Longtime Dodgers broadcaster dies at 94
His voice was the soundtrack of summer for generations of baseball fans across the US
LOS ANGELES — Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully, whose dulcet tones provided the soundtrack of summer while entertaining and informing Dodgers fans in Brooklyn and Los Angeles for 67 years, died Tuesday night. He was 94.
Scully died at his home in the Hidden Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles, the team announced after being informed by family members. No cause of death was provided.
“He was the best there ever was,” pitcher Clayton Kershaw said after the Dodgers’ game in San Francisco. “Just such a special man. I’m grateful and thankful I got to know him as well as I did.”
As the longest tenured broadcaster with a single team in pro sports history, Scully saw it all and called it all. He began in the 1950s era of Pee Wee Reese and Jackie Robinson, on to the 1960s with Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax, into the 1970s with Steve Garvey and Don Sutton, and through the 1980s with Orel Hershiser and Fernando Valenzuela. In the 1990s, it was Mike Piazza and Hideo Nomo, followed by Kershaw, Manny Ramirez and Yasiel Puig in the 21st century.
“You gave me my Wild Horse name. You gave me love. You hugged me like a father,” tweeted Puig, the talented Cuban-born outfielder who burned brightly upon his Dodgers debut in 2013. “I will never forget you, my heart is broken.”
The Dodgers changed players, managers, executives, owners — and even coasts — but Scully and his soothing, insightful style remained a constant for the fans.
He opened broadcasts with the familiar greeting, “Hi, everybody, and a very pleasant good evening to you wherever you may be.”
Ever gracious both in person and on the air, Scully considered himself merely a conduit between the game and the fans.
“His voice played a memorable role in some of the greatest moments in the history of our sport,” Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said. “I am proud that Vin was synonymous with baseball because he embodied the very best of our national pastime.”
Vincent Edward Scully was born Nov. 29, 1927, in the Bronx. He was the son of a silk salesman who died of pneumonia when Scully was 7. His mother moved the family to Brooklyn, where the red-haired, blueeyed Scully grew up playing stickball in the streets.
As a child, Scully would grab a pillow, put it under the family’s four-legged radio and lay his head directly under the speaker to hear whatever college football game was on the air. With a snack of saltine crackers and a glass of milk nearby, the boy was transfixed by the crowd’s roar that raised goosebumps. He thought he’d like to call the action himself.
Scully, who played outfield for two years on the Fordham University baseball team, began his career by working baseball, football and basketball games for the university’s radio station.
After graduating in 1949, Scully worked as a fill-in at WTOP, the CBS affiliate in Washington, broadcasting sports, news and weather. On a visit to the CBS offices in New York that July he was introduced to Hall of Famer Red Barber, who was in charge of sports for CBS Radio in addition to broadcasting Dodger games.
When Ernie Harwell, one of Barber’s partners on Dodger broadcasts, was reassigned from broadcasting a Boston University-Maryland football game at Fenway
Park on the afternoon of Nov. 12, 1949, Barber checked WTOP for references on Scully and, satisfied with what he learned, assigned him to do the game in Boston.
There was, Scully later recalled, no room for him in the Fenway Park press box. “I had to walk along the right-field roof, following the play,” The Boston Globe quoted him as saying.
Barber heard a recording of the broadcast, liked what he heard, and assigned Scully to the Harvard-Yale game the next week.
In 1950, after Harwell left the Dodgers’ broadcast team, Scully got his biggest break. He was hired as the team’s No. 3 announcer, behind Barber and Connie Desmond.
Barber became his mentor, telling him to be well prepared, to stay away from imitating other announcers and to avoid becoming a rooter. “He told me to always be myself,” Scully recalled in an interview with The Christian Science Monitor in 1986.
When Barber joined the Yankees’ crew in 1954, Scully got the Dodgers’ top broadcasting job. He worked with Desmond and Andre Baruch and later teamed with Al Helfer and Jerry Doggett in Brooklyn (Desmond left late in the 1956 season).
While continuing to call Dodger games, Scully covered pro football and golf for CBS-TV in the late 1970s and early ‘80s. With Joe Garagiola as color commentator, he handled baseball’s Game of the Week, the World Series, the playoffs and the All-Star Game for NBC-TV in the ’80s. He covered the World Series for CBS Radio in the ‘90s. He moved west with the Dodgers in 1958. Scully called three perfect games — Don Larsen in the 1956 World Series, Sandy Koufax in 1965 and Dennis Martinez in 1991 — and 18 no-hitters.
He also was on the air when Drysdale set his scoreless innings streak of 58 ⅔ innings in 1968 and again when Hershiser broke the record with 59 consecutive scoreless innings 20 years later.
When Hank Aaron hit his 715th home run to break Babe Ruth’s record in 1974, it was against the Dodgers and, of course, Scully called it.
“A Black man is getting a standing ovation in the Deep South for breaking a record of an all-time baseball idol,” Scully told listeners. “What a marvelous moment for baseball.”
Scully credited the birth of the transistor radio as “the greatest single break” of his career. Fans had trouble recognizing the lesser players during the Dodgers’ first four years in the vast Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
He often said it was best to describe a big play quickly and then be quiet so fans could listen to the pandemonium. After Koufax’s perfect game in 1965, Scully went silent for 38 seconds before talking again. He was similarly silent for a time after Kirk Gibson’s pinch-hit home run to win Game 1 of the 1988 World Series.
He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982, received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame that year and had the stadium’s press box named for him in 2001. The street leading to Dodger Stadium’s main gate was named in his honor in 2016.
That same year he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama.
After retiring in 2016, Scully made just a handful of appearances at Dodger Stadium and his sweet voice was heard narrating an occasional video played during games. Mostly, he was content to stay close to home.
“I just want to be remembered as a good man, an honest man, and one who lived up to his own beliefs,” he said in 2016.