It was 1950, and a young man by the name of Vin Scully would become a part of the Brooklyn Dodgers’ broadcast team with the incomparable Red Barber and Connie Desmond. In 1953, Scully became the lead announcer after Barber left and at the age of 25, Scully became the youngest person to broadcast a World Series game (a record that stands to this day).
And here we are, 67 years later, and even though this is the final season, Vin Scully is still going strong, waxing poetic as he calls Dodger games. It’s hard to find someone that has held the same job for as long as he has. It’s even harder to find someone who has done his job so well. Scully has been given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He received the Ford C. Frick Award in 1982—recognizing his place in the broadcaster’s wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame. He is, in one word, a legend.
Now, people from all walks of life have heard Scully call games, and there have been many, and I mean MANY, great calls by the legend. It is hard to pinpoint what one would call his best calls or moments while listening to him sitting in the booth.
I mean, after 67 years of doing it, it is tough. Well, I have narrowed it down to my personal top 5 calls, so without further ado, here are the five best calls from this beloved icon to baseball fans by the quintessential voice of baseball (in no order, as it would not do it justice to do so).
Sandy Koufax’s perfect game vs. Cubs in 1965
Dodger legend Sandy Koufax, already had three no-hitters in his illustrious, headed to the mound for the top of the ninth—having yet to allow a Cub to reach base. And thus came 15 minutes of perfection—both from the mound and the microphone. With all the tension and drama unfolding as a perfect game was happening right before the eyes of fans in the stadium and at home, Scully painted the picture of the moment better than anything that could have been shown on a television screen. For anyone that loves the game and the art of broadcasting, what he did in that last inning was complete nirvana.
Hank Aaron’s 715th home run
Aaron’s pursuit of Babe Ruth’s all-time home run record reached its climax in the early part of the 1974 season. On Opening Day in Cincinnati, he tied the mark. Less than a week later, Aaron and the Atlanta Braves were back home at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, and it just so happened that the Dodgers were in town with Scully on his usual assignment. And so, on April 8, 1974, it happened. L.A. pitcher Al Downing delivered a fastball, which Aaron promptly launched over the left field fence to an explosion of cheers from the partisan crowd for No. 715. As Aaron rounded the bases, Scully let it play out without nary a word. And as he was greeted by his teammates and his parents, Scully eventually interjected to recognize the social significance of this home run in such words that everyone understood the magnitude of the situation.
Bill Buckner’s error—Game 6 of the 1986 World Series
The quote was simple yet powerful – “If one picture is worth a thousand words, you have seen about a million words.” It came amidst the craziness and drama that followed the New York Mets’ 10th inning rally to win Game 6.
The rally was capped by Bill Buckner’s infamous miscue and a call that all Mets fans love (and, before 2004, all Red Sox fans had loathed). It was a moment that—in its aftermath—didn’t need a voice. Scully, as he does so well, let the roar of the crowd and the images tell the story. Viewers on NBC witnessed both exaltation from the Mets and the Shea Stadium crowd, as well as disbelief and despair from the Red Sox. Proof that the best announcers do more sometimes by saying less.
Don Larsen’s perfect game—1956 World Series
Scully was only three years in as lead announcer for the then Brooklyn Dodgers, and he was on hand for one of the most extraordinary accomplishments in World Series history. Yankees pitcher Don Larsen threw the first, and only, perfect game in the history of the World Series, with the last out coming on a strikeout of Dodger hitter Dale Mitchell.
For years, this historical moment was accompanied by the radio call of Bob Wolff. Recently, however, the television broadcast—with Scully behind the mic for the top of the ninth inning—had surfaced, and it was here where the legend was born. He broke everything down in the ninth inning to let the viewer know with such simplicity that it was a joy to watch. And when Larson finished the job, Scully’s quote was pure perfection, “He set the biggest diamond in the biggest ring”.
Kirk Gibson’s home run—Game 1 of the 1988 World Series
The Dodgers were heavy underdogs against the powerful Oakland A’s, made more so by the fact that their top hitter, Kirk Gibson, was suffering from injured legs. Trailing 4-3 with one on and two outs in the ninth inning, and dominant Oakland closer Dennis Eckersley on the mound, L.A. manager Tommy Lasorda sent Gibson up to pinch hit. What happened next was moment made for Hollywood. The hobbled Gibson connected on a 3-2 pitch that sailed over the right-field fence—giving the Dodgers an amazing 5-4 win.
Scully, again doing the national broadcast on NBC, did what he does best. While raising his voice to the level of the moment, he kept it simple. Then, he went silent. Nothing needed to be said—and nothing was said for about two minutes.
He broke the silence with a statement that was succinct, accurate and fabulous: “In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened.” That magic Gibson produced (and Scully described) carried over for the rest of the series, as the Dodgers won the championship in five games.
Simply put, Scully is the announcer that every young play-by-play person dreams of becoming. The only problem is, getting to his level is like climbing Mount Everest—if Mount Everest was twice as tall.