Today marks the closing of Vin Scully’s 67 years in broadcasting and as voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Tomorrow, he begins retirement. It is the magic of baseball that such a sad moment will also bring to countless individuals even more smiles as this event slips us into the past. You see baseball more than any other sport not only embodies its present, but cannot exist without its past. In baseball our tribal elders that pass along the stories and legacies of our clan are the announcers, and Vin represents the finest qualities of our elders.
The Dodgers during this last weekend of calls by Vin, are playing my Colorado Rockies in Los Angeles, and it has been both pleasure and honor to listen to the ceremonies, deserved tributes, and most of all the stories that surround the career of Vin Scully. Baseball is all about the stories, and with each telling I not only learn a new tale, but I recall tales of my own.
I remember the bedroom I shared as a kid with my big brother Chris. I don’t even have to close my eyes to feel the warmth of Southern Summer nights, see the grainy shadows of branches cast by street lights through the open window, and hear the coo of doves and hoots of owls as background noise to the call of baseball. Chris and I each had our own twin bed, and between our beds was a nightstand on which a small box shaped AM radio softly glowed tuned to WDIX in Orangeburg bringing us Braves baseball from far off Atlanta. Then it was Earnie Johnson and Milo Hamilton making the calls, telling the tales, bringing the likes Hank Aaron, Phil Niekro, and Dusty Baker to life in our dark and shadowed room. Nationally televised games couldn’t compete as the stoically neutral announcers shared their experiences somehow watered down and sterile when compared to the familiar voices we listened to almost every night of the season.
Now an adult, I live in Colorado and follow most closely our Colorado Rockies. They came into existence in 1993, just a year after I had met my future wife Jean-Marie and discovered she was a fan as well. The story of the Rockies for me begins with the announcers. I think Colorado did it right by bringing in the voice of the wonderfully experienced announcer Charlie Johnson on TV to gently gather the fans into the fold of the Rockies, familiarizing us with the collection of players assembled for the new expansion team. When Charlie left, Drew Goodman took over the play-by-play reins accompanied first by George Frazier and now by Jeff Huson and Ryan Spilborghs on color (all former ball players). On the radio, there have only been four announcers and I can still hear all their voices in equal proportion. It started with Jeff Kingery and Wayne Hagen, and now the games come courtesy of Jack Corrigan and Jerry Schemmel. I can enjoy the game as easily on radio as on TV thanks to all these fine voices.
Really the point is, baseball is a family made up of players and fans in equal parts with the announcer seated at the head of the table introducing one to the other and uniting all. As Vin Scully retires, we say goodbye arguably to the greatest of our tribal elders that have included Jack Buck, Harry Carey, and the legendary Red Barber. Baseball in large part is a sport that is passed on to generations as an oral history, and Vin Scully has done it better than anyone else. Through his humility, knowledge, skill, and uncompromising respect for the sport and the characters that populate it, Vin has become a mentor to generations of announcers and the nation’s home team announcer. Broadcast booths everywhere are a little emptier after today.