Vin Scully Was Los Angeles

He was Venice Beach, Pink’s hot-dog stand and the Hollywood Bowl all rolled into one. He was Los Angeles, the sound of summer, the poet laureate of the Dodgers — Brooklyn and Los Angeles — for 67 seasons.

We knew Vin Scully wasn’t going to last forever. It only seemed as if he might. Even in retirement, years after his final broadcast in 2016, his presence remained both ubiquitous and ethereal, like the ocean and the air.

“There are two words to describe Vin: Babe Ruth,” said Charley Steiner, the Dodgers’ radio play-by-play man since 2005 after moving west from the Yankees’ booth (2002-2004). “The best who ever did it. Babe Ruth will always be defined as baseball. Vin will always be remembered as the voice of baseball.”

The wild ride that was Tuesday’s major league trading deadline suddenly and sharply gave way to a heaviness in the still of that night, when the Dodgers announced that Scully had died at 94. Baseball’s cycle of life, distilled into one day: new starts and sad endings. Scully had been in declining health in recent months, and those who knew him well had been bracing for the phone call. But when it came, it still was a gut punch.

“It doesn’t make it easier, because we lost a friend,” said Rick Monday, the former outfielder and longtime Dodgers broadcaster. “Whether we actually met Vin Scully or not, he was our friend.”

Like the best of friends, he was full of wonder, joy, humility and surprises.

“When I was in college, I wrote for The Times, so you probably saw my byline,” Scully said eagerly to begin an interview with The New York Times earlier this summer for a story about Gil Hodges, as if his days at Fordham University were just around a recent corner. “It says, ‘Special Correspondent to The Times.’ I was under an assumed name. Anyway, I just wanted you to know my literary background.”

Another time, late at night after an interleague game at Angel Stadium early in the 2013 season, some news media members were awaiting a press-box elevator to head home for the evening when Scully joined them for the ride down. He was wearing a brace on his left hand and wrist, the result of a bout with tendinitis.

“I was telling somebody earlier that I should just tell people I’ve gotten interested in falconry and I’m waiting for the bird,” he said, smiling broadly. “That would be a better story, wouldn’t it?”

His instincts were perfect and his joie de vivre constant.

“He was so well read,” Monday said. “He also owned the English language. When you listened to Vin, you felt like you should go back to school immediately. But he never spoke down to anyone, ever. He was amazing.”

In what was one of his final public acts, Scully wrote a letter to the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Era Committee to support Hodges’s candidacy for the Hall of Fame — a letter that was said to be very influential. But the ever-humble Scully refused to believe he had enough clout to sway the voters and, furthermore, did not want any credit.

“Even when I wrote it, I had my fingers crossed that it would not be made public to an extent where suddenly I’m trying to step into the same spotlight because I didn’t want that at all,” Scully said this summer. “Yes, I did write the letter, and it was true as far as I know in every facet. But I don’t want to dwell on it at all.

“I’m extremely sensitive now that I’m retired. I just don’t want to do anything where I might appear to be out of place.”

But Scully’s “place” was everywhere, a friend welcomed by all, beginning with his warm invitation at the start of each broadcast to “pull up a chair.” And for nearly seven decades, from the mansions of Bel Air to the blue-collar neighborhoods around the Southland, on the Dodgers’ behalf, he created an incredible extended family.

Monday grew up in Santa Monica, Calif., with a single mother who fell in love with the Dodgers when they moved west in 1958. Every time they were in the car when the Dodgers were playing, Monday recalls, Scully was their companion.

Five of Vin Scully’s Most Memorable Calls

Jonathan Ellis🎙 Listening to Vin Scully (1927-2022)

Five of Vin Scully’s Most Memorable Calls

Jonathan Ellis🎙 Listening to Vin Scully (1927-2022)

Hank Aaron Breaks Babe Ruth’s Record, 1974
“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.”

Five of Vin Scully’s Most Memorable Calls

Jonathan Ellis🎙 Listening to Vin Scully (1927-2022)

Kirk Gibson’s Walk-Off Homer, Game 1 of the 1988 World Series
“In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened.”

Five of Vin Scully’s Most Memorable Calls

Jonathan Ellis🎙 Listening to Vin Scully (1927-2022)

Sandy Koufax’s Perfect Game, 1965
“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 even more than the O-U-F-A-X.”

Five of Vin Scully’s Most Memorable Calls

Jonathan Ellis🎙 Listening to Vin Scully (1927-2022)

Don Larsen’s Perfect Game, Game 5 of the 1956 World Series
“Got him. The greatest game ever pitched in baseball history, by Don Larsen. A no-hitter, a perfect game, in a World Series.”

Five of Vin Scully’s Most Memorable Calls

Jonathan Ellis🎙 Listening to Vin Scully (1927-2022)

Bill Buckner’s Error, Game 6 of the 1986 World Series
“If one picture is worth a thousand words, you have seen about a million words.”

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