So over the last day or so it was once again a summer night at Dodger Stadium, or all the nights, and Vin Scully was young and his voice was as strong as ever and he was in his broadcast booth at Dodger Stadium. The people at the ballpark were listening to him and so were people in their cars and in their homes, and maybe Sandy Koufax was on the mound, and he was young, too. And everything was perfect in baseball, mostly because of that perfect baseball voice.
The writer Michael Connelly, who writes the brilliant Harry Bosch books and “Lincoln Lawyer” books and is now the executive producer of the television series based on both, came out of the newspaper business to do all that, having moved to the Los Angeles Times from Florida. Michael became a big Dodger fan, and an even bigger fan of the great Vin Scully.
This is what he told me about Scully on Wednesday:
“He wasn’t the voice of the Dodgers. He was the voice of L.A. He cared as much about the people in those stands and beyond as he did the ballplayers and the game.”
That is beautifully put. But then the relationship between Scully and the people who listened to him do Dodger games for a total of 67 years in Brooklyn and Los Angeles was just that: It was beautiful. More than anyone to ever sit behind a microphone on a summer day and night and talk about baseball as if he were seated next to you in the bleachers, it is Scully who defined the relationship between a baseball voice like his and the relationship to all those listening to it, from spring training sometimes all the way until October.
From the time we learned of his passing on Tuesday night, one thing about Mr. Scully has been unanimous. He was, hands down, the best who ever was. And think about something, not just in sports but especially in sports: About how many others can you say that when they leave this earth?
We love to throw around this expression — GOAT. But how many of those are there, really? We were reminded this week that for all the lavish praise we have directed at Michael Jordan, before Jordan there was Bill Russell. As great as Jack Nicklaus was in golf, and even though he won more major championships than Tiger Woods, there are people who will always say that Tiger’s best was better.
Sugar Ray Robinson was called the best pound-for-pound boxer of them all. Then along came Muhammad Ali to float like a butterfly and sting like a bee. Willie Mays may have been the best pound-for-pound ballplayer, but before him there was Babe Ruth, and at the same time as the Say Hey Kid there was Hank Aaron.
The tennis debate about Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic will go on forever. As amazing as Serena Williams has been in women’s tennis, before her there were Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert, going toe-to-toe in their primes. After them came Steffi Graf. We routinely call Tom Brady the GOAT now among quarterbacks because he’s won the most and still around at 45. But was he all that much better than Joe Montana or John Elway?
There will always be a debate about Vince Lombardi and Bill Belichick among pro coaches. On and on. But Vin Scully, the Fordham kid, the broadcasting Boy of Summer, was the undisputed heavyweight champion of what he did. Best who ever was.
I have spoken a lot to my friend Bob Costas about Scully, who was Bob’s friend. Costas talks about the cross-country trip he made with his family as a boy, moving from Long Island to southern California. He was in the car with his dad. They listened to baseball across America. It was when they were in Nevada that John Costas found a Dodger game on the radio.
“That’s Vin Scully,” he reverently said to his son.
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“After all the other baseball voices I’d heard,” Bob told me. “I heard that voice for the first time.”
It was the voice of Jackie Robinson and Campy and Pee Wee and The Duke of Flatbush. It was the voice of Koufax’s perfect game and Hank Aaron’s 715th, when Scully, in the moment spoke to the country about the importance of the moment to the country, a Black man breaking Ruth’s all-time home run record and being cheered because of that in the Deep South. It was the voice of the ball rolling through Bill Buckner’s legs in the bottom of the 10th one night at old Shea Stadium.
And for now and for all times, it was the voice of Kirk Gibson’s home run in the bottom of the 9th of Game 1 of the 1988 World Series, the night when Scully spoke of how the impossible had just happened in what has been such an improbable season for his Dodgers. Somehow it just had to be the Dodgers that night and it had to be Scully.
I have pointed this out before, as recently as another column Wednesday, that I was blessed enough to know Vin Scully, and stay in touch with him after he retired. I’d email him and he’d always email me back, from the account with this name on it: “Red.”
I’ve kept all those emails. I found one from when he was retiring and I asked him how he was holding up.
“Holding up pretty well,” Vin Scully said. “But my suit is fading because of too much spotlight.”
The spotlight is back on him now, where it belongs, now that he is gone at 94. He got old. His voice never did. It has been everywhere the past two days. It’s been everywhere because it’s been all the summers for him. It’s Dodger Stadium and Vin Scully is sitting right there next to us once more and, for a few more hours, all is right with the world.
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