With the death yesterday of the inimitable Vin Scully comes endless memories, led by his use of language

When I got up early this morning, I walked slowly, still half asleep to my desk. There was a note left behind by my wife with three words, “Vin Scully died.” It took a few seconds to absorb. As my eyes welled up, I immediately asked myself, where do I start? I hadn’t cried liked this since the death of my dad 35 years ago.

Bottom line. Sports’ best ever announcer had so much to give and did. Beginning in the early 80s, I kept lots of notes covering his amazing descriptions, perfect intonation, articulation and pitch. El Perfecto to say the least! A God given gift.

I was doing business with KABC Radio at the time and got to know one of its executives Cliff Levine. On one of my trips to LA, Cliff introduced me to his son, Ken Levine, who himself did some MLB broadcasting, Seattle, San Diego and Baltimore.

One project on which Ken and I collaborated on was listing Vin’s rich use of the language. When apt, he came up with the best word and seamlessly so. We printed it on these digital pages in 2018

So on this day, the morning after the great man’s death, SBJ is re-running the piece – as a first in our tribute! We’ll also be hearing from Curt Smith, the Voices of the Game who also did a bio on Scully.

Vin Scully dies at 94; Born November 29, 1927, Died August 2, 2022. Rest in peace.


Like music aficionados studying notes of classical composers or art devotees examining strokes of the old masters, some seriously aspiring play-by-play announcers break down the brilliant work of the great sportscasting architects. They’re hoping to pick up  the finer points for instructional purposes; be it about voice inflections, proper pausing, descriptive phrasing, spinning yarns or delivering punchlines.

Vin Scully

No one in play-by-play history did it any better than Vin Scully, a once in a century talent who was born with a gift; nurtured it, strengthened it and perfected it. Vin always had a fitting, economized and concise call. He always worded it extemporaneously, in ways that served a broad audience; from the erudite to the blue collar. No constituency felt left out.  He was loved by the professorial types on the campuses and the guys getting their hands greasy under the hood. In that way, Vin Scully defined sophistication.

Ken Levine, an award winning Hollywood scriptwriter, himself a fine MLB play-by-play announcer with San Diego, Seattle and Baltimore, grew up in Los Angeles.

He studied Scully and we collectively bundled a list of 100 adages, descriptive phrases and aphorisms that Scully adlibbed through his 67 years on-air. (My apologies to Vin if there are a few off kilter.)


Collection of Scullyisms:

  1. Today the crowd is like wallpaper


  1. The fans are screaming themselves weak


  1. A flame burns brightest just before it goes out.


  1. The photographers have formed a crescent shaped moon as they snap away at the dignitaries on the field


  1. He finished the game on a whimper/flourish


  1. (Weddings and celebrations): They never grow old


  1. Statistics are used the way a drunk uses a lamppost, for support not for illumination


  1. The roar of the crowd is always sweet music.


  1. Fans are booing lustily


  1. The crowd is getting somewhat mutinous


  1. A pleasant zephyr is wafting toward right field


  1. He’s looking to break the shackles of a galling slump


  1. It’s a steamy day and fans in the bleachers are using their scorecards to fan themselves. From here it looks like a thousand butterflies


  1. Wigwags a sign


  1. He said something untoward to the umpire


  1. Breaking the hearts of all of Los Angeles


  1. As the song goes, ‘Saturday night is the loneliest night of the year.’ But not tonight at Dodger Stadium, when the Giants are in town


  1. It was one of those things that he won’t forget. It stuck to his ribs.


  1. Fans screaming for all their worth


  1. (Vin tells a man in an elevator who’s about to get married): Marriage is man’s most optimistic undertaking


  1. Bless his heart


  1. (Impossible situation for a relief pitch)  You wouldn’t turn over this spot to a leopard


  1. The mound is now the loneliest place in the world


  1. (Final weeks of his career when Vin’s being interviewed endlessly): My suit is fading because of too much spotlight


  1. (A player listed as day-to-day): Aren’t we all?


  1. Pull up a chair. It’s just the start of things.


  1. (Long silence as crowd roars after Vin called Henry Aaron’s record breaking homerun): I do what I do best. I shut up.


  1. Quivering like a horse shaking off a bothersome fly


  1. The only thing I hate is the loneliness of the road


  1. The roar of the crowd is intoxicating


  1. (Kirk Gibson grand-slam): He used the bat as a cane as he walked to the plate


  1. (Gibson homerun): In the year of the improbable the impossible happened


  1. (The photographers are flashing away under a clear nighttime sky.):  It’s like opening a jewel box. The stadium is sparkling


  1. (Milwaukee-St. Louis World Series – 2 beer capitals): There will be no bad hops in this series


  1. In the shadow, he (the pitcher) looks like 6 o’clock on the mound


  1. (After Fernando Valenzuela’s no-hitter): If you have a sombrero toss it to the sky


  1. On radio you’re a puncher. On television, you’re a counter puncher


  1. The crowd is now emptying its lungs


  1. He’s jumping up and down like he was standing on burning coal


  1. This series has turned into an emotional rollercoaster


  1. In this din, the manager in the dugout can’t get the attention of the umpire. It’s like the guy in the balcony winking at the showgirl


  1. (Talking about an old-timer): He’s in great shape. He looks great. He still has a washboard stomach


  1. He waved the lamb chop in front of the wolf


  1. The crowd seeing it with its heart not its eyes


  1. The skies are a pewter gray


  1. (As the Dodgers were about to be quickly eliminated from a playoff series in St. Louis): The Dodgers will tiptoe their way home


  1. He runs his fingers through his black hair, tugs at the bill of his cap and fusses with the pants at the waste


  1. (Great catch by a leaping outfielder, elongating his arm and bending his hand backward over the wall): He goaltended it!


