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Rest In Peace, Vin Scully: The Greatest Of All Time

Many times over the last few years, an old friend – the late Wendy Rieger – and I would commiserate over getting old. One of her favorite lines about our advancing in age was saying “it seems like the only thing I’m getting better at is learning how to deal with a sense of loss.”

I could hear her saying those words in my head this morning when I turned on my computer and saw that at the age of 94, Vin Scully had passed away.

To say Scully was the greatest baseball announcer that ever lived is both true, but an incomplete answer. He was much more than a baseball man, or a broadcaster, for that matter. In an age where the strength of an announcer’s voice has been at times more important than his substance, Scully was the full package of a smooth voice combined with a substance that far exceeded the bounds of chalk lines and green grass.

If you grew up in the 50s and 60s like I did, radio announcers held a special standing in your sports world. Every game ever played wasn’t on television so you were dependent on the sounds of a person you’d never meet coming through a tiny transistor radio to paint the pictures of what was going on with your favorite team in a town hundreds of miles away. You grew dependent on that person every night, to the point he eventually became part of the family.

No one did it better than Scully. He was a master story teller and realized at a young age that the least important part of any story had anything to do with him. As you see in this wonderful story by Bill Plaschke in the Los Angeles Times, he was a hugely important part of the fabric of Los Angeles, and everyone would agree with that except one person: Scully himself.

His voice was smooth, but easily communicated his love for baseball. There’s something about watching a game with someone who truly understands and loves a sport to the point it rubs off on you and you soon become a bigger fan. He had the ability to describe how exciting a play was without screaming, and in doing so taught you a little something every night you may not have known about the game.

Had he turned his passions toward organized religion, Scully would be known as the greatest evangelist to ever walk the earth. He was part fan, part teacher, part philosopher. These days, it’s at times preferable to watch a game with the sound turned down, letting the action do the talking. With Scully, it was the opposite. A game without his poetic descriptions seemed like only half a loaf.

His calls became synonymous with legendary plays. Who can think of when Kirk Gibson hit that home run in 1988 without hearing Scully in your head? Dodger fans can name you dozens more like that, from Sandy Koufax throwing a perfect game, to the Dodgers winning World Series. In each case, Scully had the perfect words and tone to describe something that would become part of baseball history.

I will admit there have been times in my life where I’ve watched games I don’t have any interest in just to hear Scully. I’ve been lucky enough to broadcast a few baseball games in my life (which is like comparing a finger painting to a Picasso) and every time I’d hear Scully, I’d marvel at just how good he was. There were a lot of good baseball broadcasters back in the day (Jack Buck and Harry Carey, just to name two) but they were playing for second. Scully retired the top spot years ago.

Perhaps it is generational, and younger people won’t quite get Vin Scully. But in the vast field of dreams playing out in heaven today, I can only imagine that God decided he needed a soundtrack and told his angels to go get the very best.

Last night they did.

Rest In Peace, Mr. Scully.      

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Friday, 12 August 2022

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Ricky LaBlue

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