By Jon Weisman
By the time I was 10 years old, I wanted to be Vin Scully.
That might sound like the easiest question in the world to answer. Who wouldn’t want to be Vin Scully?
First, let me be clear. I wouldn’t have phrased my ambition as “I want to be a sportscaster.” It was, “I want to be Vin Scully.”
Why him, more than any other human being in the world? And why then? Partly, it’s because I never envisioned myself as a pro athlete, but on some level, it still doesn’t make sense.
In my mind, there is no one more talented, no one more expert, in the English language than Scully, but I wouldn’t have identified such a specific skill as a child. I would have enjoyed his broadcasts for the most straightforward of reasons — I was a fan of the Dodgers, and for the most part, he told me their stories, and he was great.
Nothing he said before 1977 sticks with me. I know I heard his voice often enough, considering how much of a baseball fan my father is and how many games we consumed on the radio. But all my memories of baseball up to that time are of moments, not his words.
Today, as the parent of three kids who won’t sit still for five minutes of a sporting event on TV or radio without snacks calling their names, I even wonder, why baseball? Why sports? What, at the core of it all, draws one person in, triggering a lifelong obsession, while pushing another person away?
I keep circling back to thrill of being the one.
For some, it’s a vision of actually becoming the champion on the field, in a moment or for a season — none better than you. For others, who make peace that they will be spectators, it is the thrill of vicarious victory.
Either way, it is to experience the mastery of moments, small or large. And some people — probably wiser than me — don’t see what matters in sports.
For me, as a child, I watched Steve Garvey and Lawrence McCutchen with wonder, read about Tom Sawyer and Abraham Lincoln with awe, encountered thousands of different personalities of fame and accomplishment, real and make-believe.
Somehow, never was anyone more the one than Vin Scully.
Maybe my inability to explain why his appeal was so powerful to me as a child actually speaks to the strength of that appeal. Literally before I can remember, he began to speak to me so deeply, and never stopped.
The accumulation of experience has taught me that Vin Scully can communicate anything, the ideal combination of Walter Cronkite, Robert Frost and Garrison Keillor. He operates in the seed of a moment and opens it like the most beautiful rose.
Is Scully better at his job than Babe Ruth was? You could argue the point — Scully certainly would — but when you throw in infinite extra points for durability, the debate ends.
As a kid, I soon decided that to be any other kind of sportscaster would be a disappointment, and so when I didn’t show any immediate aptitude for it, as a teenager practicing with a tape recorder in my bedroom, I abandoned the idea.
It’s funny: I started writing this piece days before I spoke with Joe Davis, whose lifelong ambition was formed at an age as young as mine, but without the peril of identifying so strongly with a single person. He didn’t fall into my trap.
Ultimately, I escaped as well. I moved in a different direction, sideswiping sportscasting (though I’ll admit I’ve enjoyed the chance to comment occasionally on the air in my various careers), carving out my own path, becoming my own self.
My best hope has been to become a one. As he has for so many of us, Vin Scully set that standard, by being so exemplary, so magnetic, so Vin. I’ll probably be chasing that as long as I live. Vin Scully is, and always will be, the one, and we’ll all be someone else.
Well done, Jon. Think many of us (thousands?) feel the same way. But, not sure many could express their thoughts as well as you’ve done here.
Beautifully said, Jon. My first memory of him and that voice is from 1973, when I was eight, and I have been enthralled by him and it ever since. And think about it. Name any field where someone has dominated in the way he has. If you want to say, well, how about, say, Harry Caray? When he did his final game, Vin was in his 48th year: 18 years ago.
I will admit, for a good amount of time,30 years or so, Mr. Scully was one of the greatest at what he does. But that time has long since passed, long by about 25 years or so. I still admire Vinny for the great love he shows for the game, but even the most die hard fan has to admit he is not what he once was. Over the past years, Scully has continually made on air mistakes, like misquoting the pitch count or mangling a player’s name, Grassilanek, anybody?, but I will be happy to see him retire . I realize at 86 years old he’s going to have his mental flubs, but he is just not fit for the mental and physical grind of announcing major league baseball. The next time he tells me the Arizona Diamondbacks were so anxious to acquire Martin Prado they were willing to part with Justin Upton or nonsense of that sort, I won’t have to roll my eyes at the rest of the baseball world hearing the obvious mistakes and thinking that he should have called it quits years ago. Vaya con dios, Vin Scully, you’ll always be remembered as one of the greatest
Yes, absolutely. I discovered Vin Scully as a freshman in high school, listening to him tell stories through the static on the clock radio in my basement bedroom in Phoenix, AZ in the 70’s. I blame him for my 40 year relationship (love affair?) with the Dodgers. As I’ve moved back and forth between coasts throughout the years, that relationship has stayed strong. I love playing basketball, watching football, and listening to Vin call baseball games on the radio. I’ve tried the local announcers in NYC, Boston, San Diego, but they don’t hold my interest the way Vin Scully does. Go figure.
Saying goodbye to Vin is going to be really hard. I will relish every word he says in the upcoming season.
When I first heard Vin, I thought of him as one of 3 play by play announcers for the Dodgers, but as the years went by I got familiarized with his voice. He became the voice you heard in regards to Dodger baseball. For nearly 50 years I only heard him occasionally but when I heard him that familiarity came back. What I love about him now is how he brings back my childhood with his stories.