Patterico's Pontifications

8/3/2022

Vin Scully, 1927-2022

Filed under: General — JVW @ 9:08 pm



[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:

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.

– JVW

21 Responses to “Vin Scully, 1927-2022”

  1. You could spend the rest of the night (trust me on this) enjoying old Vin Scully clips and retrospectives of his career on YouTube. Here’s the best one of them.

    JVW (020d31)

  2. Beautiful piece, JVW.

    My two favorite sportscasters: Scully and Pittsburgh’s Bob Prince. Vivid, descriptive, play-by-play coverage is as much a part of baseball as the bat, glove and ball. It’s like golf losing Palmer… and broadcast news losing Cronkite.

    DCSCA (11c16c)

  3. What a lovely tribute to an incredible man. Thank you for this, JVW.

    Dana (1225fc)

  4. Two great broadcasters, Vin Scully and Dick Enberg, share memories of their incredible careers.

    JVW (020d31)

  5. My former upstairs neighbor in Redondo Beach, now the president of the Baseball Hall of Fame, remembers when Vin sent the family public congratulations on the birth of their son.

    JVW (020d31)

  6. 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.

    JVW (020d31)

  7. I think you needed to come up in 20th century Los Angeles to understand how truly special Vin Scully and the Dodgers were to the city. When you went to the games, you didn’t need any announcer — there were a dozen radios within earshot with Scully’s play-by=play.

    I know that folks from elsewhere wonder why such a big deal; there have been other great announcers. It’s really hard to explain. It might be that he could do a TV or radio broadcast of a baseball game — known for long periods of inaction — and keep the whole thing interesting while never missing a play when it happened. That’s a rare talent. Or maybe that he shared his listeners love of the game. Or maybe it’s just that he’s ours; it’s not your fault you don’t understand.

    All I know is that he came to Los Angeles with the Dodgers when I was 6, and I fell in love with baseball and the Dodgers as a result. Countless memories: seeing Koufax set the season strikeout record; seeing Maury Wills steal second, then third; seeing Herschiser pitch during his scoreless streak; seeing Gibson’s home run from the first base loge.

    Wherever Vinny is, I hope its a fine afternoon for Dodgers baseball.

    Kevin M (eeb9e9)

  8. Very nice obit, JVW.

    DRJ (149e75)

  9. Thank you, DRJ. It’s always a treat to hear from you.

    JVW (020d31)

  10. when he started his broadcasting career, Connie Mack was still manager of the A’s and they were still in Philadelphia, and the Orioles were in St. Louis and were called the Browns

    JF (a6d404)

  11. in his boyhood met Babe Ruth

    This would have been in 1935, the last year Babe Ruth played, and that year he played for the Boston Braves (National League) The New York Goats played at the Polo Grounds. The Yankees also did before Yankee Stadium was built, but that was before Vin Sculley was born. It also could not have been at a World Series as the last one between the New York Yankees and the New York Giants while Babe Ruth still played for the Yankees was in 1923. By 1935, Vin Sculley was just about old enough to be by himself at the Polo Grounds. (about 8 years old)

    Babe Ruth carried with him pre-signed business cards, and he gave one of them to Vin Sculley.

    Sammy Finkelman (1d215a)

  12. No, still 7 years old. He was born November 29, 1927.

    Sammy Finkelman (1d215a)

  13. I am no fan of the Dodgers (well, apart from my opportunistic youth, when I jumped on the Dodgers bandwagon when they made it to the 1977 World Series–I remember Linda Ronstadt singing the national anthem while wearing a Dodgers jacket, which I thought was so cool at the time), but I have tremendous respect for Vin Scully, even more so after reading the Dan McLaughlin piece.

    norcal (da5491)

  14. Here’s another great pi3ece about Scully in the WaPo:


    When Vin Scully was calling the game, even fans in the stands brought radios

    You can almost taste the pressure now … Koufax lifted his cap, ran his fingers through his black hair, then pulled the cap back down, fussing at the bill … There’s 29,000 people in the ballpark and a million butterflies … I would think that the mound at Dodger Stadium right now is the loneliest place in the world.

    –Scully calling the last inning of Koufax’s perfect game.

    Kevin M (eeb9e9)

  15. Did you know that Scully almost never used a “color” man? With his encyclopedic knowledge of the game, and his ability to tell a story, he never needed one.

    Kevin M (eeb9e9)

  16. Vin Scully said, I heard on TV this week, that he thought people wanted to hear him talking to them, not (overhear) him talking to another person.

    Sammy Finkelman (1d215a)

  17. Credit where it’s due: the LA Times has done a nice job with its coverage of Vin Scully this week. Apart from the longer articles, there were some nice letters in pitiful few pages they call a Sports section today — check out the one from “Kimmy” which recounts one of the apparently thousands of time Scully helped out or cheered up some person who needed it. I think it’s his decency and goodness as a person, as much as his broadcasting, that is causing so many to feel a real sense of loss.

    RL formerly in Glendale (48bc71)

  18. RL, it’s like the death of a good friend. And Vin had millions of them.

    Kevin M (eeb9e9)

  19. What made Scully so great is that he not only knew how to describe the action in a compelling way, he knew when to be quiet and just let the moment speak for itself. Re-watch the Gibson homer (a top 3 baseball moment for me, easy), and note that he doesn’t say a thing for over a minute (an eternity in broadcasting) as Gibson rounds the bases and the Dodgers celebrate the walk-off. Too many other announcers would be shouting in to the mic; Scully’s silence made the whole event that much more impactful.

    Factory Working Orphan (2775f0)

  20. I guarantee no one in the stands would have heard him. Nobody left for a good half hour.

    Kevin M (eeb9e9)


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