By Tyler Kepner
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – From Bill Plaschke comes news that Vin Scully plans to retire after the 2010 season. Scully, 81, has been the voice of the Dodgers since 1950, when they played in Brooklyn. A Bronx native and a graduate of Fordham University, Scully is beloved throughout baseball, the best at his craft and a giant on radio and television.
Millions of fans know Scully from the “Game of the Week” for NBC in the 1980s. He also called some of the best World Series moments for NBC, including the Bill Buckner game in 1986 and the Kirk Gibson game in 1988. And he did many World Series for CBS Radio, working with Sparky Anderson or Johnny Bench.
Scully is a genius by himself, but what’s striking on the CBS Radio broadcasts is the deference and inquisitiveness he shows to Anderson or Bench, always recognizing what they could add to a broadcast from their experience. With Scully’s descriptions, his wordplay, his sense of the moment — and his own observations and knowledge — listening to those games is captivating.
I can hear the old broadcasts thanks to Charlie Danrick, a New Jersey man who sells audio tapes of old games. When I’m driving home from Yankee Stadium — and Scully’s done for the night on the Dodgers’ XM feed — I can always pop in a classic game of his to guide me. Scully could read an instruction manual and make it fascinating.
I’ve bought several tapes of Scully’s games from Danrick, who is a licensee of MLB Properties and an expert on radio broadcasters. Danrick has a library of some 2,500 games, and there’s no doubt which voice tops his list.
“The one man I feel who has the greatest skill at drawing word pictures is Vin Scully, and once he retires, I do not think there will be anyone any better than that man,” Danrick said. “Not even his mentor, Red Barber, could hold a candle to him. And neither could the great Mel Allen.
“Mr. Scully is simply brilliant; what more can I say? His enunciation and articulation are perfect. His knowledge of the game is perfect. His insight is immaculate. No finer gentleman ever called a baseball game.”
Plaschke suggests a statue of Scully at Dodger Stadium equipped with a listening station, of sorts, where fans can plug in, “pull up a chair” and relive some of his greatest calls. Sounds like a great idea, and I hope they’ll include his call of the ninth inning of Sandy Koufax’s perfect game in 1965. It is, without question, the finest bit of broadcasting I’ve ever heard, as beautiful and compelling as any words have ever been about the game. Do yourself a favor and give it a listen.