It was the soundtrack of a city, the muse of millions, the voice of the town.
Vin Scully is gone, but he will never be silent.
It will be heard forever on soft spring evenings, on a rebirth séance, on a song of hope.
“It’s tiiiime for Dodger baseball!”
It will resonate forever on warm summer nights, on family music, on the lyrics of life.
“Hello, everyone, and have a very pleasant night wherever you are. . . .”
Scully died Tuesday at age 94, but his poetic rendition of Los Angeles’ most enduring franchise will forever be in our hearts.
Officially, for 67 years, he was the television and radio broadcaster for Dodgers baseball, including from the moment they arrived at home in 1958 until he retired in 2016.
Unofficially, he was a man who sang show tunes on his drive to work, attended weekly Mass outside the Dodgers’ clubhouse, and spent afternoons sitting by his backyard pool playing play-by-play for his children at swimming
Officially, he was there behind a microphone in a tiny booth high above Dodger Stadium home plate, reluctant to show up on the video board, content to be the anonymous narrator who, on his bobblehead night, never mentioned it was his night bobblehead.
Unofficially, he was everywhere.
He was so much of the fabric of this city that his voice was its own landmark, a Hollywood Hollywood sign, a poetic park in Griffith Park, a story on the Santa Monica Pier.
Travelers returning to Los Angeles often had the same experience when driving from LAX. When they heard Vin Scully on the radio, they knew they were home.
To the generations of Angelenos who grew up with him in their cars, living rooms and beds, he was a faithful companion and a gracious friend.
Describing the play of her favorite team as they instill life lessons masquerading as baseball stories, Scully became her eyes, ears and conscience.
He was more than a sports announcer; he was the most trusted public figure in the history of this city. He was not only the greatest Dodger broadcaster, he was the greatest Los Angeles Dodger, period.
In perhaps the only misguided act of his tenure, his last public words in his final game at Dodger Stadium were recorded as he serenaded the crowd with, “Wind Under My Wings”.
Misguided, as we should be singing to him.
His words, indeed, were the inspiration that helped raise a community, his inclusive embrace of the diverse Dodger Nation creating a bond felt far beyond the baseball field.
He spoke to us all, in a language everyone understood, his public embrace of players from Sandy Koufax to Fernando Valenzuela to Hideo Nomo to Yasiel Puig setting the stage for Dodger Stadium to be the most Los Angeles-centric place on the planet . On any summer night, the multicultural crowds at Chavez Ravine look like our city because Scully made them comfortable for our city.
He was the only Dodgers star who never publicly embraced himself.
“I know I’m a normal guy, really I can,” he once told me. “I will go quietly soon.”
But even today his loss is as deafening as his humiliation was terrifying.
He never wrote a book because he couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to read about it. He never really listened to offers to become a national broadcaster strictly because he was always lucky that the Dodgers wanted him.
He was so negative that every time he called you, he would announce himself by his full name.
“Bill, this is Vin Scully,” he’d say, and you’d usually laugh, because you knew it was him the moment he said, ‘Bill.’
That didn’t affect him, for years his voicemail recording was his own voice asking the caller to leave a message.
Confession: Sometimes in the winter I would call him for no reason other than to hear that voicemail and dream of spring.
Another confession: Like many of his acquaintances, my strongest memories of Scully are the words he meant only to me.
He called last summer when I was sidelined with COVID-19 and – after declaring this off the record – he and his wife Sandi advised me on treatments.
He called every story I’d ever written about him and — after announcing that this was off the record — he’d thank me profusely and Sandi offered to thank her behind the scenes.
I called him once when I heard he was embarrassed that he lost his 1988 World Series ring in a bag of Costco ribs. He called back and said he wasn’t sure he wanted to write it because no one would be interested. Then he shrugged and said, “Aw, why not, everyone can be associated with Costco,” and regaled me with the story of pushing a Costco cart and Sandi the shopping.
“I’m the donkey, but I’m really good at it, I can cut all kinds of corners with that cart,” he told me. “I tell Sandi, ‘Stay out of the way so I don’t run this truck over your heels!’ “
Scully lost the ring during one holiday shopping trip, prompting him to answer a question from another shopper about what was more exciting, Costco or a baseball game?
“I told him, it’s Costco, because the result is in doubt,” he said.
In the end Sandi found the ring in the bottom of the meat bag, an interesting ending that made for a magical story, the kind Scully would tell during games. He would spin so many yarns on everyone, from Abraham Lincoln to Jackie Robinson to Clayton Kershaw, that fans cared more about the stories than the game. He is surely the only baseball broadcaster in history whose listeners applauded foul balls so he could finish his story before the commercial break.
“God is very good,” he told me once. “It’s like he’s hitting the balls dirty to me.”
But he also knew the perfect time to be quiet. He became more than the game, but he always stepped aside for the game. In fact, his greatest theatrical call is just as famous for what he didn’t say.
Before he announced Kirk Gibson’s 1988 World Series homer with, “In a year that was so incredible, the impossible has happened,” and Gibson rounded the bases to applause, he was silent for one minute and eight seconds.
A history of personal tragedy was masked by Scully’s constant smile and playful laugh. His first wife, Joan, died of an accidental overdose of cold medicine and bronchitis. His son Michael died in 1994, aged 33, in a helicopter crash. Then, in January 2021, Sandi died of complications from ALS.
“Most of all, I want people to remember me as a good man, as a good husband, as a good father, as a good grandfather,” he said. “That’s the most important thing of all.”
This came to light when Scully asked me, after a conversation for a magazine story I was writing, not to call his children for quotes because he didn’t think they’d want to worry. Her children learned about her misleading request and called me.
“I don’t care what my father said, I can’t let you write a story without telling you how wonderful he is,” said his daughter Catherine.
Through it all, for nearly seven decades, to the millions who heard it for a moment or for a lifetime, he continued to share and embrace it. In return, he was known as an icon and loved as an uncle.
What other broadcaster would appeal to the most objective people in the ballpark? Before each series, from their gathering place around home plate, the four umpires would publicly salute him.
However, what are other broadcasters’ favorite calls for children playing in the stands? On one occasion, he praised the enthusiasm of a little girl before she was seen picking her nose.
“Ah, yes, shine on, dear,” he said, before he realized what was happening, “And no nose picking, not on camera, oh no!”
We’ve laughed with him, we’ve wondered with him, he’s learned from him, he’s grown from him, he’s bonded through it, and Los Angeles and the Dodgers won’t be the same without him.
Vin Scully’s life is perhaps best summed up in the entirety of his trademark home run call, one in which he majestically dictated the action before letting the rest of us steal the show.
It was our soundtrack. It was our song.
“High drive into left-center field and deep . . . way back. . . and he’s gone!”