(Want more Vin Scully? Go to our The Man. The Voice. The Stories.)
He has been describing baseball games to us for 67 years now. Think about that: 67. Oh, and by the way, he has gotten pretty good at it. But would you like to guess who doesn't think that's, like, the coolest broadcasting feat ever?
Vin Scully. Who else?
"I attribute it to one thing and one thing only -- God's grace," Scully said in a conference call on Sept. 19, "to allow me to do what I've been doing for 67 years. To me, that's really the story. Not really me. I'm just a vessel that was passed, hand to hand, down through all those years."
So clearly, we can't leave it to a man this humble to put his career in true historical perspective. But if you ask his peers, it won't take long to learn we're not the only ones who think it's mind-boggling that Vin Scully has been calling baseball games for 67 years.
"No one ever did any sport any better than Vin has done baseball," said his old friend, and former colleague at NBC, Bob Costas. "And no one ever did whatever their best sport was nearly as long as Vin did baseball. So that's what's really unique. If the question is the greatest all-around sportscaster, he is in the argument, and maybe he wins the argument. But if the question is who the greatest baseball broadcaster is, there is no argument."
So what makes Scully special? According to his friends, what's the one common theme? He's a poet. There is the language of baseball. And then there is the language of Vin Scully, the Shakespeare of the broadcast booth.
Charley Steiner, Dodgers broadcaster: "I look at us, or at least I look at myself, as a reporter who's running up a sand dune, pencil in his hand, fedora on my head, "PRESS" attached to the ringband, praying like hell to keep up with a story -- running and just doing everything you can to tell the story as best as you can. And so, we're sprinting. Vin, on the other hand, is a poet, and the game seemingly comes to him. He has a wonderful vocabulary. He is well-read, above and beyond baseball. He has the facility to come up with those words in those moments where you just sit back and your jaw drops."
Ned Colletti, former sportswriter (and Dodgers GM): "If he was a writer, he would be one of the greatest writers of the last century. It could be writing anything. He could be writing spiritual essays. It could be writing politics. It could be writing a love story. It could be writing anything: baseball, sports. He would be one of the greatest writers of our lifetime and the last 100 years because of how he thinks and how he uses the right word."
John Lowe, longtime friend and baseball writer: "I don't know if how many people know this, but he is able to read lips. ... So it was Game 3 of the '87 NL Championship Series, Cardinals at Giants. That was the Jeff Leonard show, you might remember. ... He (Leonard) hits one out. He goes around the bases, one flap down. The crowd's going crazy, and he's standing in the dugout, and the crowd is pleading for a curtain call. And on camera, you see what he says to somebody in the dugout. And Vinny can read his lips and shouts, 'Leonard has said, 'Make them wait.' And so Vinny says 'Make 'em wait. The Sir Laurence Olivier of Candlestick Park.'"
Charley Steiner, on the first Dodgers game he ever broadcast with Scully: "I had finally accomplished my goal. I was going to become the Dodgers announcer. First game. You may remember in 2005, there was a horrible hurricane down there in Florida, and it was really a dicey proposition as to whether or not we were even going to play that first game. There were mud puddles in the outfield. The palm trees, some palm trees, were down. Some were just hanging on. The left-field scoreboard is dangling by a thick wire. And so, I'm on the air, the new Dodger guy. Vin is to my left. And I'm trying to paint this picture that the field is in disarray, and some palm trees, some big old palm trees, are down and out, some middle-aged palm trees are still kind of hanging on, and they have just planted some new ones. And I think, well, that's pretty good. 'And now, beginning his (56th) year ... was the voice of the Dodgers. Here's Vin Scully.' So Vin kind of sits down, metaphorically speaking, kind of like Van Cliburn. He separates the tails from his jacket, and he sits down, and he's saying, 'You know, well, Charley, you've been talking about the palm trees, and ... the old palm trees are on the side, and they're going to be removed. And some of them are just hanging on, and maybe there'll be another season. And then there's the new ones that have just arrived.' ... Pause. ... 'But isn't that what spring training is all about?' And I said, OK, it's time for me to go. I cannot play on this field."
Vins. 😍 pic.twitter.com/wzCs7gitGD— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) August 27, 2016
When you've done something for 67 seasons, you're bound to impact a wide range of people. From former Cy Young winners to former college classmates to commissioners and colleagues, the depth and breadth of Scully's associations is astonishing. And everyone has a memory. Here are a few more gems we collected in our interviews.
"I don't remember the situation, but I called the Dodgers, and . . . I said . . . 'You know, you guys are busy. Just put me on hold so I can hear Vin Scully.' They did. And I stayed for quite a while, and I loved every minute of it." Bud Selig, former MLB commissioner, on the day the Dodgers put him on hold
Orel Hershiser, current Dodgers broadcaster, former Dodgers Cy Young winner: "When you watch TV and you're grazing, there's very few voices in the world that when you're grazing ... if you hear them, you stop. If you hear Vinny's voice, you stop. You stop grazing, and you see that's an important event: Vin Scully's doing it."
