Guest Columnist

An admirer of Vin Scully and a UNLV professor, tells how he met the Hall of Famer while a toddler

In August 2022, Jon Weisman, who has written beautiful essays on Vin Scully for his DodgerThoughts blog and book 100 Things Dodgers Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die, wrote, “I didn’t know when it was coming, but I knew it was coming.” He mentioned how Scully played no role, not even a voiceover video, when the club retired the number of Gil Hodges upon his election to the Baseball Hall of Fame—an election that Scully long had championed. When Weisman cried, as so many of us did, he said, “Good Lord, Vin has been there my whole waking life.”

Two legends, Scully embracing Sandy Koufax

Indeed, Scully set what seems like an unbreakable record by broadcasting for the Dodgers for 67 seasons, though his friend and Dodger colleague Jaime Jarrín came close, retiring after 64 years at the end of the 2022 season. The numbers are incredible: Scully broadcast longer after winning the Ford Frick Award from Cooperstown in 1982 than he had before receiving the honor. His longest-tenured partner, Jerry Doggett, worked with him for just over 31 seasons while Rick Monday was with him for nearly 24 seasons, and they didn’t even overlap. Johnny Carson hosted The Tonight Show for 30 years; Scully did Dodgers games more than twice as long.

But there is more to Scully. Ross Porter, who worked with him for 28 years, said that he never saw Scully be impolite to anyone he met—ever. David Halberstam has referred on this site to how “Scully was a humble man. He was especially warm to those who just wanted to say hello.” This is the story of someone who wanted to say hello, and didn’t.

In 1973, an eight-year-old boy walked into the kitchen, where his father sat by a transistor radio. He asked his dad what he was doing. He replied that he was listening to the Dodgers. The boy sat down and became mesmerized. That evening, he decided that he wanted to grow up to be the Dodgers broadcaster. He sent a fan letter to Scully, who sent back a reply. It was boiler-plate stuff—the envelope included the Dodgers newsletter, an autographed photo, other information, and a letter, signed by Scully, advising the youngster to major in English and minor in radio.

The next year, the family drove from Las Vegas to Los Angeles so the boy, now nine, could attend his first major league game. The seats were great—on the press box level, the Dodgers had club seats, and the boy’s grandfather had spent nearly a decade as head of security for Union Bank. Walter O’Malley sat on the bank’s board, so the family had a great location. When they arrived at Dodger Stadium, the boy’s parents informed him of a surprise. They had written to Scully, who had said, “Bring him up to the booth.” So they stood outside the booth and waited.

An elevator door opened. Out came Scully, holding hands with his wife Sandi, who was noticeably pregnant—even the nine-year-old boy could figure that out. The grandfather, once a New York policeman, stepped forward, introduced himself, and said he had directed traffic outside Ebbets Field. Scully said, “I remember you!” (How could he have?) and shook his hand before going into the booth.

Then the door opened and a guard beckoned. The little boy, wearing a Dodger helmet and glove, walked forward. Scully looked down at him and said, “So you’re the guy who wants my job!” The boy didn’t say hello. He didn’t say anything. He gaped.

Scully brought him into the booth and introduced him to Jerry Doggett. He did the opening of the pre-game show with the boy standing next to him. The boy then joined his family and they went to their seats.

Could the night have gotten better? Yes. In the 4th inning, the grandfather asked his daughter, “Do you think he can get a foul ball up here?” She replied, “The roof is so low.” The next pitch was fouled into that section. It bounced around, hit the boy’s helmet, and landed in his father’s lap. The next day, they drove home.

The ball sits on my bookcase. Vin’s autographed photo looks down at my desk. I didn’t become the Dodger broadcaster, obviously. One day, after my voice changed, I recorded myself broadcasting half an inning, then rewound it, listened to the tape for 10 seconds, stopped it, and decided to pursue another career. I’m a history professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Usually—not always—I give good course evaluations. They often mention that I’m entertaining or a good storyteller. Only after I was in this line of work for a while did I read a book and blog posts by Ken Levine, the longtime television and movie writer who followed his dream and became a major league baseball broadcaster. He talked about how Vin influenced not just his love for the game and how he announced, but how he tells a story as a writer.

Anyone who listens to or watches sports on television has encountered people influenced by Vin—Bob Costas, Al Michaels, and the late Dick Enberg immediately come to mind. But Vin influenced a lot of people who never broadcast a baseball game or any other sporting event, not just by entertaining them, but by teaching them how to talk and think, how to tell a story. As his mentor Red Barber said of another great storyteller, Red Smith, he remains a lighted lamp as I continue walking.

Michael Green

Michael Green is an associate professor of history at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. His specialties are Nevada history and 19th century America, but as a onetime wannabe sportscaster, he also plans to write about the history of baseball broadcasting.

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