Vin Scully: The Greatest Ever

By Brent Shyer

The entire sports and entertainment world thoughtfully praised and adored Vin Scully, who passed on August 2, 2022 at age 94, widely considered the greatest baseball broadcaster of all time. Humble, classy, poetic, witty, wise are all adjectives that may be used to describe the incomparable Scully.

For 67 years, his dulcet voice was the familiar soundtrack of Dodger baseball and he popularized the phrase, “It’s Time for Dodger Baseball!” and his opening line, “Hi everybody, and a very pleasant good evening to you wherever you may be.” No matter the occasion, on-air or not, Scully always seemed to have the perfect words to say. With his extensive game preparation, tremendous recall and ability to connect generations of baseball history, Scully is considered one of America’s greatest storytellers. As the self-effacing Scully explained it, “It was truly a gift from God.”

Dodger broadcaster Vin Scully holds up a set of balloons at Korakuen Stadium in Tokyo, Japan during the Dodgers’ 1956 Goodwill Tour. Photo taken by Scully’s roommate on the trip, Peter O’Malley. Scully is considered the greatest broadcaster of all-time, serving 67 seasons with the Dodgers.

Photo by Peter O’Malley. All Rights Reserved.

Peter O’Malley, President, Los Angeles Dodgers from 1970-1998, said about his special friendship with Scully at the time of his passing:  “Vin and I go back to the fall of 1956. The Dodgers are going on a Goodwill Tour to Japan. My dad (Walter O’Malley) asked Vinny if it would be OK if I roomed with him, because everybody had a roommate. All the ballplayers had roommates. And polite Vinny said, 'Why not?' And so he and I were roommates for three weeks in Japan and we really bonded. He was a young announcer and I’m in college. After that trip, when I’d see him at Spring Training at Dodgertown, Vero Beach, Florida, he’d say ‘Hey roomie, how are you?’ Imagine being called ‘roomie’ by Vin Scully!

Baseball’s greatest broadcaster Vin Scully (left) and President of the Los Angeles Dodgers Peter O’Malley are celebrating St. Patrick’s Day at Dodgertown, Vero Beach, Florida and looking at the hall decorations on the way to the Dodgertown Lounge, circa mid-1990s. The decorations were cut in a shamrock shape from Irish whiskey boxes. Names of guests were then placed on the cutouts, providing a permanent souvenir from the annual Dodgertown event.

“We were all fortunate to have Vin as the voice of Dodger baseball for so many years, but the person will be remembered even longer. Instead of sadness, I like to view it as how fortunate we are to have known him and remember him, thank him for his contribution to our lives. In one word, he was genuine. When many of us think of the greatest Dodger of them all, his name is first to mind.”

In honor of his wife Sandi, Scully publicly sang “Wind Beneath My Wings” to her from the TV booth after his final Dodger Stadium broadcast in 2016. Both had previously been married and formed what he called “a yours, mine and ours” family. He and Sandi were married 48 years, before she passed in January, 2021. A devout and religious man, Scully was named the “Most Memorable Personality” in L.A. Dodger history in 1976 and called “The Most Trusted Man in L.A.” in a Los Angeles Times Magazine cover story April 26, 1998.   

(L-R) Vin Scully; Sandi Scully.
November 10, 1999, the Scully’s were celebrating their 26th wedding anniversary in Las Vegas.

Scully’s father, a silk salesman by the name Vincent Aloysius Scully, passed away when Vin was just four. To overcome her grief, his Irish mother, Bridget, took young Vin to her homeland to visit relatives. Upon their return home in the Bronx, New York, to help with finances, Mrs. Scully rented out a couple of rooms. Later, his beloved mom remarried, Allan Reeve, a British sailor who rented a room while working for Cunard Lines. Scully called Reeve “his dad.” At home, Scully would curl up under a four-legged console radio with a big loudspeaker and listen to a football or baseball game. As he put it, “with a pillow, a glass of milk and some saltine crackers, I’d let the roar of the crowd wash over me like water from a showerhead.” At age eight, when asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, the redhead immediately replied, “a sports announcer.”

