There was no nicer man than Vin Scully, who died Tuesday at home in Hidden Hills, Calif., not far from his broadcast perch at Dodger Stadium. He was 94, and during the course of much of his 67 years broadcasting Dodgers games, I was able to see him in action, developing a treasured personal friendship.
Scully follows such major sports figures as Bill Russell, who passed this weekend, Dodgers greats Tommy Lasorda, and Don Sutton. The latter pair were among 10 National Baseball Hall of Famers who died within one year, from 2020 to 2021.
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Scully called most of the Dodgers games pitched by Sutton and managed by Lasorda.
“We have lost an icon,” Dodgers president Stan Kasten said in a statement. “The Dodgers’ Vin Scully was one of the greatest voices in all of sports. He was a giant of a man, not only as a broadcaster, but as a humanitarian.”
Scully was a New Yorker and broadcast the Dodgers from 1950 in Brooklyn to 2016 in Los Angeles. A Ford C. Frick Award winner for excellence in broadcasting in the Baseball Hall of Fame, Scully’s august career spanned famous homers hit by Bobby Thomson, Kirk Gibson and beyond.
He was cramped behind Red Barber and Connie Desmond in the low-roofed, horseshoe shaped press box of the Polo Grounds as Barber called Thomson’s famous homer that gave the New York Giants a celebrated pennant victory over the Dodgers in the 1951 three-game playoffs.
In retrospect, he said he was glad he didn’t make that call.
“After Bobby hit the home run, the one close player I was with on the Dodgers was Ralph Branca, who let it up,” Scully recalled in a long-ago personal interview from 2013. “I was in shock at the home run, and I remember thinking, ‘I’m glad I’m not on the air.’ It might have been a little too much.”
Kirk Gibson was a different story.
He was there in 1988 on national television when Gibson hobbled out of the Dodgers’ dugout in Los Angeles to pinch-hit a game-winning, Game 1 World Series homer off Oakland A’s dynamic closer Dennis Eckersley, himself a future Hall of Famer.
Those were walk-off homers before there was such a thing as a walk-off homer. It would be the last of six Dodgers’ World Series wins he’d witness and call.
“In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened,” Scully said as Gibson pumped his fist and rounded the bases, Lasorda running out of the dugout to literally assault the field.
The line was iconic, and as mentioned, so…