Long Before the D-backs, Vin Scully Brought Big-Time Baseball to Arizona
I'm having a party on the first Sunday of October.
The point is to celebrate the life and times of the first important broadcaster in Arizona's history: Vin Scully, who will be calling his final game in his 67th, and final, season for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
From the early 1960s to the late '90s, sports' greatest broadcaster was a part of life in Arizona as Dodgers games were carried on KOY (550 AM). He was the person who introduced locals to the world of big-time pro competition, which didn't exist in Arizona until the Suns took up residence in 1968.
Vin was the voice you could trust. You knew he was employed by the Dodgers, so he must have wanted them to win. But you could barely tell, so down-the-middle were his calls. He even did research on opposing players, actually presenting them as human beings.
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Surely, his approach wouldn't get him a job calling Toledo Mud Hens games today.
That's why games on the radio are now difficult for me to digest. Because announcers are supposed to be hollering homers who spin things management's way. ("Shelby has only given up two homers and five runs in his appearance today, a significant improvement from…")
Local broadcasters often are attired in bird and snake attire as they extol the virtues of the home team. Can you imagine Vin wearing Dodgers gear on his broadcasts? Ha!
He was expertly literate. In describing a play made by the Diamondbacks' Socrates Brito early this season, Scully went in-depth on the great philosopher of the same name.
More literacy: Scully's greatest contribution to America is the least noted. In an assimilating population, he may have been the nation's most influential English teacher to millions who were learning the language.
Or to people like me, who wanted to learn the language better.
I always thought Vin was at his best when the Dodgers were in the dumps. That's when he would fill time with stories gleaned over a life that included relationships that go back to Branch Rickey, Jackie Robinson, and even earlier, to pre-World War II times growing up in New York City.
Once, during a down Dodgers season, he recalled attending a game in New York as a youngster with a CYO group and meeting the retired Babe Ruth. He was beyond thrilled when the great slugger autographed a baseball for him.
"Where is that ball today? I haven't the foggiest idea."
For people of a certain age, Vin marked life's passages. From the Koufax-Drysdale World Series teams and Koufax's perfect game (grade school) to the showdowns with the Yankees (college, first job) to Kirk Gibson's dramatic World Series homer (starting a family) to Kershaw's no-hitter (figuring out retirement plans).
From all accounts, Vin lived his faith. People who dealt with him said he was as pleasant as the sound of his voice.
I know this for sure.
As a teenager, I crouched below the broadcast booth at Phoenix Municipal Stadium and listened for a couple of innings as he broadcast a Dodgers-Giants exhibition game (the Dodgers frequently played a couple of games here as they finished up spring training on their way from Florida to California). Finally, I summoned the nerve to ask him a few questions between innings. To my surprise, he seemed to take me seriously and put thought into his answers.
Much later, I covered the Dodgers' first series in Arizona against the expansion Diamondbacks in 1998 and wrote a story about how Vin had been the first voice of baseball in Arizona. He ended up posing for photos with my family.
The game starts at noon. You ought to watch. And don't tune in late. You don't want to miss the final "Hi, everybody, and a very pleasant good afternoon to you, wherever you may be…"
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