Scully played stickball on the streets of New York, below his parents’ fifth floor walk-up apartment. He once explained, “It was not a tenement, but when you looked out the window, you’d see another window. I knew we didn’t have any money.”

His interest in baseball really started on October 2, 1936, when the New York Giants were playing the vaunted New York Yankees in the World Series. As eight-year-old Scully was walking down the street and as he passed a Chinese laundry which kept an up-to-date scoreboard with inning-by-inning results of the World Series game in the front window, he became intrigued. The Yankees were piling it on the Giants in Game 2. With six runs in the ninth inning, the Yankees went up, 18-4. And Scully thought, “those poor, poor Giants, 18-4!” Thus, he became a baseball fan, rooting for the “underdog” Giants. Southpaw Scully immediately took to his favorite player, left-handed slugger Mel Ott. 

After school, Scully could attend games at the old Polo Grounds with complimentary bleacher tickets from the Catholic Youth Organization or Police Athletic League. One weekday around 1941, he heard a commotion where he was seated in the upper deck in right field, so he thought he would have a look. It was none other than legendary Babe Ruth wearing a camel-haired coat and a cap, making himself available and saying hello to the kids. To make it through all the fans quickly, “The Bambino” was handing out small business cards with his stamped autograph and, to Scully’s delight, he received one.   

Scully did play baseball at Fordham College at Rose Hill, but he was a “so-so” hitter. That’s when he played in the same game as future U.S. President George H.W. Bush. It was April 12, 1947, as Fordham played at Yale. Both center fielder Scully and first baseman Bush were 0-for-3 that day in a game at Yale Field that drew more than 3,000 fans. Yale won, 3-1. Years later, the two became good friends. In the meantime, Scully served in the U.S. Navy near the end of World War II and then returned to Fordham and was involved in the new radio communications program. He helped found the Fordham radio station, WFUV-FM, and started his broadcasting career in earnest. 

After a brief summer internship at WTOP in Washington, D.C., Scully, at age 22, was hired by the Dodgers right after he graduated from Fordham, class of 1949.

(L-R): Three all-time great broadcasters Red Barber, Connie Desmond and Vin Scully at Dodgertown, Vero Beach, Florida. Barber was with the Dodgers as the play-by-play broadcaster from 1939-1953. Desmond was with the Dodgers from 1943-1956 and Scully started with the Dodgers in 1950 and worked 67 seasons until 2016. This trio was in the broadcast booth from 1950-1953. Barber was Scully’s mentor and father figure and they are both in the National Baseball Hall of Fame as recipients of the Ford C. Frick Award.

Photo by Barney Stein

In 1950, Scully was the third announcer in the Dodger radio booth, behind Red Barber and Connie Desmond. Scully characterized his mentors this way, “Red was like my father and Connie like an older brother.” The Sporting News made its first mention of Scully in its January 11, 1950 issue, “The third man in the radio booth at Ebbets Field this coming season will be a 22-year-old broadcaster from Fordham by the name of Vincent Edward Scully, more recently of the CBS weekly football roundup. Scully is even more tawny-haired than Red Barber himself. He graduated from Fordham in June and covered football, basketball and baseball on the air. Upon graduation he joined a station in Washington. He was associated with Barber in Red’s gridiron broadcasting this past fall and handle the Boston U.-Maryland and the Harvard-Yale games. He replaces Ernie Harwell as third man in the booth behind Barber and Connie Desmond.” 

In an article Scully wrote about Barber for Reader’s Digest (April, 1993), he stated, “Except for my mother, he (Barber) was also the most influential person in my life. My father died when I was not yet five, and Red became like a father to me in every way.”

