You didn’t think Vin Scully would pass and I *not* say something about it, did you?
Yes, Ernie Harwell was the baseball voice of my youth, hopeless Detroit Tigers fan that I am; but Vin Scully was “Ernie Harwell” to most everyone else. His ability to paint vivid pictures with an economy of words made him the ideal storyteller for a sport like baseball which consists mostly of anticipatory moments.
The first remarkable thing was Scully’s longevity. His first broadcast was in 1950, a time when air travel and night games were still very much outliers. His last was in 2019. In between we went to the Moon and back, saw 14 US Presidents, fell under the spell of Television, later to be replaced with the Internet and iPhones. Throughout this tumultuous period, Scully voice’s provided a reassuring backdrop to the madness. Hearing him read the final line score was an assurance that there was at least a sliver of sanity left in our Mad, Mad World.
Want to talk about longevity? One of the first games Scully broadcast featured the Philadelphia Athletics, managed at the time by Connie Mack. Mack was born two years after the Civil War. I rest my case.
As someone who has been in the profession for some time, I always marveled at Scully’s flexibility. Calling sports on radio and television is VERY different. At least if you want to do it correctly. You can listen to his radio broadcast of Sandy Koufax’s Perfect Game on radio, and compare it to his 2018 TV broadcast of a no-hitter by Clayton Kershaw. In the Koufax game, Scully’s wonderful voice provides a soundtrack to fill the intense pauses and silences of the game, making the listener tingle with anticipation. In the televised Kershaw broadcast, he lets the pictures do the talking, with his voice lightly punctuating the imagery. He was a master.
What is often overlooked was Scully’s versatility. He didn’t need a broadcast partner. For most of his career it was just him in the booth and no one else. Trust me when I tell you it is VERY difficult to carry a solo three-hour broadcast of a sport like baseball, where the action comes infrequently and in very short spurts. But he did it. And when the Dodgers’ brass decided to move him to TV, he made the adjustments and was perfect. I can’t tell you how many times I would dial up a late-night Dodgers game on MLB.TV just to listen to Vin call a couple of innings. A good end to the day.
As someone who has made a living using their voice there is no way I could have anything other than undying respect for a man who was an absolute master at the craft I love. Vin’s next broadcast will come from the Field of Dreams. I hope someone archives it so I can listen in some day.