Vin Scully was Dodger baseball

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By Rowan Kavner
FOX Sports MLB Writer

Editor’s Note: Legendary Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully died Tuesday at age 94. The voice of the team for 67 years in both Brooklyn and Los Angeles, Scully retired in 2016. On July 19, FOX Sports published this story on Scully’s unparalleled legacy.

LOS ANGELES — If you’re going to Dodger Stadium, you’ll turn onto Vin Scully Avenue to enter the gates. You might pass by the Vin Scully Press Box on the way to your seat, where you’ll look up toward the left-field reserve section and see Scully’s name and microphone among the names and jersey numbers in the Dodgers’ Ring of Honor.

While Scully’s soothing voice no longer carries through transistor radios and into the ears of thousands of Dodgers fans, wishing them a very pleasant good evening, his presence is still felt six years after he called his final home game at Dodger Stadium — a day Charlie Culberson won’t soon forget.

Culberson cemented himself in Dodgers lore with a walk-off home run against the Rockies to clinch the division Sept. 25, 2016, sending Scully off in style.

It still gives Culberson chills. 

“That was how it was supposed to be,” he said. “That was how it’s supposed to end.”

Throughout Scully’s final home broadcast, Dodgers players tipped their helmets toward the broadcast booth as they walked to the plate. In the 10th inning, Culberson pulled the winning hit into the left-field pavilion, rounded the bases, two-hand tossed his helmet into the air and vanished into a sea of teammates.

“Would you believe a home run?” Scully said on the air. “The Dodgers have clinched the division and will celebrate on schedule. … What a moment to have it — and would you believe, his first home run of the year!”

A whirlwind of thoughts went through Culberson’s head as the fastball from Boone Logan left his bat at 104 mph. His walk-off home run was his first homer of any kind in two years at the major-league level, and it came against his former team. He noticed his teammates running out from the bullpen and the group waiting for him at home.

Then it hit him.

“It’s like, ‘Oh, wow, this is Vin’s last call at home — ever,” Culberson said.

The team celebrated and then stayed on the field, turning their attention to Scully. He addressed the crowd of 51,962 fans, who were primarily holding their phones up to the press box, hanging on every word as Scully humbly said he needed them more than they needed him. 

Pitcher Tyler Anderson, now a Dodgers representative in the All-Star Game, was the opposing starter for the Rockies that day. Even he remembers the weekend vividly: “Every bit of it. Everything.”

He recalled the Sunday walk-off as well as the nights prior, including the adoring tribute to Scully from Kevin Costner on the field at Dodger Stadium. Costner expressed his thanks for the Hall of Fame broadcaster, who for 67 years “found a way to put us all in the batter’s box, put us all on the mound.”

“At the end of it, he’s like, ‘All we can hope for is when Sunday comes around, we get a little extra free baseball,’” Anderson remembered. “Of course, we play that game, it’s a close game, we go into extras, and Charlie Culberson, ex-Rockie, hits a walk-off homer against us.”

Culberson had just 80 regular-season at-bats in his career as a Dodger, bouncing between Los Angeles and Triple-A Oklahoma City. His only two homers came on that unforgettable day and in the 2017 World Series. These days, he quips that he timed those homers well.

He also still receives messages from Dodgers fans who tell him he’s missed or where they were in the stadium when he hit that home run. It was the biggest moment of his 10-year career, but Culberson knows the memory also belongs to the thousands of Dodgers fans who listened to Scully for more than six decades.

“To be able to have a piece with him, with his legacy and career, is pretty incredible,” he said. 

*** *** ***

Peter O’Malley first got to know Scully in 1956, six years after Scully’s Dodgers broadcasting career began when he was 22 years old. The Dodgers were going on a goodwill tour to Japan. O’Malley’s father, Walter, who owned the Dodgers at the time, asked Scully if it would be all right for Peter to room with him.

More than 60 years later, Peter considers Vin his longest-term best friend.

“In one word, I would summarize the word ‘genuine’ for him,” O’Malley said. “With friends, with family, with fans, people he’s never met, people on the other end of the television set, his credibility comes with being honest and genuine, along with his extraordinary talents weaving into the broadcast and telecasts stories, accounts of personalities that he recalls. He has an amazing recall to this day.”

Scully would recount the time he encouraged everyone at the Coliseum to sing happy birthday to an umpire. He told tales of the time he raced Jackie Robinson on ice skates in the Catskill Mountains and how young Dodger outfielder Gene Hermanski came up with the idea for the entire team to wear No. 42 after a threatening letter was sent to Robinson in Cincinnati.

