Editor’s note: Vin Scully is a devout Catholic who credits his faith as his life’s anchor. He attends St. Jude the Apostle Church in Westlake Village.
“It’s time for Dodger baseball” has been Los Angeles Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully’s trademark call for nearly seven decades. Yet, following this season, after 67 years, the legendary Scully has retired from the broadcast booth.
On the day before his final Dodgers Stadium broadcast, the 88-year old Scully sat with local media and shared some stories of his career.
“Thank you for coming,” said a smiling Scully. “I know you all are very busy but thanks for taking a few minutes to spend with me.”
In his compassionate and caring manner Scully captivated everyone in the room as he reminisced.
He said he has been overwhelmed this season when visiting managers, players and fellow broadcasters, including Cubs manager Joe Maddon, Cincinnati Reds announcer Marty Brennaman and Boston Red Sox All-Star David Ortiz (also known as Big Papi), stopped by the booth to wish him well in retirement and present him with wonderful mementoes.
“The first game I ever broadcasted was actually a [Boston University/Maryland] football game in 1949 at Fenway Park,” said Scully. “Big Papi gave me a framed picture of me on the mound at Fenway and in the picture was a copy of the football program from 1949.”
Scully spoke about his first year on the job as a 20-year-old kid.
“I was terrified when I first started,” he said. “I wasn’t guaranteed a job for the second year, but in the off season, Mr. [Walter] O’Malley called me himself and told me I had the job for the next season. Imagine, Mr. O’Malley, the owner of this baseball team, taking the time to call me and tell me I still had a job. I was thrilled.”
Scully’s veteran broadcasting partner, Red Barber, laid down the law to the young Scully.
“Red was a stickler,” he added. “I once said on the air that Willie Mays was the best ball player I ever saw and Red took me aside and told me, ‘Young man, you’re not old enough to be telling stories like that.’”
Scully noted a few of his highlights.
“Beating the Yankees in Yankees Stadium to win the 1955 World Series was one of the greatest moments, Kirk Gibson’s Game 1 World Series homerun was the most theatrical, Hank Aaron’s record breaking 715th homerun was the most memorable and Fernando Valenzuela was a highlight for all of baseball.
“Before Game One of the 1988 World Series I reported that Gibson wasn’t going to play because of leg injuries. Kirk heard me say that on television while he was getting treatment in the clubhouse. Later, during the game, the cameras showed Gibson in the dugout and then he came up to pinch-hit in the ninth [inning]. He was hobbling and could barely walk. I was hoping he would at least hit a grounder and not embarrass himself and then he hits the game winning homerun and the place went crazy.”
He also shared some heartbreaking moments along the way.
“In 1951, I was standing behind Red Barber in the booth when Bobby Thompson hit the winning homerun that gave the New York Giants the pennant over the Brooklyn Dodgers. That broke my heart,” Scully admitted.
“One of toughest memories was the day Don Drysdale died in Montreal [in 1993],” he said. “I didn’t see Don on the bus on the way to the ballpark but that wasn’t so unusual. I thought maybe he was doing an interview. I then didn’t see him in pregame and I was a little concerned. Then I didn’t see him in the first or second inning and by the third inning I was really worried. Don was supposed to go on the air. Then the traveling secretary came into the booth and said, ‘He’s dead, Don Drysdale is dead’. I was in shock.
“I couldn’t go on the air and tell the fans yet because Don’s wife hadn’t been notified. I knew it was his daughter’s birthday and they would be listening. Finally, after his wife was contacted, I announced Don’s passing. It was very difficult to continue.”
Scully perfected his famous style of broadcasting Dodger games from the L.A. Coliseum.
“Our big break was that fans brought their transistor radios to the ballpark,” he said. “They were so far from the action they couldn’t tell who was at bat and they would listen on their transistors and once I knew I had them listening, I would start talking to them and telling stories.”
Not surprisingly, the quick-witted Scully had an amusing response for the million-dollar question about ‘What will he do in retirement?’
“I have a wife, five kids, 16 grandchildren and three great children, so if I can’t find something to do, they’ll find me something to do,” said Scully, a devout Catholic.
“I feel God has blessed me to allow me to have this job for 67 years. I fell in love with baseball when I was 8 years old and every time I come to the ballpark I still feel like that 8-year-old boy is still in me,” Scully said. “I’m going to miss the people but I’ve said all along that I’ve needed them a lot more than they needed me.”
And in his gracious manner, Scully stood up, winked at the media, thanked us for coming and said he had to get ready for “Dodger baseball.”
Other Scully notes: In 1950 Vin Scully once broadcasted a spring training game that Connie Mack managed. Mack, the legendary Philadelphia A’s manager for 50 years, was born during the Civil War and died in 1956 at age 93.
Scully admitted that he was once asked to run for U.S. Senator in the early 1960’s by Eugene Wyman, the California Democratic National Committeeman. He politely ask Wyman if he could think it over for 48 hours.
“I didn’t really need 48 hours to think about it but I thanked Mr. Wyman and told him I thought I would be happier with my baseball broadcasting job.”
About being missed by Dodgers fans after he retires: “Moving on is part of life. They said we couldn’t survive when [New York Yankee broadcaster] Mel Allen retired, but we did. I’m just a pebble on the beach.”