It's time for Dodger baseball
September 10, 2011 8:06 PM   Subscribe

If you are an East Coast baseball fan, there are two reasons to stay up past your bed time: 1) Your local nine are on a West Coast road swing 2) To indulge in one of the true joys of baseball: Listening to Vin Scully call a baseball game. In the October edition of GQ, Scully looks back on some of his most memorable calls, in a career that started in 1950 when the Dodgers called Brooklyn home. If reading Scully's recollections isn't enough for you, The website includes audio of the calls in question.

Despite some serious lack of class on the part of the Dodgers, Vin Scully recently announced he will be returning for a 63rd season to broadcast all Dodger home games and select road games.

His call of Hank Aaron's home run that broke Babe Ruth's all-time record, in particular, stands out for Scully's unique ability to summon words (or silence) to fit the occasion:

After permitting the crowd's cheers to shower the airwaves
for several minutes, Scully returned to the microphone to weigh in
on the magnitude of the feat.

"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. 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...
And for the first time in a long time, that poker face of Aaron's shows
the tremendous strain and relief of what it must have been like to live
with for the past several months. It is over."
posted by dry white toast (27 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Side question for the thread: If I'm interested in getting really really into listening to baseball on the radio, being far more interested in awesome commentators like Vin Scully than I am in particular teams, what stations / games should I be listening to and where can I find a good schedule?
posted by Apropos of Something at 8:11 PM on September 10, 2011

Scully is a national treasure. And I completely resonate with this: I will stay up late to hear him. To think that he started in 1950 is just barely conceivable.
posted by Ike_Arumba at 8:21 PM on September 10, 2011

I vividly recall standing, with a garbage bag in each hand, one foot in the house and one on the back patio, having stalled long enough on taking out the trash, when suddenly the hobbled Kirk Gibson came up to bat and belted that shot in '88.

Nevar forget, indeed.
posted by planetkyoto at 8:22 PM on September 10, 2011

Oops, posted too soon. What I mean is, I don't need to click a link to hear Scully call it: "In a season that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened."
posted by planetkyoto at 8:25 PM on September 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

I idolize Koufax, so I was going to fawn over Scully's call of his 1965 perfect game in the FPP (listening to the audio of the call for the first time was a thrill). But reading (never mind listening to) his call of Aaron's home run, and his description of what it felt like to be there, sent chills down my spine.
posted by dry white toast at 8:25 PM on September 10, 2011

A black man is getting a standing ovation in the Deep South for breaking a record of an all-time baseball idol.

and at that precise moment, America entered a new post-racial era.
posted by Hoopo at 8:33 PM on September 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you're interested in catching Scully calling a game, you'll have to catch certain ones. He only broadcasts on TV (and I think the first three innings on radio). The Dodgers are on TV regionally on KCAL 9 in LA and Prime Ticket (which is a Fox Sports Network). He also only broadcasts when the Dodgers are at home, and I think he's still doing NL West games on the road (at Arizona, San Francisco, Colorado, and San Diego). If he's not on, Dodger fans get treated to Rick Monday and Charlie Steiner, or even worse, a team full of schlubs who are total homers in an infuriating way (Eric Collins and Steve Lyons, who we all universally can't stand).

Watching the Dodgers is excruciating, but Scully is comforting. It's like listening to a story the whole game. Sometimes, it's a story you've heard before... every single time the Dodgers face Dan Uggla, Vin likes to remind us that Uggla is Swedish for "owl," Vin loves to call crappy ground balls "li'l nubbers," et cetera. There are little phrases and stories and things he falls back on, but it's not repetitive, it's fun.

One more thing about Vin- even though he is a TV broadcaster now, he works without a partner. There is no loudmouth "color analyst" in to blab about the pitch that was just thrown or about what the manager is thinking. Vin is in there all by himself, just telling stories and passing the time.

Great stuff.
posted by Old Man McKay at 8:34 PM on September 10, 2011 [3 favorites]

I've listened to Scully for more than 40 years. And when I put "modern era" douches like Costas up against him, or the late Red Barber or Mel Allen, play for play, I think baseball isn't the game it used to be, for reasons having nothing to do with ownership, or management, or the ball itself, or players or play on the field. When I listen to Scully call a game, or when I heard Barber or Allen do so in the past, it was easy to imagine myself there with them, and see, in my mind's eye, the action, as it was played. Not every silence was "dead air."

The only action I've ever seen in my mind when Bob Costas is in the booth, is me imagining Bob Costas choking on his water. His eulogy of Mickey Mantle, in which he described Mantle as "a fragile hero to whom we had an emotional attachment so strong and lasting that it defied logic." was nothing, if not puerile, and personally judgmental. The only way I can watch an MLB broadcast when Costas is in the booth, is to turn off the sound.

