Take Us With You, Vin Scully
When the GOAT hangs it up this weekend, we’re losing a lot more than just a golden voice.
Last Friday, Rockies announcer Jack Corrigan made a…uh…not so great call of a home run from Nolan Arenado. I don’t mean to make fun of him, honest. Announcing a game for four hours at a time is no doubt a stupidly difficult job, and we all know that tongues just get tied sometimes. It happens.
What was particularly unfortunate for Corrigan, however, was the night and location in which he made his call: on Vin Scully Appreciation Day at Dodger Stadium, sitting in a press box about twenty feet from the greatest sports broadcaster to ever live.
Mercifully, MLB has not posted Vin’s call of that same home run, but you can rest assured that it was stellar. In his sixty-seven years of service, there are legitimately zero true stumbles on his record. No “boom goes the dynamite,” no “back-back-back-back,” nothing. This is a man who has called approximately 10,000 games—over 50 percent of all the Dodger games ever played (including Brooklyn!)—and yet nobody has anything but nice things to say about him.
At this point, you’re probably familiar with what some of these nice things are about. They’re about the poeticism of his craft—the fact that he’ll describe a downcast team as looking like the Nuremberg trial jury, or a runner at second being as stranded as Willy Loman. They’re about his appreciation for the humanity of ballplayers—how he loves to tell stories, like how Jonny Gomes was once attacked by a wolf, or how the late, great José Fernández would spend his childhood in Cuba looking for the right size rocks to hit with a stick. And they’re about how anachronistically bias-free he is—even when his specific tenure with a single team is astronomically larger than that of the biggest homer announcers in the game. But if I could, I’d like to bring up one characteristic that I haven’t seen anyone else address: his willingness to describe a Western Bacon Double Cheeseburger.
As far back as I can remember, one of the cornerstones of listening to a Vin game is his in-between inning commercial spots. Usually these take the form of describing various American heart attacks—Carl’s Jr.’s new burger this, Farmer John’s same old hot dog that, etc. They’re often completely ridiculous, and at the same time, they’re quintessentially baseball (particularly when you go all the way back to the radio-only era). Besides goofy pants and spitting, it’s hard to imagine something more intrinsically associated with the game.
Now, Vin came up doing these spots with a professional enthusiasm (can I interest you in a Lucky Strike, or perhaps a game of Pong on an airplane?), so it’s no surprise that he can still sell a burger like no one’s business. At a certain point, though, he surely could’ve kindly requested to not do them anymore and been acquiesced. But that never happened, and after a lifetime of service, Vin’s still recording the best advertisements that money can buy with that same twinkle of a confident salesman standing on your porch. All part of the job, as you’d have to imagine he’d say. And it is. Because even when you’re eighty-eight and being showered with the praise of a living deity, you have to remember that you could’ve just as easily ended up being a Willy Loman stranded on the proverbial diamond.
In the hour before the game on Vin Scully Appreciation Night, there was a ceremony on the field. The commissioner of baseball and the mayor of LA were there, as well as the Spanish language voice of the Dodgers Jaime Jarrín (a legend in his own right), and Dodger Chairman Mark Walter. (Oh, and for some reason Kevin Costner was there? With a soul patch?) But the real draw of the evening was the ever-reclusive Sandy Koufax, who stood alongside his protégé Clayton Kershaw as a sign of respect and reverence for the broadcaster who has quite literally bridged the two southpaws together.
Almost fifty years apart, those Dodgers spun a pair of the greatest games ever pitched on that very field (Koufax’s perfect game in 1965, and Kershaw’s basically perfect game in 2014), and somehow they weren’t even remotely the stars when standing upon it once again. That night at Dodger Stadium, the lights were cast directly down on the figure who was always happy just to get a stray ray bouncing back up from off the field.
And if there’s a burger for sale with that on it, I’m buyin’.