Scully, who worked Dodger broadcasts solo, also wrote about the importance of preparation: “Red came over the air as light-hearted. Wrong. He was a taskmaster, tough on himself and others. One day I brought the batting lineup to Red. One of the Dodger sluggers, who batted third the day before, had been switched to fifth. Red asked, why? I didn’t know. That’s the last time I said those words to The Ol’ Redhead. Be prepared, he taught me.” He also said of Barber, “The hardest bit of advice he gave me is ‘you must be yourself.’ I couldn’t quite understand that for a minute and he said, ‘there is no one in the world exactly like you, bring that out onto the air. Don’t copy anybody.’”  

Vin Scully stands behind Dodger owner Walter O’Malley in the booth in Dodger Stadium. Photo taken sometime in 1973 Radio engneer Monty Bancroft is partially at far left.

Copyright © Los Angeles Dodgers, Inc.

On July 5, 1991, Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully greets Peter O’Malley in the President’s Box at Dodger Stadium. Scully began as part of the Dodger broadcast crew in 1950 and remained with the team through the 2016 season. Scully and O’Malley were roommates during the Dodgers’ 1956 Goodwill Tour to Japan and they remained close friends from that time. No sportscaster in history has ever been so beloved and made so many historical calls of sports’ greatest moments as Scully.

For 48 years, Scully worked for the Dodgers under the leadership of the O’Malley family – first Walter O’Malley (1950-1979) and then Peter O’Malley (1979-1998). After the 1950 season, Walter O’Malley was named Dodger President on October 26, 1950 and he made a big impression on Scully, who was not sure of his status moving forward. O’Malley called Scully and told him that the Dodgers absolutely wanted him to return for the 1951 season. A relieved Scully was impressed that the new president of the team would personally take time to call and reassure the third announcer that he was wanted back for another season. In 1953, Scully, at age 25, did his first TV network broadcast of the World Series. The next spring, Scully was the Dodgers’ lead broadcaster, as his mentor Red Barber had moved on to handle Yankee broadcasts.

O’Malley also ensured that when the Dodgers relocated to Los Angeles that Scully and his outstanding radio-TV partner, Jerry Doggett, would remain as Dodger broadcasters. There was pressure on O’Malley to use locally-based Los Angeles sportscasters, but O’Malley resisted that idea as he admired the loyalty and objectivity of Scully and Doggett.

Vin Scully, foreground, is at the microphone next to broadcasting partner Jerry Doggett, as they announce the last game played at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn on September 24, 1957.

On March 19, 1967, a Sayonara and St. Patrick’s Day Party is held at Dodgertown, Vero Beach, Florida. (L-R) Dodger broadcaster Vin Scully; Toru Shoriki, owner, Tokyo Yomiuri Giants; Dodger President Walter O’Malley; and Dodger broadcaster Jerry Doggett.

Dodger broadcast team of Vin Scully (right) and Jerry Doggett (left) prepare for a Spring Training radio broadcast in 1968. Scully and Doggett were great friends and broadcast partners from 1956-1987.

In the four seasons that the Dodgers played at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (1958-1961) before Dodger Stadium opened, Scully’s vivid descriptions filled a blank canvas on radio. The use of transistor radios while watching the home games propelled his massive following. Throw in a freeway-centric city and the Dodgers on radio exploded. No matter where you were in the Coliseum, Scully’s broadcasts were heard. That tradition continued at Dodger Stadium, as well. He was a portable “good friend” and likely taught more people about the game of baseball than anyone else. Dodger fans who frequently left the stadium early to beat traffic knew that they would have the pleasure of listening to Scully on their drive home.

Circa middle 1950s
L-R: Dodger broadcaster Vin Scully, Dodger team captain Pee Wee Reese and Dodger President Walter O’Malley at the Dodger TV studio at Ebbets Field, Brooklyn. The studio was located at the dugout level between the two Ebbets Field players clubhouses. The TV sponsors Lucky Strike cigarettes and Schaefer Beer are displayed in the background. Interviews could be conducted before game, between doubleheader games, and post-game.