But Scully? Yep, I've smiled and laughed and fumed at plays Scully called, and I hope to, for a while longer.
posted by paulsc at 8:43 PM on September 10, 2011

I fork out the money for online, and watch Prime Ticket there whenever I get the chance.
posted by dry white toast at 8:43 PM on September 10, 2011

Vin Scully is so ingrained in my mind as *the* voice of baseball, that it wouldn't surprise me one bit to learn that the MLB front office has been training "sound-alikes" for the past few decades. As stated above, it's practically inconceivable that one man has been doing this job so consistently for so long.

One of the major* benefits of living in a mass-market sports town (particularly one as media-conscious as L.A.) is that the on-air talent is often WAY above par, even if/while the home teams aren't so hot. (Chick Hearn & Bob Miller also come to mind)

*insofar as it pertains to sports broadcasting
posted by ShutterBun at 8:44 PM on September 10, 2011

Also noted: it's kind of thought provoking to read detailed analysis of veteran sportscasting by a user named "Old Man McKay," which to me can only mean one man.
posted by ShutterBun at 8:48 PM on September 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Earlier this season, when it was unclear if Scully would return after this year, someone started a petition to get FOX to have him call one more World Series. However, I think any network that has Joe Buck and Tim McCarver calling the World Series is unlikely to see the upside.
posted by dry white toast at 8:57 PM on September 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

I just looked him up in Wikipedia. He started broadcasting Dodger games in Brooklyn.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:26 PM on September 10, 2011

Why, yes. Yes, he did.
posted by ShutterBun at 9:41 PM on September 10, 2011

ShutterBun: in my case, the McKay refers to a great LA sports figure who was quick with the wit and a cigar, John McKay. But Jim McKay was an all time great himself- someone who transcended sport to create art, I guess you could say. One can't help but think of 1972 as the pinnacle of his work.

Would that we had more guys who thought about describing a situation artfully or truthfully, rather than describing it purely to evoke emotion.
posted by Old Man McKay at 9:50 PM on September 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Well said, sir.
posted by ShutterBun at 10:21 PM on September 10, 2011

The only action I've ever seen in my mind when Bob Costas is in the booth

Which happens what, twice a year on I love Vin Scully; I grew up with him being half of NBC's Game of the Week. But comparing Vin Scully's half-century radio career to Bob Costas calling a dozen playoff games over the course of a decade and thus declaring baseball worse for wear seems impossibly old-manish. Now let me get off your lawn.
posted by yerfatma at 10:22 PM on September 10, 2011

quick with the wit and a cigar, John McKay

And a poker hand. Good Lord I wish I'd been old enough to appreciate him.
posted by yerfatma at 10:24 PM on September 10, 2011

No wait, was it bridge? There was a great NFL Films piece on him, can't remember what card game he was great at.
posted by yerfatma at 10:26 PM on September 10, 2011

Ken Levine (Emmy winning writer/director/producer/disc jockey/major league baseball announcer/travel book writer/blogger) has worked with Vin and has some good stuff, including three minutes of classic calls on a sound player and a video clip of Vin "co-starring" with Elizabeth Montgomery. And he points out in an article about naming TV characters: "Scully from X-Files was named for Vin Scully. When Mulder left the show he was replaced by Doggett. Jerry Doggett was Vin Scully’s broadcast partner on the Dodgers."
posted by oneswellfoop at 11:20 PM on September 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

"Which happens what, twice a year on"

Costas just stuffed himself in to the Sept. 1 Red Sox game against the Yankees. It was a freakin' travesty, as far as the call went.

I wouldn't mind Costas calling a May game with the Padres facing the Mariners in inter-league play, but I'd still turn off the sound, just to avoid him. But the Red Sox vs. the Yankees for the AL East lead in late August???

Please, convince me that Costas wasn't, once again, picking "an hhiiiistorrrric moment innn Baseball" to, um, humbly announce.
posted by paulsc at 11:44 PM on September 10, 2011

Apropos of Something: "Side question for the thread: If I'm interested in getting really really into listening to baseball on the radio, being far more interested in awesome commentators like Vin Scully than I am in particular teams, what stations / games should I be listening to and where can I find a good schedule?"

Personally, I think Eric Nadel is the best radio announcer currently in the business. He calls games for the Texas Rangers, has done so for 30 consecutive years (which is unique in that he has worked all of them for the Rangers), and won several awards for his ability not to mention the lifetime contract the Rangers gave him in 2006. Nadel does an excellent job of painting word pictures, going so far as to describe the stadium itself, the uniforms of the players, and even some of the more unique fans in the stands. His trademarks "hello there everybody" and "that ball is history!" are well-known to Rangers fans even when other people say it. He is a "homer" and doesn't disguise it, even going so far as to slightly break-up on air when the Rangers finally made it to the World Series. Nadel has easily made decades of decent, sub-par, and atrocious Rangers baseball listenable for me, and has only improved as the team has.

