said. “That’s the feeling we had.”
Millions of others have experienced similar emotions during those 67 years at Iron Man.
“I was mesmerized by this game and even more mesmerized by Vin’s voice and the way he presented the game,” Monday said. “His description of the uniforms, the terrain, how fast a guy was running, how hard a ball was hit, a diving hold that was made. When Vin was making a game, it wasn’t just the games of the game, it was the pageantry of the game.”
Monday was the first draft pick in baseball’s first amateur draft in 1965, won by the Athletics, which traded him to the Chicago Cubs before the 1972 season.
“So the Dodgers are finally going to Chicago, and my mom can watch the game on TV,” Monday said. “It’s my seventh year in the big leagues, and my mom heard Vin Scully mention my name. I said, ‘Mom, you didn’t even realize I was in the big leagues until this Vin mention my name.’ She laughed. It became official.”
The Los Angeles Times Magazine in 1998 named Scully the most reliable man in Los Angeles. Eight years prior, the late and legendary Los Angeles Times columnist Jim Murray claimed that Scully was the most important Dodger of them all. Little has changed since.
“Vincent Edward Scully meant as much or more to the Dodgers than any .300 hitter they ever signed, any 20-game winner they ever fielded,” Murray wrote in a column published in August 1990. “It’s true, he didn’t limp for home plate and hit the home run that turned a season into a miracle – but he knew what to do with it to make it resonate through the ages.
When Kirk Gibson broke that home run against Oakland’s Dennis Eckersley to set the tone for the Dodgers’ upset against Oakland in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series, Scully exclaimed, “In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened!
For a minute and eight seconds he was silent, allowing the roaring Dodger Stadium crowd to fill the television speakers. The echoes continue to this day.
His sense of timing, history and moment was impeccable, whatever the occasion.
“He wasn’t just an announcer,” Steiner said. “He wasn’t just a baseball figure. He was a father figure, he was avuncular, he was a conscience, he was everything we hoped was right with the world. And more often than not, he was.
Steiner continued, “Los Angeles is a city of stars. Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks, etc. I’ve long thought Vin was the biggest star of them all because of her longevity. Nobody ever did it better, and nobody ever said it stinks. He was comforting, parental, angelic. He had a brilliant and spotless mind.
After Tuesday night’s Dodgers-Giants game, Monday said he stayed up in his San Francisco hotel room until 5 a.m., turning over the memories in his mind, alternately smiling and crying. When he and his wife travel somewhere, he says, his wife often jokes that the place wasn’t as good as the brochure. “Vin Scully was better than the brochure,” Monday said.
He recalled Scully’s last Dodger Stadium broadcast in 2016, when the icon beautifully serenaded the sold-out crowd by singing “Wind Beneath My Wings” at the end of the game. Service man Charlie Culberson had broken a storybook home run moments earlier. What’s easy to forget is that it wasn’t Scully’s last broadcast, the Dodgers finished this season with three games in San Francisco.
There, Culberson had the now famous bat with him. When he was unsure what to do with it, Monday suggested he get it signed by Scully. Culberson was shy, asked Monday and Scully said he would be “honoured” to sign him.
Monday escorted Culberson upstairs to the San Francisco press room where they met Scully.
“It was amazing,” said Monday. “It was like two kids in a park examining this magic wand of a bat. Vinny signed it, and they were about to say goodbye when who walks into the booth, but the man that Vin always said was the greatest player he ever saw – Willie Mays.
“Charlie and Vinny had already had tears in their eyes, and then Willie walked in and it was like one of those moments from a time capsule.
“And then we heard about round three or round four here last night, 60 feet from where it happened.”