Jerry Reuss, former Dodgers pitcher, on getting caught up in Scully's storytelling -- during a game: "I'd have to sneak back into the clubhouse while the game was going on, and then when Vin started on a story or telling something, I'd be stuck there. And I'd say, 'Wait a minute, I've got to be out there on the bench. I'm not here to listen to Vin.'"
Charley Steiner, on Scully's typically polite way of dealing with a mild pregame dinner "crisis": "I'll give you one little moment which I still find funny. ... They gave us some steak ... a few weeks back, and ... the meat was a little rough. And so, Vin being Vin, says to Maria, the waitress, 'I think we need a sharper utensil.' ... I just looked at him and said, 'You're good.'"
Larry Miggins, Cardinals outfielder in the 1950s who went to Fordham with Scully: "We had an assembly at Fordham Prep and all the classes were together. He was sitting right behind me, and he reached over and grabbed my shoulders and said 'Larry, someday you're going to be in the big leagues.' I had played varsity baseball at the time and we had won the City championship. He said, 'Someday I'm going to be in the big leagues (as a broadcaster) and the first time you hit a home run, I'll be there to announce it and tell the world about it.' We never talked any more about it, and then it happened -- in 1952. I didn't see him after the game, and I heard about it that winter when we got together with some guys in the Bronx. He got the biggest kick out of it."
Giants broadcaster Jon Miller, on when he realized how good Scully was: "I remember when I was a senior in high school and my grandmother lived in Eugene, Oregon. It was about a 10-hour drive, and in the evening the Dodgers played the Cubs. I always remember even that it was the Cubs. And so I heard Vinny do this game, he and Jerry Doggett. And this was probably 1969 I'd say, and I don't remember anything about the game. There was nothing fascinating about the game. It was just a regular game. But (listening to) Vinny in the car for the whole game and hearing the whole deal from start to finish, which I had never done before. I just thought it was remarkable how thoroughly entertained I was and how totally caught up into the game that I was, and how Don Kessinger came up and Vinny would weave in the story of how Kessinger decided to become a switch hitter, and how that had so remarkably changed his career, and who it was that had suggested that he try switch-hitting, and he was having so much trouble as a hitter that he felt that he had nothing to lose, because it looked like he's just gonna hit .220, and he wasn't going to be in the big leagues if he hit .220. And Don Kessinger finally hit a popup to short, and he was out. And it was just that he had pushed this guy out and told me something. Now I actually cared about Don Kessinger."
Ned Colletti, on the compassion of Scully: "After I left the GM job (in 2014), I talked to Vin on the phone. And the conversation had me in tears by the time it was completed. (He said) 'Jamie McCourt called me (in 2006, when Colletti was hired) and told me, 'We just hired a man named Ned Colletti to be our general manager. What do you think?'' Well, figuratively speaking, I'm thinking I'm down in the boiler room, and she's up on the top deck. And I'm thinking, 'Why are you asking me?' But I told her that I was thrilled and excited and the Dodgers had gotten it right, with a great person and a true baseball man. And he said, 'You know what, Ned? I was right.' ... And now this life will take you to another destination, maybe still with the Dodgers, but another chapter that will be safe and wonderful. And we will never miss you because you will always be a part of our lives and part of our hearts for all the days that remain.' I had a tough time getting through it. But I was grateful, forever grateful, that he told me how he felt and didn't mind expressing it to me."
"What Vin Scully means to me is 'Dodgers.' He's been with the Dodgers so many years. He's brought people to believe in him. People love him. I've never heard a bad word said about him. He tries to make everybody happy. I'm proud to know him." Tommy Lasorda, former Dodgers manager and Hall of Famer
Bob Costas, on the special circumstances that helped create the legend: "He's a unique and distinctive broadcaster. But he also had, and made good use of them, unique circumstances. He's been at this for so long that his broadcasts are simultaneously current and nostalgic. You're engrossed in tonight's game, and at the same time you are transported to your earliest baseball memories. That can be true if you are 25 or 65. ... What (also) happened with Vin is that he's a local announcer, and people always like the local announcer more than the national announcer because he's announcing, by and large, their teams. And now the technology lets people around the country hear it. They are eavesdropping on a local broadcast. ... And when he did the national broadcast in the '80s, baseball was still pretty close the national pastime. The Game of the Week still mattered. There weren't a zillion games on TV and a zillion highlight shows or call anything up you want on the internet. The internet didn't even exist. So think of the rating of the World Series games. ... The last game, Game 7 of the '86 World Series, went up against Washington against the Giants on Monday Night Football -- and the football game got single digits, and the baseball game got like a 37 ... like close to a Super bowl rating. ... These circumstances, start to finish will never be recreated."
ESPN.com Dodgers writer Doug Padilla and ESPN The Magazine researcher Doug Mittler contributed to this report