Young Fans Love Scully, Older Fans Revere Him
A long sigh of relief slowly drifted across the Southern California landscape like a warm summer wind. The two local teams might be having awful years, but, somehow, all is right with the baseball world again.
Vin Scully is coming back for another year.
Every day, every hour, it seems, new fans are regularly introduced to and charmed by the 82-year-old, best play-by-play announcer of all time. So this is no knock on the younger generation.
But only those of us who are old enough to have been in the Greater Los Angeles area when Scully arrived with the Dodgers in 1958 can truly appreciate his enormous impact.
Los Angeles was so different then, and this new team owned by a stranger named Walter O’Malley traveled across the country to relocate in a facility built for anything but baseball. The Coliseum was a joke, but Scully wasn’t.
He bridged the gap from Brooklyn to L.A., from the Ebbets Field diehards to movie star central, from New York’s cab driver-like frenzy to Los Angeles’ celebrity cool.
He was as much a teacher as he was an announcer in those early days, patiently explaining the nuances of the game to a town that had only mild interest in the old Pacific Coast League.
The Spahns and Aarons and Clementes didn’t mean much to anybody out here, until Scully began extolling their virtues. Radio was the main medium then. Games weren’t televised on a regular basis, so everybody had their trusty transitor.
Ask the grandparents, especially the grandfathers, out there if they ever went to bed listening to Scully on their tiny radios, hidden under their pillows so their parents wouldn’t know. You’ll be shocked at how many smile and say they did that on a nightly basis.
If you grew up in the late 1950s or early 1960s, Scully defined those summers. His crackling voice was the soundtrack of your life. You’d hear him in your backyard, under the stars. In your dad’s garage, amid all the equipment. On the beach, between dips in the foamy Pacific. Or on the freeways that were somehow flowing free of traffic back then.
Even at the ballpark, his silky smooth voice would echo across the stands. So many people would bring their transistors to the game, it was like having his play-by-play piped in. Vin would tell a funny story, the crowd would erupt in laughter, and the players would freeze, looking up into the stands, wondering what was going on.
More than a star player or a colorful manager, a great announcer can be the face of a baseball franchise. Teams like the Angels don’t understand that. But it was true in New York with Mel Allen, in Detroit with Ernie Harwell and in Brooklyn, where Red Barber’s stylish Southern tones allowed him to be the mentor for a young redheaded kid named Scully.
It is startling to think that it has been more than 50 years since the Dodgers arrived, and Scully is in his 80s, his voice still melodic as ever, the stories as rich and interesting as they were all those seasons ago.
He announced on Sunday he’d be coming back for another year, saying his love for the game overwhelms everything else. That’s understandable. When you’re the best ever at your profession, it must be exceedingly difficult to give it up.
Naturally, those of us who have been his biggest fans all this time were delighted to hear the news. Even though we know, deep down, the inevitable is coming.
For his family’s sake, at some point, probably next year, Scully should retire. We realize that. And yet, most of us dread the day it happens. For a long time, I grappled with the reasoning behind those feelings. But now I think I finally get it.
It is because when Vin Scully walks away, a big part of us will go with him.
— STEVE BISHEFF