Vin Scully was Los Angeles
He’s Venice Beach, Pink’s hot-dog stand, and the Hollywood Bowl all rolled into one. He was Los Angeles, Voice of Summer, Dodgers Poet Laureate – Brooklyn and Los Angeles – for 67 seasons.
We knew Vin Scully wasn’t going to last forever. It just seems like he might be. Even in retirement, years after his final broadcast in 2016, his presence remains as omnipresent and ethereal as the ocean and air.
“There are two words to describe Winn: Babe Ruth,” said Dodgers radio play-by-play man Charlie Steiner since 2005 after moving west from the Yankees’ booth (2002-2004). “The best ever made. Babe Ruth will always be defined by baseball. Vin will always be remembered as the voice of baseball.
The wild ride that was Tuesday’s major league trading deadline gave way to a sudden and severe blow in the stillness of that night, when the Dodgers announced that Scully had died at the age of 94. The life cycle of baseball, distilled into a day: new beginnings and sad endings. Scully’s health had been declining in recent months, and those who knew him well insisted on a phone call. But when it comes, it’s still a gut punch.
“It’s not going to be easy, because we’ve lost a friend,” Rick, a former outfielder and longtime Dodgers broadcaster, said Monday. “Whether we actually met Vin Scully or not, he was our friend.”
Like best friends, they were full of wonder, joy, humility and surprises.
“When I was in college, I wrote for the Times, so you probably saw my byline,” Scully said excitedly to begin an interview with The New York Times earlier this summer for a story on Gil Hodges. The latest were just around the corner. “It says, ‘Special Correspondent for the Times.’ I was under a hypothetical name.However, I want you to know my literary background.
Another time, late at night after an interleague game at Angel Stadium early in the 2013 season, some members of the news media were waiting for the press-box elevator to go home for the evening, when Scully joined them for a ride. He wore a brace on his left arm and wrist, the result of a bout with tendinitis.
“I used to tell anyone that I was interested in falconry and I was waiting for a bird,” he said with a broad smile. “That’s a good story, isn’t it?”
His instincts were perfect and his joie de vivre constant.
“He was very well read,” Monday said. “He also spoke English. When you hear Vin you want to go to school. But he never talked down to anyone. He was amazing.”…
In one of his final public acts, Scully wrote a letter to the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Era Committee supporting Hodges’ candidacy for the Hall of Fame – a letter said to be very influential. But the ever-humble Scully refused to believe he had enough clout to sway voters and, moreover, wanted no credit.
“Even when I wrote it, I had my fingers crossed that I wouldn’t make it public, where all of a sudden I was trying to step into the same spotlight because I didn’t want it,” Scully said this summer. “Yes, I wrote the letter and it is true as far as I know in every respect. But I don’t want to dwell on it.
“I’m very sensitive now that I’m retired. I don’t want to do anything that seems out of place.
But Scully’s “place” was everywhere, a friend greeted by all, starting with his warm invitation to “pull up a chair” at the start of each broadcast. And for nearly seven decades, from the mansions of Bel Air to the blue-collar neighborhoods around the Southland, on behalf of the Dodgers, they formed an incredible extended family.
Monday grew up in Santa Monica, California, with a single mother who fell in love with the Dodgers when he moved west in 1958. Every time he was in the car when the Dodgers played, Monday recalled, Scully was his companion.
“His voice was like a gentle hand on our shoulder, saying, ‘Hey, everything’s going to be okay. No matter what happens in the world, no matter what happens in your life, for these next three hours, I’ve got you,'” Monday said. “That’s the feeling we had.”
Millions of others have experienced similar feelings during those Iron Man-esque 67 years.
“I was mesmerized by this game and even more mesmerized by Vin’s voice and the way he presented the game,” said Monday. “The uniform, the field, how fast a guy ran, how hard he hit the ball, his description of the diving catch. When Win made a game, it wasn’t just a game play, it was a game show.
Monday was the No. 1 pick in the first amateur baseball draft in 1965. 1 overall draft pick, taken by the Athletics, who traded him to the Chicago Cubs before the 1972 season.
“So the Dodgers finally go to Chicago, and my mom can watch the game on TV,” he said Monday. “It was my seventh year in the bigs, and my mom heard Vin Scully mention my name. I said, ‘Mom, you didn’t know I was in the big leagues until Vin said my name.’ She laughed. That made it official.”
In 1998, the Los Angeles Times Magazine named Scully the most trusted person in Los Angeles. Eight years earlier, the late, legendary Los Angeles Times columnist Jim Murray made the case that Scully was the greatest Dodger of them all. Little has changed since then.
“Vincent Edward Scully meant as much or more to the Dodgers than any .300 hitter they signed, any 20-game winner they fielded,” Murray wrote in a column published in August 1990. “True, he didn’t limp to home plate and hit a home run that turned a season into a miracle — but he knew what to do so it would reverberate through the ages.
When Kirk Gibson smashed a home run off Oakland’s Dennis Eckersley to set the tone for Oakland’s Dodgers upset in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series, Scully exclaimed: “In a year that’s impossible, impossible!”
For one minute and eight seconds, he was silent, allowing the roar of Dodger Stadium to fill the television speakers. The echoes continue to this day.
His sense of time, history and moment was impeccable in any case.
“He wasn’t just an announcer,” Steiner said. “He wasn’t just a baseball guy. He was a father figure. He was avuncular. He was conscientious. We thought he was right with the world. And more often than not, he was.
Steiner continued: “Los Angeles is a city of stars. Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks, you name it. I’ve long thought that Winn was the biggest star of all because of his longevity. Nobody did it better, and nobody said he stinks. He was a comforter, a parent, an angel. .He had a wonderful, pure mind.
After Tuesday night’s Dodgers-Giants game, he said Monday he stayed up in a San Francisco hotel room until 5 a.m., turning over memories in his mind, alternately laughing and tearing up. When he and his wife travel somewhere, his wife often jokes that the place isn’t as good as the brochure. “Win Scully is better than a pamphlet,” said Monday.
He recalled Scully’s final Dodger Stadium broadcast in 2016, beautifully serenading the sold-out crowd by singing the iconic “Wind Beneath My Wings” as the game ended. Utility man Charlie Culberson had hit a storybook walk-off home run moments earlier. What’s easy to forget is that it wasn’t Scully’s final broadcast, as the Dodgers finished that season with three games in San Francisco.
There, Culberson had his now famous bat. When he wasn’t sure what to do with it, Monday he suggested Scully sign it. Culberson was shy, asked Monday, and Scully said he was “honored” to sign.
Culberson escorted him to the San Francisco press box on Monday, where he met with Scully.
“It was unbelievable,” Monday said. “It was like two kids in the park testing this magic wand of a bat. Vinnie signed it, and when Who walked into the booth he was about to say goodbye but Vinnie always said the greatest player he had ever seen was Willie Mays.
“Charlie and Winnie were already in tears, then Willie walks in and it’s one of those moments from a time capsule.
“And then we get word here last night in the third or fourth inning, 60 feet from where it happened.”