Scully’s extraordinary career spanned from covering his first Spring Training game when the Dodgers played the Philadelphia Athletics in 1950 to the end of the 2016 regular season. The Athletics were managed and owned by the unequaled Connie Mack, who Scully met. Scully’s career bridged from personally knowing players and managers born in the 1860s to those born in the 1990s!    

(L-R): A trio of Hall of Famers – Dodger broadcaster Vin Scully; Dodger President Walter O’Malley; and Dodger Manager Walter Alston.

His awards would fill volumes and he was always modest about being recognized. Suffice it to say, these are a few of Scully’s numerous honors: inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame as winner of the Ford C. Frick Award in 1982; selected as the American Sportscasters Association “Sportscaster of the 20th Century”; received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Barack Obama; the street leading to Dodger Stadium named for him “Vin Scully Avenue”; a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame; the press box at Dodger Stadium named for him; a street at Historic Dodgertown – Vero Beach, Florida named “Vin Scully Way”; inducted into the California Sports Hall of Fame, and the Southern California Sports Broadcasters Hall of Fame; selected Grand Marshal of the 125th Rose Parade in Pasadena; received the Baseball Commissioner’s Historic Achievement Award; and was named the nation’s Outstanding Sportscaster four times and the California Sportscaster of the Year on 32 occasions by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association.

Scully actually worked more years after he was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame than he did before receiving the 1982 honor.

Chicago Hilton Hotel, October 8, 1959.
The Dodgers, earlier in the day, had defeated the Chicago White Sox, 9-3 in Game 6 of the 1959 World Series to capture their second championship overall and their first World Series in Los Angeles. O’Malley arranged for a celebration at the team hotel within hours of the final out. KTTV, Channel 11 in Los Angeles, filmed the party back to Southern California. Dodger President Walter O’Malley talks with the greatest baseball broadcaster ever Vin Scully as players and coaches were interviewed. Seated around them are many Dodger wives and team employees.

Vin Scully interviews relief pitcher Ron Perranoski in the jubilant Dodger clubhouse following the Dodgers’ four-game sweep of the New York Yankees in the 1963 World Series. Dodger Vice President and Director, Minor League Operations Fresco Thompson is on far left and in the background wearing a black shirt is Dodger slugger Frank Howard.

Copyright © Los Angeles Dodgers, Inc.

October 18, 1988
Hall of Famer and greatest baseball broadcaster ever Vin Scully at the dugout level for Game 3 of the 1988 World Series on October 18 at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in Oakland, CA. The Dodgers won the 1988 World Series in 5 games. Scully was then broadcasting play-by-play of the World Series for NBC Sports. His Game 1 broadcast of Kirk Gibson’s dramatic game-winning home run became a sports classic. He would also broadcast the clincher in Game 5 on NBC, as the Dodgers beat the A’s, 5-2.

During his illustrious career, he broadcast three perfect games, 20 no-hitters, 25 World Series and 12 All-Star Games; the Dodgers’ first World Championship in 1955; the first major league game on the West Coast in San Francisco; the Dodgers’ first game in Los Angeles at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum; the Dodgers-Yankees exhibition game paying tribute to Roy Campanella before a then record major league crowd of 93,103; the first game at Dodger Stadium on April 10, 1962; Henry Aaron’s 715th career home run to surpass Babe Ruth’s major league record; Kirk Gibson’s dramatic walk-off home run giving the Dodgers a stunning come-from-behind, ninth inning win against the Oakland A’s in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series; six Dodger World Championships; and the sensational rookie seasons of Fernando Valenzuela (1981, “Fernandomania”) and Hideo Nomo (1995, “Nomomania”).

He broadcast Dodger games during the Baseball Hall of Fame careers of Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Pee Wee Reese, Duke Snider, Gil Hodges, Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Don Sutton and Managers Walter Alston and Tommy Lasorda.

