GWEN IFILL: And finally tonight: As the baseball playoffs get under way, one of the game’s legendary figures, Vin Scully, is signing off; 88-year-old Scully called his last Los Angeles Dodgers game on Sunday. That closed an incredible 67-year career that started back when the Dodgers called Brooklyn home.
Jeffrey Brown spent a day at the ballpark with Scully in 2009.
Here’s an excerpt of that profile.
VIN SCULLY, Broadcaster, Los Angeles Dodgers: It’s time for Dodger baseball.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
JEFFREY BROWN: It’s a voice that generations of Dodger fans have grown up with, savored, loved.
VIN SCULLY: Ground ball to third, backhanded by Blake. He straightens up to throw him out. Easy inning for Randy Wolf.
JEFFREY BROWN: In Los Angeles, but also, incredibly, going all the way back to Brooklyn in the 1950s.
VIN SCULLY: The pitch at the right ankle of Andres Torres. Ball one.
Now, admittedly, there are days where you think, you know, I’d rather sit under a tree and read a book than go to the ballpark.
JEFFREY BROWN: Yes. Everybody has those days, right?
VIN SCULLY: But what’s great is, you come to the park, you do the routine stuff, and then the crowd comes in, and the team takes the field, and the crowd roars. And, all of a sudden, you’re delighted as a kid in a candy store.
JEFFREY BROWN: That’s exactly where you want to be.
VIN SCULLY: Exactly.
JEFFREY BROWN: In an age when the sports broadcast booth is crammed with two or even three announcers, Scully still prefers to work alone.
VIN SCULLY: Sanchez a strike, and the count 0-1.
JEFFREY BROWN: His style, mastery of language, and, yes, longevity have made him a legend in sports circles.
It all began, he says, with lessons in attitude from his mentor, Red Barber, another broadcasting great, who gave Scully his first big break and brought him into the booth in Brooklyn in 1950.
VIN SCULLY: One of my many jobs as the junior partner of the broadcasting firm would be to get the lineups every day.
And let’s say that, one day, I brought up a lineup where Smith was hitting in front of Brown. The next day, I brought a lineup up and Brown was hitting in front of Smith. Red would ask me, why? And the first time he asked me why, I didn’t know.
However, after that, I knew. And that was part of Red: Be there early, be very well-prepared, and then you’re ready to go on the air.
JEFFREY BROWN: Who are you talking to when you’re doing the game? I mean, you’re one of the few who still does it alone for the most part. So who are you talking to?
VIN SCULLY: Well, first of all, I have to make people understand, it’s not an ego thing. It’s not that I just want to be on all by myself.
This goes back to Brooklyn, where Red’s philosophy was simply this: If I want to sell you a car, is it better for me to talk to you about the merits of the car or talk to so-and-so and have you listen to our discussion about the merits of the car? Red always felt that it was better to talk one-on-one.
So what I’m doing, I’m talking to the listener. And I will talk. I will say, oh, by the way, I forgot to tell you, or…
JEFFREY BROWN: I forgot to tell you.
VIN SCULLY: Exactly, talking — because I don’t want the microphone to be in the way. I want them to know I’m sitting next to them in the ballpark talking.
Yankee Stadium shivering in its concrete foundation right now.
JEFFREY BROWN: He called the only perfect game pitched in a World Series, Don Larsen’s gem for the Yankees against the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1956.
VIN SCULLY: Got him! The greatest game ever pitched in baseball history by Don Larsen!
JEFFREY BROWN: Nine years later, Scully was there for Sandy Koufax’s perfect game.
VIN SCULLY: Sandy into his windup. Here’s the pitch. Swung on and missed! ha perfect game!
High fly ball into right field, she is gone! In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened.
JEFFREY BROWN: And then there was the famous 1988 World Series walk-off home run by a hobbled Kirk Gibson. That crowd noise and the silence from the broadcast booth is another Scully trademark.
VIN SCULLY: When I was very small, maybe 8 years old, we had a big radio that stood on four legs, and it had a crosspiece underneath it.
And I used to take a pillow and crawl under the radio. And I would listen to a game that meant nothing to a kid growing up in New York. I mean, it might be Tennessee-Alabama. But when someone scored a touchdown and the crowd roared, that crowd noise would come out of the speaker like water out of a showerhead, and it would just cover me with goose bumps.
And I used to think, oh, I would like to be there to feel that roar of the crowd.
And it’s never left me to this day, so that, when something happens, I love it to shut up and hear the crowd.
JEFFREY BROWN: But you’re still enjoying what you’re doing?
VIN SCULLY: I love it. And you know how I know I love it? Because, when there’s a great play on the field and the crowd roars, I still get goose bumps. I’m just like that little kid under the radio.
Bases loaded, sixth inning, one out. And a drive to left field down the line. It is gone, a grand slam home run!
GWEN IFILL: Those goose bumps were back in 2009.
Scully, who was a childhood fan of the San Francisco Giants, said the greatest ballplayer of his lifetime was Willie Mays. So, on Sunday, Mays joined him in the booth for his final game between the Dodgers and their rivals, the Giants.
After the game, he said farewell to his fans.
VIN SCULLY: You and I have been friends for a long time, but I know in my heart that I have always needed you more than you have ever needed me.
And I will miss our time together more than I can say. But you know what? There will be a new day and eventually a new year. And when the upcoming winter gives way to spring, oh, rest assured, once again, it will be time for Dodger baseball.
So, this is Vin Scully, wishing you a very pleasant good afternoon, wherever you may be.
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