When we think about baseball greats names such as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Jackie Robinson, Sandy Koufax, Ted Williams, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron, among many others, come to mind. The late Vin Scully never played in the big leagues but he added as much, if not more color to the game than all of the many great baseball players. I only wish the American League, because as many of you know, I am a diehard Red Sox fan, would have an announcer whose skills were equal to those of Scully.
Mr. Scully impressed me the few times I heard him broadcast. He drew an unforgettable picture of Roberto Clemente, the amazing outfielder of the Pittsburgh Pirates, when he once described his throwing arm: “Clemente could field the ball in New York and throw out a guy in Pennsylvania.” But an even more memorable statement from Mr. Scully came when the Los Angeles Dodgers played the Atlanta Braves in Atlanta on April 4th, 1974. Hank Aaron, the modest but great star of the Braves, had 714 career home runs and was tied with Babe Ruth for the most home runs ever hit by any player. At the time, many fans viewed Ruth’s record as sacrosanct, and he who dared break this unbeatable record would be committing an act of heresy. Aaron received many death threats. Sad, but unfortunately quite true. When Hank Aaron hit the 715th home run against the Dodgers, Mr. Scully was broadcasting. His reaction to this momentous occasion was the following:
“What a marvelous moment for baseball. What a marvelous moment for Atlanta and the State of Georgia. What a marvelous moment for the country and the world. A Black man is getting a standing ovation in the Deep South for breaking a record of an all time baseball idol.”
Living in Southern California I am surrounded by Dodger fans. Needless to say, I have heard and read much of Mr. Scully since he died a few days ago. The many good deeds he did for others have been echoed by friends I know. Growing up on the East Coast, I was a Red Sox fan with my second favorite team being the New York Giants. However, once the latter team relocated from New York to San Francisco I lost my allegiance to them. Nevertheless, my two favorite players of all time remain Ted Williams of the Red Sox and Willie Mays of the Giants. Much to the woe of Dodger fans, Mr. Scully proclaimed Willie Mays to be the best player he’d ever seen, and it was Willie Mays who joined Mr. Scully, in the broadcasting booth for the latter’s final game on October 2, 2016.
Thank you, Mr. Scully, for making the great game of baseball that much greater. And thank you, Mr. Scully for making baseball so understandable and exciting to those who listened to you over 67 years.