Scully worked for NBC-TV, CBS Radio and also called NFL games, The Masters and other prestigious PGA Tour events for CBS-TV. In 1969-70, he hosted the game show “It Takes Two”, while in 1973, he had his own daytime talk show, “The Vin Scully Show.” His voice is heard in several movies and he portrayed himself in “For Love of the Game” in 1999. 

He was always eager to help charitable organizations raise significant dollars for their worthwhile causes, including the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles, hospitals and the sight-impaired.      

Many of his lines are so memorable they are part of sports folklore:

*“Ladies and gentlemen, the Brooklyn Dodgers are champions of the world!”

*“It is 9:46 p.m. Two and two to Harvey Kuenn, one strike away. Sandy into his wind-up, here’s the pitch – swung on and missed, a perfect game!”

*“It’s a mere moment in a man’s life between the All-Star Game and an old-timer’s game.”

*“Montana…looking…looking…throwing in the end zone...Clark caught it! Dwight Clark!...It’s a madhouse at Candlestick! With 51 seconds left! Dwight Clark is 6-4. He stands about 10 feet tall in this crowd’s estimation!”

*“A little roller up along first; behind the bag. It gets through Buckner! Here comes Knight and the Mets win it!”

*“In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened!”

*“Fernando Valenzuela has pitched a no-hitter at 10:17 in the evening of June the 29th, 1990. If you have a sombrero, throw it to the sky!” 

*“Hideo Nomo has done what they said could not be done. Not in the Mile High City. Not at Coors Field in Denver. He has not only shut out the Rockies, he has pitched a no-hitter. And thank goodness they saw it in Japan!” 

In Scully’s April 26, 2008 commencement speech at Pepperdine University, he shared a story about attending high school with a friend named Larry Miggins. They talked about their goals in life – Scully to be a broadcaster and Miggins to play professional baseball. They wondered what are the odds of making those goals. In 1952, Scully was broadcasting and his friend Miggins was in the lineup for the St. Louis Cardinals, the team the Dodgers were facing at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn. Scully just happened to be on-air during the inning that Miggins came to the plate and hit a home run  which Scully described. Scully said it was one of the most emotional home runs he ever called. “A billion-to-one shot occurred directly in my lap,” said Scully. “That’s the one I’ll never forget.”  

(L-R): Peter O’Malley, Vin Scully and Magic Johnson. On Opening Day, April 12, 2016 at Dodger Stadium, Peter O’Malley, President, Los Angeles Dodgers (1970-1998), and Dodger part-owner and Lakers legend Magic Johnson accompany Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully to the home plate area. Scully announced his retirement plans and he was to throw the ceremonial first pitch. A huge standing ovation from the crowd ensued and then Scully received a baseball passed to him by going down a line from Maury Wills, Sandy Koufax, Hank Aaron (by video), Al Downing, Rick Monday, Steve Garvey, Bill Russell, Ron Cey, Fernando Valenzuela, Orel Hershiser, Tommy Lasorda, Clayton Kershaw, Peter O’Malley and Magic Johnson, who delivered the ball to Vin.

Jon SooHoo, Dodger photographer

He ended his 67-year Dodger broadcasting career in San Francisco on the exact date, October 2, 2016, 80 years to the day that he passed the Chinese laundry in New York and started rooting for the Giants. His final words that day upon retirement, “You and I have been friends for a long time, but I know in my heart that I’ve always needed you more than you've ever needed me, and I’ll miss our time together more than I can say. But you know what? There will be a new day and eventually a new year. And when the upcoming winter gives way to spring, rest assured, once again it will be “time for Dodger baseball.” So this is Vin Scully wishing you a very pleasant good afternoon, wherever you may be.” 

And all of us – his “marching and chowder society” – thank him for his unprecedented years of service to Dodger fans and for bringing unparalleled joy and excitement to his objective broadcasts. Many fans consider Scully the greatest Dodger left-hander of all-time.