“It’s time for Dodgers baseball!” That’s the line we’ve been hearing from people recalling Vin Scully, who died Tuesday. It was his signature greeting at the top of each broadcast. The power isn’t in the line itself, which is fairly pedestrian, but in Scully’s excited, ribbon-cutting delivery.
But Scully wasn’t known for signature sentences, although over a 67-year career he delivered his share. He didn’t have a famous, go-to home run call. Scully’s strength was as an essayist. He called each game as though he was telling a story, weaving anecdotes throughout his broadcast. He shunned hyperbole, but when the situation merited, he’d quote Shakespeare. It was all part of a delightful conversation Scully engaged in nightly with thousands of fans.
I grew up in St. Louis listening to the gravelly voice and dry wit of Jack Buck. Eventually moving to Chicago, I embraced the Budweiser-fueled exuberance of Harry Caray. By the time I landed in LA, I had been spoiled by two Hall of Fame baseball broadcasters.
And Vin Scully proceeded to amaze me. Here are some of his greatest calls:
My most vivid memory of him took place one evening as I drove on Beverly Blvd. It was game time, 7:30 or so, and as I headed west, a spectacular sunset unfolded in front of me. As if on cue, Scully began describing the exact horizon I was seeing—the colors, the vibrancy, and the sun-dappled clouds. Painting a vivid picture for anyone without the benefit of a visual, he concluded his masterful description with, “My goodness, how blessed we are. What a night for a ballgame.” It was a spiritual flourish even a fallen Catholic like me could admire.
Scully was unique amongst baseball broadcasters in that he worked alone. He didn’t do pure play-by-play, although he never missed a ball or strike. He conversationally walked the listener through the game, with personal details on players, a dive into historical perspectives when appropriate, and an astute eye for each manager’s strategies. All delivered in that friendly tenor voice of his.
Vin Scully always struck me as a consummate professional, one who seemed to study for each game over a plate of milk and cookies. He rarely made a mistake, and if he did, I’m certain he would have corrected it on the next broadcast. Still, he was anything but robotic. His style veered toward the poetic—on a nightly basis.
Increasingly, friends complain about the modern game of baseball. It’s too slow, the games are too long, there’s not enough offense. They have valid points; there are improvements to be made. That said, I’ve never heard of anyone bored listening to Vin Scully call a game.
Vin Scully retired in 2016. The Dodgers wisely kept his “It’s Time for Dodgers Baseball” soundbite, continuing to play it at the top of game broadcasts. If it’s not the same as hearing him live, it’s a nice reminder of a beloved man who may have been the best there ever was at calling a game.
Award-winning Creative Director and writer, Bob Merlotti is also the creator of the very funny The Fallout Lounge podcast. He is also a die-hard St. Louis Cardinals fan.