He would also tell the story of a little, redheaded boy who passed a laundry store on Oct. 2, 1936, and saw the score of the New York Yankees beating the New York Giants 18-4 in the World Series. The boy felt pity for the Giants and became a fan of theirs — until he was hired by the Dodgers as a broadcaster 14 years later.

Scully would become the link between Brooklyn and Los Angeles, from Ebbets Field to Dodger Stadium, from Robinson to Sandy Koufax and Clayton Kershaw. Every Dodgers fan has a Scully memory that sticks with them. 

For Dodgers team historian Mark Langill, that moment came in 2016. Langill was supposed to take a picture with the Hall of Fame broadcaster, and he thought he should get some sort of prop to break the tension. Knowing the childhood fandom, he figured a 1936 New York Giants replica hat made sense.

“He looks at it and says, ‘Why is it blue?’ I said, ‘Well, they wore blue in ‘36 and ‘37,’” Langill said. “I didn’t realize, as a kid, if he’s just reading the newspaper, he didn’t know that. So, he turns to his wife and says, ‘Sandi, let’s put this in a safe place.’”

During Scully’s final broadcast, Langill was sent a photograph of the hat sitting next to Scully’s scorebook.

“In the fourth inning, he has a break, he tells the story, he holds up the hat,” Langill said. “He’s got Larry Baer, the Giants president, and he says, ‘I bet Larry Baer didn’t know that, but Mark Langill knew that.’ I’m like, you’ve got to be kidding me. I worshiped this guy when I was a kid, and he tells that story in his last broadcast. I still can’t believe that happened. It’s emotional to talk about because how does something like that happen?”

As the voice of the Dodgers, Scully didn’t need to overstate what he was watching. He let each moment live and breathe — from Koufax’s perfect game to Hank Aaron’s 715th home run to Kirk Gibson’s World Series walk-off, which led to his iconic call: “In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened!”

It’s that call that stands out most to O’Malley, who won’t forget the aftermath. 

“His wife, Sandi, is with us, sitting with my wife and I, and boom — the stadium erupts,” O’Malley recalled. “The game’s over, and we wait for the crowd. We’re in no hurry. We’re all excited. About 10 or 15 minutes later, he walks over from his booth into our box, and I can see him coming through the door now with that smile. His face, I have never seen him more excited in my life than he was after that moment.”

O’Malley, who would later own the Dodgers, also recalls walking around the Coliseum and Dodger Stadium and hearing exactly what was going on from listening to the thousands of transistor radios tuned in to Scully’s voice. Fans watched the game in person but still wanted Scully to narrate what they saw. They felt they were listening to a friend. The rare format, with Scully solo at the microphone, played a major role in that.

“You felt like you knew him, even though you may not have met him,” Langill said. “You always had that sense that he was being straight with you and that he was being honest in terms of what was happening.”

In 1976, Scully was voted the “most memorable personality” in Dodgers history.

“His credibility and the love for him, he’s in a category by himself,” O’Malley said. 

*** *** ***

Culberson is a collector. Among his favorite items, he possesses a signed Hank Aaron jersey and some signed baseball cards from Kershaw. He also has the baseball from his daughter’s first pitch in Atlanta. After his unforgettable walk-off homer, he thought he’d add to his collection. 

With Scully’s last season wrapping up in San Francisco, Culberson went to the booth and got the bat signed by Scully.

“We got a chance to catch up for a few minutes, and that was pretty special,” Culberson said. 

It was also special for Scully. Exactly 80 years from the day he fell in love with baseball seeing that Giants score in the laundry store, he wrapped up his Hall of Fame career, serendipitously, in a game between the Dodgers and Giants. In his final call, he wished the fans a very pleasant good afternoon.

Six years later, on another pleasant afternoon, it’s time for All-Star baseball at Dodger Stadium. And reminders of the legendary voice are everywhere — from signs to mementos to the people whose lives he touched every day.

“Vin Scully is the greatest of all time, period,” Koufax said when his statue was unveiled at Dodger Stadium this year. “No discussion. It’s him.”

Rowan Kavner covers the Dodgers and NL West for FOX Sports. A proud LSU alumnus, he credits his time as a sportswriter and editor at The Daily Reveille for preparing him for a career covering the NFL, NBA and MLB. Prior to joining FOX, he worked as the Dodgers’ editor of digital and print publications. When not at a stadium or watching sports, Rowan enjoys playing with his dog, hiking, running, golfing and reminiscing about the Mavs’ 2011 championship run. You can find him on Twitter at @RowanKavner.


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