  1. (In LA on opening day under sunny conditions and temperatures in the 70s): The out of town scoreboard reads more like a weather report; the Mets at Philadelphia postponed snow – Cleveland at Baltimore – postponed freezing rain


  1. He’s pitching so quickly, you would think he was double-parked


  1. As long as you live, keep smiling. It brightens everyone’s day


  1. It’s a great time of year, if you can stand it!


  1. I guess my thermometer for baseball fever is still a goose bump.


  1. If you want to make God smile, tell him your plans.


  1. You can almost taste the pressure now


  1. Good is not good when better is expected


  1. Don’t let the winds blow your dreams away


  1. Don’t be afraid to dream, because it can happen.


  1. The Dodgers have been such a .500 team this season, they might even find a way to split a three-game series.


  1. Some people die twice: once when they retire, and again when they actually pass away. Fear of the first one is a big incentive for me to keep working.


  1. The sky is a cerulean blue.


  1. Squeeze the juice out of life before life squeezes the juice out of you.


  1. He toppled over like a statue.


  1. (The Astrodome): The great indoors of Texas.


  1. There are so many injuries the team photo looks like an X-Ray


  1. (Re: Yasiel Puig): The wild horse is loose.


  1. (Re: a knuckle ball): It looks like a ping pong ball coming out of a revolving door


  1. He swung at an echo.


  1. (An outfielder at the wall trying to make an impossible catch): Like someone in a dark closet reaching with one arm to get his bearings


  1. (Rollie Finger’s handlebar moustache): He looks like a man in search of a barbershop quartet


  1. The catcher is shuffling cards behind the plate


  1. (With a 2-2 count, 2 on, any combination of 2s): Deuces wild


  1. (After a lopsided loss): It’s best to just walk away from the wreckage


  1. (The shaky pitcher): He’s walking on a tightrope in a typhoon


  1. (A player who had a big game yesterday but went 0-5 today): He went from the penthouse to the cellar


  1. It sounded like he hit that with the morning paper


  1. (A pitcher in trouble): He must feel like alligators are nipping at his heels


  1. He was gesturing like a Philadelphia lawyer


  1. (The leaping infielder): he had to go up the ladder to get it.


  1. Nothing but goose eggs on the scoreboard


  1. Nothing but smoke rings on the scoreboard


  1. (A picked-off runner): He was hung out to dry


  1. The pitcher threw a little soap-bubble over to first


  1. (A reliable hitter who drove in runs): The butter and egg man


  1. (A player doing well): The big man on campus


  1. (Strong forearms): Like Popeye’s.


  1. (After Don Drysdale kicks the dirt): Drysdale is so mad he almost kicked 20 feet of the Coliseum out of the park


  1. He’s so angry, he’s appealing to the gods


  1. He’s hot and his head is jerking a mile a minute


  1. (Umpire surrounded by an angry contingent of players, coaches and the manager): Umpire Ed Sudol is in the midst of lions


  1. (Angry manager after disputed home run call determined to hit the foul pole): The veins on both sides of his neck are bulging like the cables that hold up the leftfield screen


  1. (Giants manager Bill Rigney angry over a call): He’s so angry. He’s about ready to eat his eyeglasses


  1. (Dodger manager Walter Alston winning an argument with an umpire): He walks away like a Philadelphia lawyer who has just won his case


  1. (Argument continues) He slams his hat down and his gray hair is glistening under the lights


  1. (Argument continues) Rigney with a big sweeping gesture


  1. (Argument continues) He bows at the waste with a sweeping right hand


  1. (Argument continues) He’s gesturing like a mad traffic cop


  1. (Argument begins to conclude): Manager Rigney walks away with a hopeless gesture


  1. (Arguing concludes after umpires change their minds twice): Willie Mays is at second base with the loudest double ever heard in Southern California


  1. (93,000 fans in the Coliseum light matches in prayer and tribute for paralyzed Roy Campanella):The matchlights are starting to come out like thousands of fireflies
David J. Halberstam

David is a 40-year + industry veteran who served as play-by-play announcer for St. John's University basketball in New York and as radio play-by-play voice of the Miami Heat in South Florida. He is the author of Sports on New York Radio: A Play-by-Play History and The Fundamentals of Sports Media and Sponsorship Sales: Developing New Accounts.

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Michael Green
1 year ago

One night, a ground ball went through the shortstop’s legs, and he said, “What ho! What ho! What men are these, who use their legs as parentheses?”

A player hit on the head by a pitch heard “the tintinnabulation of the bells,” and then he would duly credit Edgar Allen Poe.

We also should honor his “moments.” He once called the farm team the Albukookie Durks, and on CBS welcomed people to the San Duegi Open. He did mention when he was a young announcer, tried to say, “Hot shot hit foul,” and didn’t.