Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Vin Scully: Mensch Personified

Baseball and sports lost an icon when broadcasting legend Vin Scully died last night at the age of 94.  But the world lost a good, decent man, the kind that is in short supply on the public stage these days. 

The voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers for 67 years (yes, 67!), Vin Scully was a the consummate professional, a beloved legend. 

He had it all.  The voice.  The poetry.  The knowledge of history.  The unique ability to tell the corniest story without sounding. . . corny.  The ability to zoom in on the “little angel,” the two or three-year old dripping ice cream in the stands, and say some syrupy, sentimental words without sounding ridiculously syrupy or sentimental. 

Scully, or Vinnie as all of us who “knew” him and thought of him as a comforting, familiar “friend,” had something few in broadcasting or, for that matter, in life in general, had:  he knew when to shut up.  Vinnie would let the scene—the spectacular catch, the clutch hit, the historic moment, the roar of the crowd—speak for itself. 

I never heard him speak ill of anyone.  I have never heard anyone else say that he did.  Not a whiff of scandal or dishonor.  Old-school virtues. 

He was one of those rare public figures who did not always need to be the center of attention.  He didn’t feel threatened by the silence, and he didn’t feel the need to have the light shine on him.  It was never about Vinnie.

Even when it was supposed to be about Vinnie, it wasn’t.   As retirement neared at the age of 88 and the accolades came flowing in, he always acted humbly, always took it all with a grain of salt, always tried to share the spotlight, always tried to deflect the attention a bit. 

A few of my favorite Vin Scully memories:

--The ninthinning of Sandy Koufax’ 1965 perfect game, his fourth no-hitter.  “It is 9:46 p.m. in the City of Angels. . . .

--Hank Aaron’s 715th major league home run, breaking Babe Ruth’s record.  "What a marvelous moment for baseball. What a marvelous moment for Atlanta and the state of Georgia. What a marvelous moment for the country and the world. . . A black man is getting a standing ovation in the Deep South for breaking a record of an all-time baseball idol. And it is a great moment for all of us. . .” 

--Kirk Gibson’s two-out, walk-off home run in the first game of the 1988 World Series.  "In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened.” 

--The San Francisco Giants AT&T Park, the final game he called, when the Giants put up a plaque honoring him in the visitor’s broadcast booth, Vinnie pointing to it, and reading it for Willie Mays, and, as always, trying to deflect attention and get back to announcing the game.    "I was thinking sitting in the booth talking to Willie, who would ever think that little redhead kid with the tear in his pants, shirttail hanging out, playing stickball in the streets of New York with a tennis ball and a broom handle, would wind up sitting here, 67 years of broadcasting, and with my arm around one of the greatest players I ever saw, the great Willie Mays.''  

Humility, class, grace, honesty, modesty, intelligence, poetry.  We could use a lot more people with Vin Scully’s characteristics in public life today, be it sports, entertainment, media, politics, or government. 

Thanks, Vinnie, for all the great times.  May that beautiful voice last forever. May your memory be for a blessing.  

(Originally published in The Times of Israel)