The mellifluous voice and long career of the best sports broadcaster ever

The mellifluous voice and long career of the best sports broadcaster ever
Los Angeles Dodgers announcer Vin Scully received the Gabriel Personal Achievement Award from the Catholic Academy of Communication Professionals at the Catholic Media Conference in St. Louis June 2. (CNS photo/Jon Soohoo, Los Angeles Dodgers)

Los Angeles Dodgers announcer Vin Scully received the Gabriel Personal Achievement Award from the Catholic Academy of Communication Professionals at the Catholic Media Conference in St. Louis June 2.
(CNS photo/Jon Soohoo, Los Angeles Dodgers)

It’s ironic. For the past several months, we have been subjected to two cacophonous voices, two deeply flawed presidential candidates, two discordant voices each attacking the other. Both candidates have positions so much at odds with Roman Catholic teaching that no Catholic will be able to vote for either candidate without being fully aware of going against some church teaching.

The irony is that in the midst of this mess, one voice, often described as “silken” is retiring. That voice belongs to Vin Scully, the long-time broadcaster of Los Angeles Dodgers baseball and many other sporting events.

I grew up in Los Angeles and I grew up listening to Vin Scully. On my transistor radio. The many times in the 60s, 70s and 80s that I went to beautiful Dodger Stadium, if I forgot my transistor radio, it wouldn’t matter. The guy next to me or the family behind me, they had their radios. There were so many radios that all throughout the stadium we could hear Vin Scully calling the game. It wasn’t enough to see the game, we also had to hear the game through that mellifluous voice. Los Angeles Times sportswriter Bill Plaschke so accurately writes that Vin Scully was the soundtrack of our lives.

Vin Scully was born in the Bronx in 1927. A devout Roman Catholic to this day, he attended Fordham Preparatory School and Fordham University. He not only played centerfield for the university baseball team, he helped to start the FM radio station WFUV and was a student broadcaster for several sports. In 1950 the renowned Red Barber recruited him to join him on the staff to broadcast Brooklyn Dodger games.

With 67 seasons with the Dodgers, Vin Scully has the longest tenure of any broadcaster with a single team in professional sports history. I know some Phillies fans will disagree, but Vin Scully is inarguably the best sports broadcaster. Ever. That includes Harry Kalas who was with the Phillies for a mere 38 years.

What has made Vin Scully the best? It starts with his voice. So smooth, so gentle, so genial. It was as if he was your personal best friend and when you listened to him on the radio, you would swear he was speaking only to you. He wove so many stories in between pitches, in between batters, in between innings. You were not only transfixed by the game he was painting, but you were enraptured by the stories he was telling. He was classy, humble and never a disparaging word would come from his mouth.

It’s not always what you say that matters, but how you say it.

And yet, many times, Vin Scully was most effective when he said nothing at all. One of the greatest moments in baseball is an example of this. It’s 1988. The Dodgers are the underdogs to the Oakland Athletics in the World Series. Game 1, bottom of the ninth, two outs and the Dodgers are losing 4-3. The As have their ace reliever Dennis Eckersley on the mound to shut the Dodgers down. Up comes Kirk Gibson to bat. Gibson all season long has been the leader of the Dodger ball club but he was questionable to play in the World Series because of serious injuries to both knees. He literally hobbles to the plate. After working Eckersley to a full count, Gibson hits one of the most memorable home runs ever and the Dodgers win the game. With the fans roaring, Vin Scully says nothing for over a minute allowing the cheers of the fans to describe the moment. He then says, “In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened.”

Sometimes it’s what you don’t say that speaks volumes.

In May 1968, my father woke me from a sound sleep. “You have to listen to this,” he said. Don Drysdale was pitching against (those dreaded) San Francisco Giants trying to extend his record scoreless inning streak. Drysdale got into a jam loading the bases in the ninth with no outs, his streak in jeopardy. Together my father and I listened to the radio to the magnificent Vin Scully voice as he masterfully described how Drysdale was able to salvage his streak despite hitting a batter with the bases loaded! When the game ended, I couldn’t fall asleep for the adrenalin pumping through my young body. It was a shared, close moment with my father.

Sometimes it’s not what’s being said that matters most, but who you’re with when you hear it.

Vin Scully is the voice. We are grateful for him, for his style, for his class. It is the soundtrack that I grew with and that I will miss. We should all strive to be that kind of voice and not the voices we are hearing in this mess of an election.

Rod J. Herrera, LCSW, is director, Office of Child and Youth Protection, Diocese of Camden.

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Scully wins Gabriel Personal Achievement Award

SAINT LOUIS (CNS) — Broadcaster Vin Scully, who for 67 years has done play-by-play for the Dodgers in Los Angeles and before that in Brooklyn, New York, recently received the Gabriel Personal Achievement Award from the Catholic Academy of Communication Professionals.

Scully “epitomizes what the Gabriel Awards represent: positive, upbeat, soulful, kindhearted and conscientious,” said Susan Wallace, chair of this year’s Gabriel Awards competition. “For nearly seven decades, Vin Scully has been the reassuring voice of honesty and optimism in sports broadcasting, enthralling viewers and listeners with his limitless knowledge of baseball and illuminating lessons on life.”

Categories: As I See It, Columns

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