Opinion: R.I.P., Vin Scully — the voice of the Dodgers
In my head, I can hear a 10-year-old boy saying, “Vince Gully died? How can that be? What will the Dodgers do without their announcer?” Vince Gully. That’s how people in Brooklyn, where I lived, pronounced it. That might even be the way that the Dodger announcer said it. After all, he was born and raised in the Bronx, home of the hated NY Yankees.
However, the “New Yawk” accent tended to be filtered the further that one got away from the nexus of the boroughs of Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens. Staten Island seemed to have an accent of its own, and the Bronx had a mixture of various New York accents that blended into its signal patois. Anyway, “Vince Gully” was what I heard on the radio, and everyone I knew pronounced the name that way.
The early years
Vincent (Vin) Edward Scully, the surname being of Irish origin, was born on Nov. 29, 1927. His father, a salesman, died when he was four years old. It was one of the early years of the Great Depression, and times must have been tough. Later, his mother remarried a merchant marine whom Vin always called “my dad.”
His parents moved to a location that was close to the Polo Grounds, the ballpark in Manhattan, just north of Central Park and close to the Harlem River. The Polo Grounds was home to the New York Giants, a team that Dodger fans hated even more than the Yankees. Vin Scully was an impressionable 9-year-old when he heard the second game of the 1936 World Series, a game that the Giants lost by a score of 18 to 4.
Because of the trouncing that the team took, as well as his proximity to their home field, Vin became a fan of the Giants. Because he was a member of the Police Athletic (now Activity) League and the Catholic Youth Organization, he was able to attend their games for free.
Vin attended Fordham Preparatory School, while he earned a meager income by pushing garment racks. I doubt that one could have observed this phenomenon in California. In Lower Manhattan, especially between Sixth Avenue and Ninth Avenue and between 34th Street and 42nd Street, one could see dozens of young men pushing racks of clothing by foot through traffic, delivering them from manufacturers to businesses.
After high school, Vin served two years in the U.S. Navy. Upon completing his tour of duty, he enrolled at Fordham University (like his prep school, Fordham was run by Jesuit priests). At Fordham, Vin majored in English, played center field for the Fordham Rams baseball team, sang in a barbershop quartet, and did the radio announcing for a variety of college sports.
As he approached the awarding of his degree, Vin sent about 150 letters of application to stations along the Atlantic coast. He received only one response, a Washington, D.C. station where he was hired as a fill-in announcer. CBS sports director and Dodger announcer, Red Barber recruited Vin for the station’s college football coverage. In 1950, Vin joined “the Ol’ Redhead” (Red Barber) and Connie Desmond in the Dodgers’ radio and television announcing booth. He stayed there for 67 years.
In 1957, when I learned that the Dodgers were going to move to Los Angeles, I — along with about two million other Dodger fans — plotted the most painful and horrible ways to kill Walter O’Malley, the Dodger owner who engineered the deal. That summer, the electronics company for which my father worked, offered him a substantial promotion if he’d relocate to Palo Alto, later to become Silicon Valley. So, in a sense, we followed the Dodgers to the Golden State, and to my surprise, Vin Scully was still their announcer. But, for the first time, I finally heard his name correctly pronounced.
In 1964, Vin was offered a lucrative deal to replace Mel Allen, announcer for the New York Yankees. He declined. In 1976, Los Angelenos voted him “the most memorable personality” in Dodger history. Along with baseball, over the years Vin also announced football games and PGA golf tournaments.
On Sept. 23, 2016, in a pregame ceremony, the Dodgers paid tribute to Vin’s career. The speakers included Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred, legendary pitcher Sandy Koufax, three-time Cy-Young-Award-winning current Dodger pitcher Clayton Kershaw, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, Spanish-language announcer Jaime Jarrin, Kevin Costner, who played the part of Tiger pitcher Billy Chapel in the movie, ”For Love of the Game,” and Vin, himself.
Vin called his final game two days later against the Colorado Rockies. At the conclusion, he gave a final message to his fans, millions of people across a wide variety of sports and other interests:
“You and I have been friends for a long time, but I know in my heart that I’ve always needed you more than you’ve ever needed me, and I’ll miss our time together more than I can say. But you know what? There will be a new day and eventually a new year. And when the upcoming winter gives way to spring, rest assured, once again it will be ‘time for Dodger baseball.’ So, this is Vin Scully wishing you a very pleasant good afternoon, wherever you may be.”
When Vin’s death was announced during the Dodger-Giant game on August 2, I felt as though I’d lost a friend. Rest in peace, Vince Gully.
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Jim Glynn is Professor Emeritus of Sociology. He may be contacted at email@example.com.