Vin Scully’s baseball broadcasting career spanned seven decades, and his melodious voice and ability to let the action speak for itself was his trademark.
Scully, who died Tuesday at the age of 94, spent 67 seasons calling games for the Dodgers, beginning in Brooklyn during the 1950 season and ending in 2016 after 58 seasons in Los Angeles. He also was a lead broadcaster for NBC during the World Series, most notably in 1986 and 1988.
He was the ultimate storyteller, blessed with a sense of timing and literary flair.
Interviewed during his final season, Scully said that his style was “kind of a running commentary with an imaginary friend,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
Scully was the most revered of baseball announcers by fans and colleagues. Ernie Harwell, like Scully a member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and the American Sportscasters Association Hall of Fame, called his broadcasting contemporary “the best ever.”
Los Angeles Times columnist Jim Murray took it a step further, calling Scully, “The Fordham Thrush with a .400 larynx,” paying homage to the New York native’s alma mater, Fordham University.
Longtime broadcasting partner Jerry Doggett told author Curt Smith in 1995 that “I was a journeyman announcer whose biggest break was to spend 32 years with Vin Scully.”
Scully was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982, and received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame that same year, according to The Associated Press. The Dodger Stadium press box was named in his honor in 2001. The street leading to Dodger Stadium’s main gate was named for Scully in 2016, the same year he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama.
Here are five of Scully’s most memorable baseball calls.
Kirk Gibson’s home run (1988)
Kirk Gibson’s pinch-hit home run in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series on Oct. 15, 1988, helped the Dodgers snatch victory away from the Oakland Athletics. Hitting with two injured legs and the Dodgers trailing by a run, Gibson drove a 3-2 pitch by Oakland reliever Dennis Eckersley into the right-field stands.
The blast gave the Dodgers a 5-4, come-from-behind victory.
“High fly ball into right field. She is gone,” Scully said, tantalizingly drawing out the word “is.” Scully allowed the fans’ deafening cheers to take center stage for more than a minute before he said, “In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened.”
Hank Aaron’s 715th home run (1974)
On April 8, 1974, Henry Aaron became baseball’s all-time home run king, hammering a 1-0 pitch from Dodgers pitcher Al Downing into the left-field bullpen at Atlanta’s Fulton County Stadium. Home run No. 715 allowed Aaron to pass Babe Ruth on the career list.
The game was nationally televised by NBC, and many Atlanta Braves fans have fond memories of hometown broadcaster Milo Hamilton’s call of the historic homer. Scully however, qualified the feat by mentioning the racial undertones that preceded the homer. Aaron had received piles of hate mail in the months leading up to his record-breaking home run.
“What a marvelous moment for baseball. What a marvelous moment for Atlanta and the state of Georgia. What a marvelous moment for the country and the world,” Scully said. “A Black man is getting a standing ovation in the Deep South for breaking a record of an all-time baseball idol. And it is a great moment for all of us, and particularly for Henry Aaron.”
Bill Buckner’s error in Game 6 (1986)
The Boston Red Sox were one strike away from ending a 68-year World Series title drought on Oct. 25, 1986, when the New York Mets rallied to win Game 6 at Shea Stadium.
New York had tied the game in the 10th inning and Ray Knight was on second base with two outs when Mookie Wilson hit what appeared to be a meek ground ball up the first-base line. However, the ball got past Boston first baseman Bill Buckner and Knight scored.
“Little roller up along first,” Scully said. “Behind the bag! It gets through Buckner! Here comes Knight, and the Mets win it.”
The Mets, who won Game 6 by a 6-5 score, also rallied to win Game 7 two nights later, prolonging the misery of Red Sox fans until Boston finally won a World Series in 2004.
Sandy Koufax’s perfect game (1965)
Sandy Koufax outdueled Chicago Cubs pitcher Bob Hendley and tossed a 1-0 perfect game on Sept. 9, 1965, at Dodger Stadium.
Scully’s ninth-inning call of Koufax’s attempt for perfection was dramatic and showcased his eye for detail. Scully tells the audience how Koufax stepped off the mound, “mops his forehead, runs his left index along his forehead, wipes it off on his left pants leg, all the while (Harvey) Kuenn just waiting.”
When Kuenn struck out for the game’s final out, Scully let the crowd noise tell the story.
After 38 seconds of silence, Scully noted that, “On the scoreboard in right field it is 9:46 p.m. in the City of the Angels, Los Angeles, California. And a crowd of 29,139 just sitting in to see the only pitcher in baseball history to hurl four no-hit, no-run games.”
“And Sandy Koufax, whose name will always remind you of strikeouts, did it with a flourish. He struck out the last six consecutive batters. So when he wrote his name in capital letters in the record books, that ‘K’ stands out more than the ‘oufax.’”
Koufax struck out 14 batters as he became the sixth pitcher in modern MLB history to toss a perfect game and the first to have four no-hitters, breaking a tie with Hall of Famer Bob Feller.
Don Larsen’s perfect game (1956)
Scully has been in the booth three times to call a perfect game. There was Koufax’s gem in 1965, Dennis Martinez in 1991 -- and Don Larsen’s perfect game in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series. Scully gave fans a taste of the tension that was building at Yankee Stadium as the ninth inning began on Oct. 8, 1956.
“Well, all right, let’s all take a deep breath as we go to the most dramatic ninth inning in the history of baseball,” he said.
Scully later described Yankee Stadium “shivering in its concrete foundation” as 64,517 fans hung on every pitch.
When Larsen struck out Dale Mitchell on a called third strike to end the game, Scully said, “Got him! The greatest game ever pitched in baseball history by Don Larsen, a no-hitter, a perfect game in a World Series.”
“When you put it in a World Series, you set the biggest diamond in the biggest ring,” Scully said.
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