LA loses a piece of its heart as Vin Scully says goodbye

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After an emotionally-charged weekend in which Dodger fans and the city bade farewell to Vin Scully, the beloved LA broadcaster will call the final three games of his legendary career this weekend in San Francisco. Scully says he won’t work any of the Dodgers playoff games.

If it feels a bit anti-climactic, perhaps that’s the way Scully wanted it. The soon-to-be 89-year-old has always played down his fame, displaying a humbleness and authenticity that has endeared him to generations of baseball fans.

From Jackie Robinson and Sandy Koufax to Fernando Valenzuela and Clayton Kershaw, Scully has been the voice of the Dodgers for 67 years. Along the way, he’s received just about every honor that can be bestowed upon a sports broadcaster, including induction into baseball’s Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.

When he exits the broadcast booth, Scully says what he’ll miss the most is the roar of the crowd – the very thing that attracted him to baseball as a boy growing up in the Bronx. In recent days, many of the roars have been for Scully himself, including a deafening ovation on a recent night dedicated in his honor at Dodger Stadium.

Steve Mason is co-host of the Mason & Ireland show on ESPN 710. He told KCRW that Scully is at peace with his retirement, even if his legions of fans are struggling to accept that the man most believe is the greatest broadcaster in sports history is ready to turn off his microphone for good:

KCRW: these are bittersweet days for Dodger fans, the team just won its division and it’s looking like a World Series contender, but there is a melancholy feeling to the proceedings with the knowledge that Vin Scully is finally stepping down. It’s a tall order, but could you sum up what he’s meant to the city?

Steve Mason: Wow, that is so tough. I’d like to first say that this is a guy who, you know, there’s magic as he leaves the building, as they would say. This Sunday, Dodgers clinch at Dodgers Stadium; it’s a game that goes to extra innings, he gets to call a walk-off home run. There are baseball gods and I think they smiled on Vin and all of us Dodger fans on that day. Vin Scully has been the sound track of Los Angeles summers for years now. You know, I think Vin has been phenomenal when he calls games on television, but there’s something about baseball on the radio. He is literally in our bloodstream. We feel his voice, we know his history, we can hear his history; he’s been so respectful of fans, of players, of the organization and of baseball itself. He will go down as one of the most iconic broadcasters in history. And when I say iconic broadcasters, I mean, I’m not just saying one of the most iconic sportscasters. You know, a legendary, legendary poet and wordsmith and those calls will be in Los Angeles forever.

KCRW: Speaking of those calls, I’d like to get your thoughts on a couple of the most famous of Scully’s calls. The first is considered by some to be the greatest sports moment in LA history. That was of course when Kirk Gibson hit a 9th inning home run to beat the Oakland A’s in the first game of the 1988 World Series.

SM: You know when you hear that- and, by the way, there is, after he says, “she is gone”, he let that crowd surge and he let that crowd go and he allowed that moment to play out- The second line though, where, “the season that has been most improbable, the impossible has happened” – that line wasn’t ready, that line occurred to him in his head, it is poetic and I can’t think of a better phrase to describe that moment in terms of the history of baseball, the history of the franchise, and that particular game. Only Vin Scully could have done that.

KCRW: And I especially like Scully’s call of Hank Aaron’s 715th home run. That was in 1974 when he passed the great Babe Ruth to take possession of one of the most sacred records in American sports.

SM: He made that call, the initial call, and then he put his microphone down and he walked to the other side of the booth, where he took a sip of a glass of water, and collected his thoughts. Then came back to the microphone, about one minute later and recognized not just a record being broken, not just a crowd being on its feet, but the social relevance of a black man in the deep-south getting a standing ovation. You know here’s the guy that called Jackie Robinson’s games, he saw the derision that Jackie Robinson had to deal with, and now he sees Hank Aaron break the alltime home run record, even for him I think it was a self- revelatory moment. So nobody could have done this better. Those words came from the air to his head and to us in an incredibly organic and brilliant way.

KCRW: It’s obviously unprecedented for a sports broadcaster to keep the same gig for 67 years, but what has that longevity meant for families that share a love of baseball and the Dodgers, it seems that Vin represents a common thread that has really bonded fathers, sons, daughters, grandchildren.

SM: You know I got to talk to Vin this week, and we talked about exactly this. That Vin Scully has past Dodgers baseball from father to son, generation over generation, and what Vin has been able to do is to tell stories, more than anything else Vin is a storyteller. On D-Day every year he worked in stories about ball players who had left the game and gone to fight in World War II, and what happened in Normandy. I don’t think that people have the attention span for there to be another Vin. I don’t think the style of broadcasting will happen again. He loved the game, and he loved the players who played it, and respected how difficult it is.

KCRW: What will you miss most about Vin Scully when he’s gone?

SM: It’s those times on radio when I will flip in on a game… look I love Charlie Steiner Joe Davis, and Rick Monday and the guys, the team of guys that will replace him. But there will never be that magic moment when I turn on the radio, and hit the button for the Dodger game and hear Vin Scully. It’s reassuring, it has been, I mean it makes me feel good about the world because he is such a good and genuine man. With Vin Scully gone, and I think a lot of Dodger fans feel like this, I really don’t know what we’re gonna do.

KCRW: Thank you, Steve. Let’s let Vin Scully have the final word. This is from his Hall of Fame induction speech thirty four years ago.

Vin Scully: Why with the millions and millions of more deserving people would a red haired kid with a hole in his pants and his shirt tail hanging out playing stick ball in the streets of New York wind up in Cooperstown, why me indeed? I don’t have the answer but I do know how I feel. I want to sing, I want to dance, I want to laugh, I want to shout, I want to cry, and I’d like to pray, I‘d like to pray with humility and with great thanks giving, I have a lot of thanks to give.