Hunt for a Red October
Los Angeles Dodgers’ fans hope announcer Vin Scully calls as many postseason games as possible.
Legendary announcer Vin Scully has called Dodgers’ games for an amazing 64 years, the longest-announcing tenure in Major League Baseball history. Dodgers’ fans were excited to hear in August that Scully will be returning for his 65th season next year, but they presently hope to extend this season as far as possible.
Blue Dodgers’ uniforms aside, such an extension could be called a red October, because of Scully’s ruddy hair. The Bronx native has become so closely associated with the Dodgers that no visual of him is necessary. A single word spoken by the 85-year-old immediately brings to mind the face — and the head — that are trademarks of Dodgers baseball.
Scully’s illustrious career has included broadcasting some of the most exciting baseball moments of the past six decades, including perfect games from Don Larsen and Sandy Koufax, six Dodgers World Series championships and Hank Aaron’s record-breaking 715th homerun.
Scully, whose voice is known as the “Soundtrack to Summer” in Los Angeles, spoke of his reliance on God throughout his career with Register correspondent Trent Beattie. This was before the Dodgers knew they would be playing the Atlanta Braves in the first round of the playoffs.
As the Dodgers are heading into their final regular season series this weekend, what do you think of their chances in the postseason?
Looking at pitching, the Dodgers’ starting rotation has six All-Star appearances and two Cy Young Awards. A great pitching staff can take you a long way. Aside from that, something interesting about our pitchers is that they actually hit fairly well, which is always a plus.
Four hitters, including two who have been in our regular lineup, are hitting well above .300. We also have five additional players hitting above .270, so they really have great potential to score a lot of runs. However, all the other teams in the playoffs will have great hitting and pitching as well, so whomever we face, it should be entertaining.
What first drew you to a broadcasting career in the late 1940s?
As a youngster in the 1930s, I would crawl under our four-legged radio and listen to the college football games that were broadcast on Saturdays. At that time, the only sports on radio were college football games. I was enthralled by the roar of the crowd — not the games themselves, but the crowd. The enthusiasm expressed by so many fans really drew me in and captured my imagination.
When I was 8 years old in the Bronx, my class wrote compositions for Sister Virginia Maria of the Sisters of Charity about what we wanted to be when we grew up. All the boys wanted to be policemen, firemen, doctors, etc. However, I wrote about being a radio sports announcer. It wasn’t what Sister Virginia expected to read about, but it turned out to be something I was actually able to do.
Were you a natural speaker, or did you have to work at it?
I was told when traveling in Ireland as a boy that I had a lovely Irish brogue — a naturally pleasing voice and manner of speaking. I thought of my own speaking ability as somewhat ordinary, but maybe it’s a combination of natural talent and diligent preparation for something I enjoyed talking about: sports in general and baseball in particular. I just knew those radio broadcasts were something I wanted to be a part of.
How did you get to be the youngest-ever World Series broadcaster (25 years old) in 1953?
Red Barber was the primary announcer for the Dodgers at the time, but he was at a standstill in negotiations with Gillette, which ran the World Series then. Neither side would budge, so the next person on the list was Connie Desmond, who also had a poor relationship with Gillette.
I was third on the list and was asked by Gillette to announce the World Series that year. I was reluctant to take Red’s job because he had already helped me out so much in my short career. I asked him about the situation, and he assured me that it would be okay to take his place. He said that if I didn’t do it, someone else would, so I might as well go ahead.
That might be considered the first milestone in a legendary career. What are some of the others you remember fondly?
There are so many opportunities I’ve been blessed with in my career. In 1955, the Brooklyn Dodgers defeated the Yankees 2-0 in the seventh game of the World Series. I got to announce on the radio that the Dodgers were the champions of the world that year and did so again in ’59, ’63, ’65, ’81 and ’88.
The victory in ’81 was significant because of how we were beaten in previous World Series outings in ’77 and ’78. Tommy Lasorda, the manager of the team at the time, wanted to beat the Yankees very badly. He asked God that such an opportunity would come about again. His prayer was answered in 1981, and he attributes the Dodgers’ World Series victory that year to God.
Tommy liked to say “Because God delays does not mean God denies.” In other words, you might not achieve something the first time around, but God, in his providence, might allow opportunities to do so later on.
On an individual player level, some of the most significant pitching performances I got to call were Don Larsen’s perfect game in 1956 and Sandy Koufax’s in 1965. Some of the most significant hitting performances were Henry Aaron’s record-breaking 715th home run in 1974 and Kirk Gibson’s amazing homer in the 1988 World Series.
All these performances were great from an athletic perspective, but Aaron’s home run was so significant from a cultural one as well. There in the deep South, a black man was given a standing ovation for breaking a white legend’s record. It was a marvelous thing to be a part of.
What do you appreciate most about being part of the Catholic Church?
I feel a tremendous degree of comfort in the Catholic Church. It’s where I’ve grown up, where I’ve had the most important moments of my life. I’ve benefitted from the dedication of the nuns in grammar school, the reception of the sacraments and a rich tradition of prayer that you can take with you no matter where you are.
When my wife, Joan, died in 1972 at the age of 35, I was devastated, as were our children. We didn’t stop praying, though. The worst thing you can do in times of trial is to stop praying. The tough moments are when you need God the most. He’s always there and more than happy to give us his help; we need only ask for it.
There are so many good things about the Church, but that might be the most essential thing I’ve learned from it: the importance of continual communication with God. That’s what all the kneelers, candles, incense, stained-glass windows, holy water and other things are about: directing our minds and hearts to God.
There are many saints named Vincent — Vincent de Paul, Vincent Ferrer and Vincent of Lerins, for example. Do you have a favorite?
I’m not one to alienate any saint who could help me, especially those who share my name, so I’ll take the intercession of all the Vincents. In addition to the Vincents, St. Jude’s prayers are known for packing a wallop, so I’ll take his help as well.
The one saint everyone should have a devotion to is the Blessed Virgin Mary. It has been said, and I believe it to be true, that her prayers are more powerful than those of the rest of heaven combined. No one was closer or more devoted to Christ on earth, so it only makes sense to see the same thing in heaven. Now, the Blessed Virgin seeks to help her spiritual children get home to spend eternity with her Son.
While it’s not quite eternity, you’ve been with the Dodgers for 64 years. Did you ever think you’d be with any team for that long?
The Dodgers brought me in on a temporary basis in early 1950. I worked at their spring training facility in Vero Beach, Fla. It was a trial period, so they could have left me in the Everglades with the alligators. Fortunately, I caught on and have been with the team ever since.
When I was first starting out in the business, I never, ever thought I’d be doing this for 64 years with one team. It never crossed my mind. It was a day-to-day existence back then, and it is so today. You show up and do what today demands, not really looking too far ahead. Eventually, you’re able to look back and see all the days added together, which present a beautiful tapestry of life.
Register correspondent Trent Beattie writes from Seattle.