Dodgers' Vin Scully Has Rare Place in History and Famously 'Perfect' Simplicity

Peter Richman@ peter_f_richmanCorrespondent IAugust 25, 2013

LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 30:  Dodger broadcaster Vin Scully smiles before throwing out the first pitch during ceeremonies honoring him on his 64 years of sevice before the game between the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Los Angeles Dodgers on August 30, 2012 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Dodgers' 85-year-old Vin Scully is a golden voice among a sea of blue. He is much more than the team's talented play-by-play and color-commentating—and dual radio and television—spoken-word poet. 

Scully possesses a rare place in Major League Baseball history—and he is still broadcasting.

He has been a witness with seemingly higher powers, perched in coast-to-coast broadcast booths from Brooklyn's Ebbets Field to Los Angeles' Dodger Stadium.

For 64 years and counting, timeless and countless baseball moments have traveled from Scully's lips to our ears. 

Many of us are now aware of Scully's return to broadcasting for a historic 65th season next year, as the news was announced Friday in a press conference at Chavez Ravine, and subsequently disseminated to the gratification and satisfaction of many beyond just the Dodger faithful.

What some of us may not acknowledge—or be willing to believe—are the historic implications of his career on the microphone.

Vin Scully has seen, and indelibly been a part of, enough baseball lore and legend to have arguably eclipsed many of those very moments.

Between 1876 and 2013, there have been 23 perfect games, 281 no-hitters, unforgettable World Series performances and numerous broken records in Major League Baseball history. Vin Scully has broadcasted three perfect games, 19 no-hitters, 25 World Series and 12 All-Star games, as MLB.com notes.

He has called the only perfect game in World Series history in 1956 by the New York Yankees' Don Larsen, all four of Sandy Koufax's no-hitters (and perfect game), Hank Aaron's 715th home run, Kirk Gibson's fist-pumping walk-off in the 1988 World Series and the peak of Fernandomania (the period when Dodgers' pitcher Fernando Valenzuela compiled a historic run in the 1980s, making both the man and win streak near-myths among Los Angeles' greatest sports figures and moments).

Scully owns a place in the broadcasters' wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame, the National Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame, the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame, the California Sports Hall of Fame and even a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame according to MLB.com—and again, he is still broadcasting.

Speaking to the rarity of his place in baseball history, and to the argument for his transcendence of some of that history, he was "voted by Dodgers fans as the most memorable personality in Los Angeles Dodgers history"—but that was 37 years ago in 1976

And though he has many famous quotes, he has never had a truly famous catchphrase other than the simplistic but notorious, "It's time for Dodger baseball."

He is simple, but he is awfully poetic.

The texture of his voice is like a string and brass instrument thrown into one: much like his ability to cover play-by-play and color for both radio and TV.

It carries a loving, caring and fatherly tone. It is beautiful. And though anyone with voice can read or memorize Scully's simple lines performed in one take behind the steel and above the diamond, it is his voice that makes them special. 

His humor never comes off as inauthentic or corny; just sincerely endearing, as in this 1991 quote from Baseball Almanac: "Andre Dawson has a bruised knee and is listed as day-to-day (pause). Aren't we all?"

He is also enduring, and his portraits are idiosyncratic and beautiful.

He described perfection after Koufax's clinching strikeout in 1965 (and you can read the whole transcript here):

On the scoreboard in right field it is 9:46 p.m. in the City of the Angels, Los Angeles, California. And a crowd of twenty-nine thousand one-hundred thirty nine just sitting in to see the only pitcher in baseball history to hurl four no-hit, no-run games. He has done it four straight years, and now he caps it: On his fourth no-hitter he made it a perfect game. And Sandy Koufax, whose name will always remind you of strikeouts, did it with a flurry. He struck out the last six consecutive batters. So when he wrote his name in capital letters in the record books, that "K" stands out even more than the O-U-F-A-X.

And, of course, Vin Scully is humble. He said the following in his press conference Friday (seen in a video on MLB.com):

People tell me how much they enjoy me doing it, and I'm just full of thanks. I'm a walking Thanksgiving dinner...From the bottom of my heart, I have always felt that I am the most ordinary of men who was given an extraordinary break of doing what I love to do at an early age. And thanks to God, I've been allowed to do it for all these years. And I pray that I will be allowed to do it for at least one more year. I don't take any of it for granted.

But Scully's legendary legacy may point toward larger implications, something that, besides the numbers, do not ever seem to be mentioned in the same sentence as the Dodgers' golden voice: statistics.

We have been swept up in the rip tide of advanced statistics this past decade as the modern world has danced the tango with advancing technology, forms of communication and—someone has to say this—social media.

We are so connected and so effortlessly educated it is beautiful. But on the other hand, it is also a little frightening.

It is terrific that a platform like Twitter immediately notified us of Scully's decision to stay aboard the ship of the Dodgers—one that seems to be now sailing effortlessly. But Scully is more than tweets about his name.

He is too valuable to the game and Los Angeles to be mentioned as quickly as possible.

Advanced statistics can be, and certainly have been, used for increased success on the field, for financially intelligent discoveries of market inefficiencies, for building our fantasy leagues and enhancing our office discussions.

But they have also—somewhat unfairly—commodified the game and its players, much like social media can do to a legacy.

Scully reminds us that in taking an occasional step back from the numbers of the game—or at least an elevator ride to the media booth, or sitting in front of our televisions—there is much more we could be watching.

We could continue to, on the one hand, lament a recent notion that Yasiel Puig could have played in an All-Star game before he completed a full MLB season or, on the other, even support an overwhelmingly favorable vision of the outfielder by including his mind-numbing statistics from his first seven games, including going 13-for-28, batting .464, hitting four home runs and driving in 10 runs.

But maybe we should heed some of Vin Scully's words about obscuring our vision and relying too much upon numbers—at least sometimes, after all.

He famously iterated, "Statistics are used much like a drunk uses a lamp post: for support, not illumination." 

Sometimes it is best to play the role of the broadcaster, like Scully, and not the contextualizing and comparison-bound statistician, to sometimes simply possess a bird's-eye view of something as electric as a Yasiel Puig, as epic as the 282nd no-hitter or as spellbinding as the next perfect game. 


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