MLB, Vin Scully: If Only Sterling, Harrelson, Kay and Grace Had Learned from Him

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MLB, Vin Scully: If Only Sterling, Harrelson, Kay and Grace Had Learned from Him
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The Best Announcer

John Sterling tells New York Yankees fans, "Ballgame over! Yankees win! Theeeeeee Yankees win!" or "Ballgame over!"

Ken Harrelson tells Chicago White Sox fans when an opposing batter strikes out, "He gone."

Michael Kay never stops asking David Cone or Al Leiter how a batter should be pitched to.

Mark Grace thinks every hit is a "slump ender."

And then there is Vin Scully.

Vin Scully has broadcast baseball games since 1950 when he joined Red Barber in the Brooklyn Dodgers' broadcast booth. He is the antithesis of most of today's broadcasters. For Vin Scully, the game is the attraction.

Scully knew that he wanted to announce baseball games when he was eight years old. That is not unusual since many youngsters who realize early in life that they will not be ball players seek other ways of becoming a part of the game.

In an interview in June 1998, Scully told writer Joe Haakenson that his job helped define him.

"I think a man is defined by his job. You say,`There's so-and-so the doctor, there's so-and-so the lawyer, there's so-and-so in construction, there's so-and-so the sports announcer.' I think your job, certainly for a man, becomes part of him, and vice versa."

Red Barber, possibly the greatest baseball announcer of all time, helped shape Scully.

Scully has always felt a great responsibility to the listeners. He never stops trying and he never stops learning.

"I try extremely hard, as best that I can, to come to work well-rested, well-studied, having done homework. I try so hard to be as accurate as humanly possible. I owe these people. I have a tremendous obligation."

For Scully, nothing is more important than being an objective, unbiased announcer. He keeps his distance from the players, subscribing to the belief that familiarity breeds not contempt but bias.

"I try not to get too close to any of the players because I don't want it to influence my judgment. I don't want to see things with my heart instead of my eyes."

During one World Series between the New York Yankees and the Brooklyn Dodgers, Scully called a play that shaped the rest of his career. He thinks it was 1953.

Whitey Ford was on third with one out and the game was tied. The batter hit a fly ball to right field. Ford tagged up, but Scully realized that Ford had left the base too soon and he said so.

Ford realized his mistake and returned to third base. After the game, Scully scolded himself.

"I thought, 'Wow, what a dumb thing to do.' It's not my job to say he left third too soon. Suppose I say he left third too soon, he doesn't stop and comes in, and the run scores, and they win by that run, everyone's going to say, 'How come the umpires didn't say he left third too soon? Scully said he did.'"

Read that again. Are there any current announcers besides Scully who would not state that Ford left too soon? Is that their job?

The Brooklyn Dodgers were a team whose fans—and many still believe that they were the greatest fans in the history of baseball—were always waiting for "next year."

Brooklyn won its first pennant in 1916, but lost the World Series to the Boston Red Sox. The Dodgers won another pennant in 1920, but lost the World Series to the Cleveland Indians.

Then the real nightmares began. Brooklyn won pennants in 1941, 1947, 1949, 1952 and 1953. Each time, they met the New York Yankees in the World Series. Each time, they had to wait for "next year."

Finally, Brooklyn's Boys of Summer beat the Yankees in 1955.

The contrast between Scully's call when Elston Howard grounded out to shortstop PeeWee Reese to give Brooklyn its first and only World Championship and the calls of today's announcers is graphic. Scully merely said,

"Ladies and gentlemen, the Brooklyn Dodgers are the champions of the world."

When he was asked later how he could remain so calm, Scully revealed that wasn't the case.

"I wasn't calm at all. But if I had tried to say another word, I would have broken down and cried, it was so emotional."

The most difficult part of the job is being away from home. When he is doing a game, Scully is completely immersed in the game, but it is the other 20 or 21 hours that are difficult.

Scully realizes that nothing is more precious than time and he is bothered by that when he is on the road and he tries to kill time. It hurts him greatly.

When he does a game, he does it alone. He broadcasts all nine innings. He doesn't need Suzyn Waldman.


References:

Haakenson, Joe. "Scully Lists Boys of Summer, Gibson HR as Career Highlights." Rocky Mountain News. 28 June 1998. p. 32C

de Turenne, Veronique. "Voice of Dodgers Soothes Rough Year: Fan Favorite Vin Scully Has Been Calling Plays from Brooklyn to Los Angeles Since 1950. Globe & Mail. 1 Oct. 1996. p. D9

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