Funt: Vin Scully heads for home
On a recent weekend, Bob Costas was broadcasting the Cardinals game in St. Louis, Dick Enberg was behind the mic at the Padres game in San Diego, and Vin Scully was calling the Dodgers game in L.A. It was an epic triple play-by-play.
That these three greats are still at it, and in fine form, says a lot about them, but also about baseball — a sport which, due to pace, setting and style lends itself to poetry.
At 64, Costas is the baby of the group. Enberg is 81; Scully 88. They all began broadcasting sports in their early 20s, meaning each has legacy knowledge about baseball that Wikipedia and YouTube simply can't replicate.
Come September, you'll be hearing and reading a lot about Enberg and Scully, both of whom plan to retire at season's end. But consider this a heads up: Don't wait for the tributes and retrospectives; invest in the Major League Baseball app and savor a few live Dodgers and Padres games now, before the chapter ends.
Of course Scully is — and I imagine even Enberg and Costas would agree — the GOAT: Greatest of all time.
Vin Scully stepped into the broadcast booth at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn in 1950 and took the chair next to legendary broadcaster Red Barber. He followed the Dodgers to L.A. in '58 and today, just think about it, he's still as good as ever.
He does the Dodgers games alone! All nine innings. No "color man" alongside, no safety net. He peppers the play-by-play with personal insights and turns of phrase.
The other day, as the Dodgers were mauling the visiting Braves, Scully said:
"We're in the fifth and the Dodgers lead 8-2 ... Baseball can be a very cruel business ... The Braves are on a treadmill to oblivion."
A few innings later, when Dodger rookie Austin Barnes took his first at-bat, Scully observed, "His birthday is a couple of days after Christmas, but for him, Christmas arrived today: in the Big Leagues."
I grew up listening to Vin Scully and you couldn't possibly count how many people say the same thing. Like many kids I copied the batting stances and mannerisms of baseball stars, but I also sat with a small recorder and tried to emulate Vin Scully's play-by-play style. He's a five-tool broadcaster: knowledgable, insightful, reasonable, graceful and entertaining.
Scully believes baseball is the perfect game for television. "It's theater, really," he once told the L.A. Times. "The star is in the spotlight on the mound, the supporting cast fanned out around him, the mathematical precision of the game moving with the kind of inevitability of Greek tragedy. With the Greek chorus in the bleachers."
Of course broadcasting, like baseball, is prone to hyperbole. Everyone is the greatest and no record will ever be broken. So who knows if there will ever be another Vin Scully. My bet: Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak will fall before Scully's 66-year broadcasting record.
This season Scully is showing bits of his photo collection — and he's seen it all, from Jackie Robinson's steal of home to Sandy Koufax's perfect game. It was Koufax who said he enjoyed listening to Scully's broadcasts even more than playing the game.
The Dodgers are making a Bobblehead in his image and September 23 will be Vin Scully Day at Dodger Stadium.
When the team dedicated Vin Scully Avenue in April, Scully thanked the 1,500 or so fans who turned out on a street corner just to see him and to hear a few pearls.
"Maybe on the final day of my final broadcast I'll somehow come up with some magic words that you deserve," he said with polished humility. "As for now, I have only two magic words: thank you."
His entire career is filled with magic. During a broadcast in 1991, he noted, "Andre Dawson has a bruised knee and is listed as day-to-day."
Then, after a pause, Vin Scully added, "Aren't we all?"
Peter Funt is a writer and speaker. He can be reached at www.CandidCamera.com.