Vin Scully has been broadcasting Dodgers games longer than there have been 50 United States.
It’s true. Hawaii and Alaska became full members of the union in 1959, nine years after Scully began calling games for the then-Brooklyn Dodgers.
A soothing voice and welcoming presence for generations from coast to coast, Scully’s legendary 67-year career is coming to an end. The 89-year-old native New Yorker will broadcast his final 10 games beginning tonight, with his last call scheduled for Oct. 2 in San Francisco. He won’t be on the broadcast in the playoffs.
Scully has been a part of Dodgers broadcasts since 1950 when the team was in Brooklyn, and has been the franchise’s principal voice since it moved west to Los Angeles in 1958.
Scully recapped his career on a conference call with reporters on Monday, including his best memories, his most emotional moments, and what he hopes his legacy will be. Here are his first comments in a series that will be presented throughout the week.
Q: On calling his last game in San Francisco, and how it’s fitting with how his love of baseball began:
Scully: I love it. In fact, I couldn’t believe it. I was not quite nine years old, I was walking home from grammar school, and I went by a Chinese laundry and in the window was the line score of the World Series game that would be Oct. 2, 1936, and the Yankees beat up the Giants 18-4. And as a little boy my first reaction was “Oh, the poor Giants.” And then my grammar school was 20 blocks from the old Polo Grounds. So I could walk after school at 2:30, catch the game at 3:15 for nothing because I was a member of the Police Athletic League and the Catholic Youth Organization. So that’s when I fell in love with baseball and became a true fan. My last game, with the Giants, will be Oct. 2, 2016. That will be exactly 80 years, to the minute, from when I first fell in love with the game. So it seems like the plan was laid out for me, and all I had to do was follow the instructions.
Q: On the Dodgers’ longstanding rivalry with the Giants, and being a part of it since both franchises were in New York.
Scully: First of all when we arrived at Seals Stadium (the Giants’ first San Francisco home from 1958-59) they did not have really any kind of a radio booth. We didn’t televise. We actually were one row behind the regular fans and once they realized for instance that we were doing a beer commercial live, why they’d start hollering, just good naturedly, but they’d start hollering the names of all the other brands of beer that they could possibly think of. So that taught us to record all of the commercials rather than be heckled by the fans.
In all honesty, I’d be doing a game at Seals Stadium and a fellow would turn around and just say to me “Do you have a match?” It was that informal and that enclosed, so that was an experience. But it was new and it was exciting and the fans were fun.
At Candlestick, the wind was a nightmare but I also thought the surroundings affected the personality of the fans. I could be completely wrong, but it was cold and rainy, windy, and I think the people in the stands were unhappy and sometimes would take their unhappiness out. We actually had one or two players if I remember correctly go up into the stands over somebody making some terrible remark.
But once they moved to AT&T Park, it’s completely different. The fans are good-natured, they’re happy, they’re fair, they’re wonderful. And though I certainly know nothing about mass psychology and all that stuff, I think the weather at Candlestick kind of embittered the fan, and the weather at AT&T has made it a wonderful party atmosphere. No meanness at all.
Q: On what he would’ve done if he hadn’t been a baseball broadcaster
Scully: When I was growing up as a little boy, the only thing I loved in the beginning was the roar of the crowd. I would crawl under this big old radio we had, and the only sports in those days would be college football on radio and I would listen to a game that really meant nothing—Alabama-Tennessee, Michigan-Ohio State—but it was the roar of the crowd that poured out of the loudspeaker, really like water out of a shower, and I would just be covered in goosebumps.
Each time, every Saturday, I would listen, and eventually I got into “Gee, I love the roar, I would love to be there,” and then later on it projected to, “I would love to be the announcer.” But I figured the announcer, that was somewhere in never-never land, so when I went off to school and went to high school I thought I’d be a writer. I wrote a column for the high school paper. The column that I wrote at Fordham University was a pretty impressive column because of those who had written ahead of me. I mean John Kieran who was a genius, Arthur Daley of The New York Times who won all kinds of awards. So I followed in their footsteps writing a column called “Looking Them Over.” So that’s what I thought. I worked as a copy boy for The New York Times and I really thought I’d end up writing for a living. But then I went into the Navy for a year, didn’t go anywhere, didn’t do anything, and when I came back Fordham had an FM station. And that was the opportunity and that began going in the opposite direction. Although for time I would write my own material, which I would then use on the air, so there was a definite change in direction, only with the good fortune of having of an FM station.
Q: On the biggest difference between doing television and radio
Scully: The best way to describe the difference between radio and television, I could take Sandy Koufax’s perfect game, which I did on radio, and by doing it on radio I could describe him running his fingers through his hair, drying his hands off on his pants leg, heaving a big sigh. Describing in minute detail if I could to add to the drama. Then let’s take Clayton Kershaw’s no-hitter two years ago. That was done on television. I couldn’t describe anything that I did on radio because you were looking at it, and where I had a whole big deal on Sandy, all I could say on Clayton Kershaw when his no-hitter took place was, “He’s done it.” So there is a big difference, you could also make a cliché out of it and say when you come into the radio booth there’s a blank canvas, and for three hours you’re trying to paint whatever you’re looking at. But on television when you walk into the booth the picture is already there. Immediately you’re just trying to add a few comments beneath the picture.
Growing up in New York, as a child, and as I grew older, the voices of Mel Allen, Red Barber, they were part of my family. So I understand that and I know for all others we’re all extremely grateful to have that reaction from the fans. And of course, you’re going to get criticism as well, but that keeps you in line.
Q: On being in the spotlight as career comes to a close
Scully: First of all I attribute it to one thing and one thing only, God’s grace to allow me to do what I’ve been doing for 67 years. To me, that’s really the story. Not me. I’m just the vessel that was passed hand-to-hand down through all those years. So I don’t take it to heart as some great compliment. I just realize that because I’ve been doing this for 67 years, that’s why everybody wants to talk about it. So I think I’ve kept it in proper perspective, although it is a little embarrassing to be honest. I’m uncomfortable with it. I’ve never wanted to get out in front of the game. I mean Giants and Dodgers tonight, I don’t want people to think about it as Vin’s last whatever, I just want them to enjoy the Giants and the Dodgers, so I am uncomfortable having been pushed out into this spot. But again, to be repetitive, I realize the only reason there is this fuss and fury is that I’ve lasted 67 years.
Q: On deciding not to broadcast the playoffs to not take away from the games
Scully: Exactly. Then it would be even worse. And I also didn’t want to say goodbye like they do in grand opera where they say goodbye 25 times in 15 minutes. I’ll be saying goodbye to the people here at Dodger Stadium, I’ll be saying goodbye to baseball in general when I leave in San Francisco, and I couldn’t possibly think, and then I’m going to say goodbye in, let’s just say, Washington or New York doing radio in the playoffs. It just didn’t work right for me. So to me, we’ll tie the ribbon on the package in San Francisco and that will be that.
Q: On emotions of the final game at Dodger Stadium on Sunday, Sept. 25 against the Rockies
Scully: As far as emotions are concerned, I think I’ve got them in check but you never know. You never really know. And I don’t think I’m going to stress anything about me. I’m just going to try and do the game. I really will. I will concentrate on (the Rockies) as if they’re challenging the Dodgers for first place and the game will take its place and hopefully carry me along with it until the very end.