Rangers schedule. I recommend the MLB Gameday Audio subscription for audio-only listening.

Yep, I'm a biased Rangers fan, but a lot of people share that bias with me.
posted by fireoyster at 12:11 AM on September 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

Nthing Pay the extra 20 bucks to get the home-team broadcast.

Great call on Eric Nadel (although as a life-long Sox fan, Remy & Don are pretty high up there)...I always enjoy Sox v Rangers away. Also, Detroit currently has some classy play calling w/ Rod Allen's technical take on the game.

Lastly, my all-time favorite Braves vs. Red Sox inter-league call by Pete van Wieren, of course, strictly from memory:

"Ever notice Kevin Millar looks a lot like Nigel Tufnel?" to which Skip Carey simply did not answer and Pete said something like "Never saw Spinal Tap, did ya? 2-0 pitch to Millar..."
posted by priested at 4:37 AM on September 11, 2011

Growing up in Fullerton, and now a lifelong SF Giants fan, I still hold onto my favorite Vinny memories, mainly from his days on KFI:

"Farmer John: The easternmost in quality, the westernmost in flavor."
"And we're giving $25 of Union Oil Auto Scrip to Hacienda School in La Mirada"
"Deuces wild...2 on, 2 out, the count 2 and 2 to number 22..."
"Tomorrow's game against the Expos will be a simulcast, on radio and on channel 11 KTTV"
Feeling some disappointment when Jerry Doggett would replace Vinny for a couple of innings. A little like when Fleming takes over for the great Jon Miller on KNBR. But then occasionally I got to listen to the awesome twang of Ross Porter, so that kinda made up for it.

By the way, does anyone know of a link to Jon Miller's impersonations of Vin Scully?
posted by ga4ry at 1:31 PM on September 11, 2011

I appreciate the way you framed the original post, DWT. Because ever since I was a kid, staying up late to watch or listen to West Coast baseball games (or other sports) was like a special late-night treat. Even today I sort of feel that way. I'm a little sad I live in the Central Time Zone now, because the late games aren't as late anymore. I feel sorry for West Coast night owl sports fans, what do they do late at night? And getting up at 9AM for East Coast sporting events? Ugh.
posted by mreleganza at 4:06 PM on September 11, 2011

Dueces wild...

If you haven't had the privilege of living in Los Angeles and listening to Mr. Scully call baseball games, you will never really know his genius from only listening to his calls of big moments. He brings it, for every single game.

I was cooking dinner on one of those red hot mid summer evenings when the Dodgers were playing one of those "meaningless" baseball games that people complain about. Midweek, nondivisional, etc. With two outs in the middle innings the Dodger pitcher induced an infield fly. A lesser announcer would have called it a "big league popup", but Mr. Scully... Mr. Scully:
"A quartet of Dodgers in the infield... and Furcal is the lead singer"
Schopenhauer said "Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see." Scully is a genius.

LA was able to develop tons of talent out of the farm system recently. Within a few years they called up Ethier, Kemp, Martin, Loney, and Kershaw. In my heart I yearned that they'd get over the hump, they'd make a run and Scully would call the games. How glorious it would be.

The wave crashed against the shore (the Phillies) and rolled back. The divorce, Brian Stow...

I guess it doesn't matter. Mr. Scully focuses on the positives and so should we. He never references anything outside of the players and game. Pure escapism. World War III could be underway but Mr. Scully would only tell us that Termel Sledge's parents named him Termel because it is a combination of Terrence and Melvin.

Baseball, for all of its faults, teaches us realism. The realist in me knows the Mr. Scully is an old man, and that one day he will retire. That day will come. The day after that, the first day of our lives without Vin Scully calling Dodger games, is the day that I dread the most.

Giants suck.
posted by outlaw of averages at 10:17 PM on September 11, 2011

I'm an East Coaster, but Vin Scully is undeniably the voice of summer.

As a Mets fan this is my favorite Scully call of all time. What you don't hear here is that after Knight scores the winning run, Scully and his partner were completely silent for TWO WHOLE MINUTES allowing the camera to scan the scene of the Mets and their fans celebrating and the Red Sox in shock. Finally, when Scully speaks again he said something like "If a picture says a thousand words, you've just seen a million of them."

Today, McCarver and Buck and Morgan and Miller and all the others would be falling all over themselves to get in their instanalysis. And probably within two minutes the network would have already cut to a commercial. I appreciate Scully for not only making great calls but knowing when it's right not to say anything.
posted by Rarebit Fiend at 8:50 AM on September 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

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