He was the soundtrack of a city, the inspiration of millions, the voice of home.
Vin Scully is gone, but he will never be silent.
It will forever be heard on soft spring afternoons, a serenade of rebirth, a song of hope.
“Great for Dodger baseball!”
It will always be heard in warm summer nights, in family music, in the words of life.
“Hello everyone and good evening wherever you are. . . .”
Scully died Tuesday at age 94, but his poetic story about Los Angeles’ most enduring sports franchise will forever resonate in our hearts.
Officially, he was the television and radio broadcaster for Dodgers baseball for 67 years, from the time they came to town in 1958 until his retirement in 2016.
Unofficially, he was a guy who sang show tunes on his way to work, attended weekly Masses outside the Dodgers clubhouse, and spent afternoons sitting by his backyard pool playing his kids’ swimming games.
Officially, he existed behind a microphone in a small, cramped booth above home plate at Dodger Stadium, avoiding being shown on the video board, happy to be an anonymous speaker, not once mentioning that his bobblehead night was his bobblehead night.
Unofficially, he was everywhere.
He was such a part of the fabric of this city that his voice was a true landmark, the glittering Hollywood sign, the poetic Griffith Park, the storytelling Santa Monica Pier.
Travelers returning to Los Angeles often had the same experience when driving from LAX. They knew they were home as soon as they heard Vin Scully on the radio.
For generations of Angelenos who grew up with him in their cars, living rooms and beds, he became a faithful companion and gracious friend.
Scully became the eyes, ears and conscience of a town, describing her favorite team’s game while interjecting life lessons disguised as baseball stories.
He was more than a sports announcer; he became the most trusted public figure in the history of this city. He wasn’t just the greatest Dodger broadcaster, he was the greatest Los Angeles Dodger.
Perhaps the only misstep of his tenure was his recording of his final public words, “The Wind Beneath My Wings,” serenading the crowd in his final game at Dodger Stadium.
It was a mistake because we were supposed to sing to him.
His words were truly an inspiration that helped lift the community, his inclusive embrace of the diverse Dodger Nation felt far beyond the baseball field.
He spoke to all of us in a language we all understood, his open embrace of players from Sandy Koufax to Fernando Valenzuela to Hideo Nomo to Yasiel Puig helped make Dodger Stadium the most Los Angeles-centric venue on the planet. On any given summer night, the multicultural crowd at Chavez Ravine looks like our town because Scully made them comfortable for our town.
The only Dodgers star he never openly embraced was himself.
“I know I’m a very ordinary person, I really do,” he once told me. “I would soon go quietly.”
Yet today, his loss is as deafening as his humility.
He never wrote a book because he couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to read about him. He never seriously listened to offers to become a national broadcaster because he always felt lucky the Dodgers wanted him.
He was so humble that he would announce his full name every time he called you.
“Bill, it’s Vin Scully,” he’d say, and you’d always laugh because you knew it was him the moment he said “Bill.”
He was so ineffective that for years his voicemail was his actual voice asking the caller to leave a message.
Confession: Sometimes in the winter I would call him for no other reason than to hear that voicemail and dream of spring.
Another confession: As with many of her acquaintances, my most poignant memories of Scully are the words she meant just for me.
He called last summer when I was sidelined with COVID-19, and — after announcing it was off the record — he and his wife, Sandi, gave me treatment advice.
After every story I wrote about him, he called and – after announcing that it was off the record – thanked me profusely while Sandi thanked him in the background.
I once called him when I heard he lost his 1988 World Series ring in a bag of Costco ribs. He called back and said he wasn’t sure he wanted it written because no one would be interested. Then she shrugged and said, “Oh, why not, anyone can relate to Costco,” and Sandi regaled me with the tale of pushing a Costco cart while shopping.
“I’m a donkey, but I’m very good at it, I can cut all kinds of corners with that cart,” he said. “I’m telling Sandy, ‘Stay out of the way so I don’t run over this truck!’ “
Scully loses the ring during a holiday shopping expedition, prompting him to answer a fellow resident’s question about which is more interesting, Costco or a baseball game.
“I told him it was Costco because the outcome was really in doubt,” he said.
Sandi eventually found the ring at the bottom of the meat bag, which was an interesting ending to a magical story that Scully would tell during the games. He spun yarns about everyone from Abraham Lincoln to Jackie Robinson to Clayton Kershaw so skillfully that fans ended up caring more about the stories than the game. He is arguably the only baseball broadcaster in history whose audience can finish his story before the commercial break.
“God is very good,” he once told me. “Like he’s hitting those foul balls for me.”
However, he also knew the perfect time to be quiet. He became bigger than the game, yet always stepped aside for the game. In fact, his most theatrical appeal is as famous as what he doesn’t say.
Before he announced Kirk Gibson’s 1988 World Series homer, he was silent for one minute and eight seconds as Gibson rounded the bases to thunderous applause.
Masked by Scully’s constant smile and playful laugh was a history of personal tragedy. His first wife, Joan, died of an accidental overdose of cold and bronchitis medication. His son Michael died in a helicopter crash in 1994 at the age of 33. Later, in January 2021, Sandi died of complications from ALS.
“The main thing is that I want people to remember me as a good person, a good husband, a good father, a good grandfather,” he said. “That’s the most important thing of all.”
It was after a conversation for a magazine story I wrote that Scully asked me not to quote because they didn’t want to upset her children. His children found out about his wrong request and called me.
“I don’t care what my father says, I can’t let you write a story without telling you how great he is,” said his daughter Catherine.
Through it all, for nearly seven decades, he continued to share and embrace millions of people who heard him for a minute or a lifetime. In return, he was at once revered as an icon and loved as an uncle.
What other broadcast would the most objective people in the ballpark welcome? Before each series, from the huddle around home plate, he was greeted openly by the four umpires.
However, what other broadcaster’s favorite calls have been kids playing in the stands? Once he complimented a little girl on her enthusiasm before seeing her pick her nose.
“Ah, yes, shine, dear,” he said, not understanding what was happening, “And don’t blow your nose, not on camera, no!”
We’ve laughed with him, admired him, learned from him, grown from him, bonded through him, and Los Angeles and the Dodgers will never be the same without him.
Perhaps Vin Scully’s life can best be summed up in a set of his trademark magnificence of his actions before he lets them steal the show.
He was our soundtrack. It was our song.
“A high drive into left-center field and a deep . . . a way back. . . and gone!”