[guest post by JVW]
It should never come as a surprise when a man dies in the ninety-fifth year of his life. By that point he has already gone well into extra innings. Nor is it a tragedy in the same way that the death of one in youth or in middle-aged — cheated out of the honor of combing grey hair as the old Irish saying goes — affects us, as we tend to fall back on the cliche that the deceased elder “lived a full life,” whatever we mean by that.
But yesterday’s passing of Vincent Edward Scully somehow carries with it a special pang of regret that one might not ordinarily feel for a man who had enjoyed such a long life. Perhaps because up until six years ago he still worked as the broadcaster on Los Angeles Dodgers home games, we had forgotten how few were the sands which remained in the hourglass of his life. To many of us who love baseball, it seemed that we would always have Vin Scully behind the microphone explaining to us the intricacies of a well-executed squeeze play or relating an anecdote about Duke Snider or Maury Wills or Davey Lopes or Shawn Green or any of the thousands of other players he covered in his 67-year career. We remember and cherish the great calls he made during a lifetime of indelible baseball moments (and, let’s not forget, he has his share of memorable football moments too). We recall his wit, whether it was the way he provided the play-by-play of a baseball fight (in which he read a player’s lips and sanitized the audio translation as, “That’s bull fertilizer!”) and placed it into the context of the game, or when he related the story of how getting bombed by a pigeon convinced Mike Matheny to remain in college and led him to meet his eventual wife, or when he displayed his deep erudition on the topic of beards, all woven within the regular play-by-play of the game. His knowledge of the history of baseball was vast, befitting one who in his boyhood met Babe Ruth, and he was a credit to the Jesuit education he received first at Fordham Prep and then at Fordham University, in an era when the Jesuits could still be taken seriously. He’s likely the last man from bygone days in which broadcasters worked in radio and thus understood that they had to hold the listener’s attention during the game since there were no visual images to see. I doubt that any play-by-play man will ever again be so consistently interesting.
Like so many other people who are almost universally admired and widely loved, Vin Scully’s personal life inevitably contained elements of tragedy. His first wife died young from an accidental overdose of medicine fifteen years into their marriage, leaving him to raise their three children. One of those children, his son Michael, would die in a work-related helicopter accident while inspecting damage in the aftermath of the 1994 Northridge Earthquake. And Vin’s second wife, Sandra, suffered from ALS which eventually took her life in January 2021. Through it all, he remained a cheerful and indefatigable on-air presence, buoyed by his strong Catholic faith and his devotion to his children and grandchildren. And this being a conservative blog, it’s only fair that I add that Vin Scully held no truck for fashionable political nonsense, nor did he care for showy grandstanding by overpaid gladiators.
When he decided it was time to retire he announced it in advance of his final season, no doubt knowing that it would help his employer sell tickets by staging various tributes to his remarkable career. In his final game, he summed up what his career had meant to him:
October 2, 2016. Vin Scully signs off for the final time. 💙 pic.twitter.com/R85tgy1bHB
— MLB (@MLB) August 3, 2022
So long, Vin. And thanks for making baseball the best sport to follow from afar.
UPDATE: NRO’s Dan McLaughlin turns out to be Vin Scully’s nephew, and he writes an incredibly moving and beautiful obituary about his uncle. A small taste from the second paragraph:
Vin’s story was the story of my family, and the story of so many American families: up from nowhere, and East to West. All four of my grandparents, including Vin’s mother and stepfather, immigrated to America in the 1920s. Some came with little, some with nothing. My grandmother was born Bridget Freehill in Ireland in 1900, a subject of Queen Victoria. She was shot at during the Easter Rising in 1916. She was a strong, tough, opinionated redheaded lady, a survivor, and the kind of traditional Irishwoman who always wore a nice hat to church. She lived to be 97. She came to America with a letter of reference from the clothing store in Dublin where she worked after coming south from County Cavan. Those were troublesome times in that troubled place, and New York was a fresh start.
Do yourselves a favor and read the whole thing.