A Legendary Career That Speaks for Itself
Tuesday, July 5, 2005
LOS ANGELES His might not be the Voice of God -- not deep enough, someone might quibble, not scary enough -- but surely it is the Voice of Heaven. Surely, Vin Scully's is the voice you hear, elegant and neighborly, as you lower yourself into the Great Easy Chair in the Sky and reach for the dial. "Hi, everybody," the voice would say, "and a very pleasant good afternoon to you wherever you might be. It's a beautiful day here in heaven . . ."
Here on earth, we have it nearly as good. The Voice of Heaven is still as alive as a triple in the gap, and more accessible to more people than ever before. As some baseball fans have known for 56 years and others are just learning, heaven on earth is a good car and an open road, or a soft chair and a cold beer, and Vin Scully calling the action, painting word-pictures, soothing souls.
"I don't know how to say it, really . . . but hearing Vin's voice," says Commissioner of Baseball Bud Selig, an unabashed Scully fan, "just makes me feel better."
Yes, Scully, now 77, is in his sixth decade as the voice of the Dodgers -- first in Brooklyn, then, for the past 48 seasons, in Los Angeles. There is perhaps no more universally beloved and respected figure in the game today. He is a baseball treasure, which means he is also a national treasure. You cannot watch Babe Ruth play the game anymore, but thanks to marvels of technology, anyone can hear Vin Scully call one.
"He's the perfect voice," said author Curt Smith, who ranked Scully No. 1 (with a perfect 100 out of 100 score) in his book, "Voices of Summer: Baseball's Greatest Announcers." "Conservatively, I probably spoke to five dozen broadcasters around the country [for the book], and not one quarrels with Scully [being ranked] number one. It was a fait accompli. . . . And you know, I hear him now, and if he's lost anything, I can't tell it."
Baseball was first broadcast over the radio in 1921, which means Scully, whose tenure with the Dodgers began in 1950, has been calling games for nearly two-thirds of baseball's entire over-the-air lifespan.
Kids who grew up listening to Scully on transistor radios at their bedsides have grown into ballplayers or broadcasters themselves -- or sometimes both -- and had kids of their own, or even grandkids, who still listen to Scully.
"I listened to him every night, fell asleep to that voice," said Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer, who spent much of his youth in Beverly Hills, Calif., and who is now a television analyst for the Baltimore Orioles. "There was nobody better, and there still isn't."
"There's Vin Scully, then there's the rest of them," said former Dodgers second baseman and current San Diego Padres coach Davey Lopes. "I once heard him say that the responsibility of an announcer on the radio is to paint a picture, so the listener has a sense of what it all looks like. And he does that better than anyone else."
Until recently, for those not fortunate enough to have grown up within signal range of a Dodgers radio affiliate, Scully was only available on special occasions, and even then primarily on television -- where his poetry is muted in deference to the power of the visual image. He was a mainstay on NBC's Game of the Week in the 1980s and a regular presence on postseason games.
Otherwise, to hear Scully, one had to be exceedingly creative.
"To this day," Selig says, "whenever I call the Dodgers, I ask to be put on hold. And when they ask why, I say, 'Because I want to hear Scully for a few minutes.' "