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Vin Scully in a class of his own

Nick PoustCorrespondent IIAugust 9, 2009

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 09:  Los Angeles Dodgers announcer Vin Scully arrives at the 2009 AFTRA Media and Entertainment Excellence Awards at the Biltmore Hotel on March 9, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images)


 

Vin Scully, the voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers has been calling their games for the past 60 years.

He doesn’t just call a game—what’s happening, who’s at-bat, who’s pitching—he describes the players playing.

He gives you all the information necessary on them–their weight, height, strengths, weakness, where they were born, and where they played previously.

He’s a one man show, which is rare in this day and age, and unlike many of this era, actually focuses on the game at hand.

After a big play, Scully time and time again has simply described the scene, then stopped to let the scene describe itself. Instead of yammering away like many other announcers, he lets the crowd noise and the jubilation and sadness expressed by the players tell the story.

He is very minimalistic.

He speaks in a dry tone, but it captivates the viewer, primarily because he’s incredibly baseball savvy.

He knows what to say, when to say it, and when not to say anything.

He never strays away from the action, never trailing off on tangents that take up a inning’s entirety.

He is a radio announcer on television.

He’s quick, meaning in tense or celebratory situations, he perfectly sums up the scene. He doesn’t say too much; in many instances, he lets the crowd dictate what’s happening. Many announcers go overboard, but not Vin Scully.

Born in 1927, he lived through the old dog days of summer, back when baseball was a game. He has stuck to his roots and calls games no different than he did in 1950.

Unlike many announcers of today, he loves his team.

When the Dodgers won the 1955 World Series, Scully simply announced, “Ladies and gentlemen, the Dodgers are the champions of the world.”

He was questioned later why he didn’t give an extensive, dramatic, and emotional description of the scene. Scully replied: “I would have broken down in tears if I tried to say anything more.”

When Sandy Koufax threw a perfect game in 1965, Scully had the call: “Two and two to Harvey Kuenn, one strike away. Sandy into his windup, here’s the pitch: swung on and missed, a perfect game! 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.”

When Hank Aaron hit his 714th home-run in 1974 to become the home-run king, Scully was there: “It’s a long drive to deep left, [Bill] Buckner to the fence… It is gone!” He pauses for nearly 30 seconds to let the crowd have their say, then began again: “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’s a great moment for all of us, and particularly Hank Aaron.”

Not many announcers get to call these types of moments, but few know how to when the opportunity presents itself.

ESPN’s Dave O’ Brien called Barry Bonds’ record-breaking 756th home-run and did so poorly.

It wasn’t so much what he said, but how he said it.

Scully, a white man, could have easily downplayed Aaron’s accomplishments, considering racism was still prevalent across the country, especially in the Deep South.

O’ Brien, with the steroid cloud hovering over Bonds, was hesitant and called the historic moment with a substantial amount of doubt in his voice. He said, “Barry Lamar Bonds stands alone!”, but he was clearly uncomfortable, so it didn’t have the same effect.

Joe Morgan, O’ Brien’s colleague at ESPN and color analyst for ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball, is Scully’s opposite.

Unlike Scully, he’s not responsible for calling the play-by-play. But also unlike Scully, he has an ego; an inning doesn’t go by on Sunday Night Baseball without him saying “Well, I always say…”.

Even though he’s paid to do commentary, he’s very hard to listen to because the action goes by unnoticed.

In the fifth inning, he’ll still be yammering on about a controversial play that happened in the second inning. His rant and ensuing argument with one of his boothmates, either Steve Phillips or Jon Miller, will take up an entire inning. At-bats will go uncalled. Hits will go uncalled.

The game is a side-show, and ESPN could care less.

Usually Morgan argues with Phillips. Miller, the competent one of the three, will usually be forced to interrupt them in order to call the game.

Even when this happens, Morgan and Phillips pick up the discussion later and Miller will once again have to shut them up.

I like Jon Miller. I think he’s a great announcer. But, with Morgan and Phillips at his side, it’s hard to tell because he doesn’t get to say much.

When Morgan, a Hall of Fame second baseman who spent the heart of his career with the Cincinnati Reds, does focus on the game or a play, he’s often wrong in his assessment.

For instance, when a player is called out at the plate when he was clearly safe, Morgan will look at the play blindly side with the umpire, though the evidence is against his conclusion.

Scully, unlike Morgan, is a professional. There are many great announcers, like the New York Yankees’ Michael Kay, TBS’s Chip Karay and Dennis Eckersley, Baltimore Orioles’ Gary Thorne and Buck Martinez, and the Chicago Cubs’ Len Kasper and Bob Brenly, but Scully is in a league of his own.

 

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