Bill Shanks

Baseball has no greater treasure than Vin Scully

Vin Scully is working his final season as a broadcaster for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Vin Scully is working his final season as a broadcaster for the Los Angeles Dodgers. AP

Vin Scully is 88 years old. He’s a baseball announcer for the Los Angeles Dodgers. And he’s 88 years old.

Most of us hope we’re simply upright and breathing when we’re 88. Scully calls all nine innings of every Dodgers home game and a few select West Coast road games.

This is his final season, and it’s a shame. It’s sad because time inevitably catches up with everyone, even someone who might have cheated a little bit by working into his late 80s. It’s sad because the voice that represents baseball will be silenced after 67 years of calling the action.

Scully might be best known for his national broadcasts, particularly on NBC in the 1980s. He was the voice you heard when Boston’s Bill Buckner messed up that play at first base in the 1986 World Series. He was the voice you heard when Kirk Gibson hit the game-winning home run for the Dodgers against the Oakland A’s in the 1988 World Series.

He has done the NFL and golf, as well. But Scully is the “Voice of the Dodgers.” He might be the voice of baseball, but he’s the “Voice of the Dodgers.”

The past few years I’ve watched Scully a lot, on the late-night Dodgers games available on the Major League Baseball package. It’s amazing how he tells stories. He doesn’t just describe the action. Scully is a storyteller, and he will tell you tales you’ve never heard before about every player in the game.

Scully is incredible. One night, I wondered if he got his stories from the media guides. The Dodgers were playing the St. Louis Cardinals, so I got the St. Louis media guide out to see if that was where Scully got his material. Not one word. The stories Scully recited were from his research and reading but not from the media guide.

Monday night, Scully didn’t feel well. He went on the air anyway, and in the second inning, he proceeded to tell his audience that he was sorry.

“I really knew I had a sore throat,” he said, “but I wanted to see (Stephen) Strasburg and (Clayton) Kershaw so badly that I decided, ‘I’m going to go, and somehow I’ll croak my way through the game. It’ll be so exciting. I’m going to see two of the great pitchers going head-to-head.’ ”

Then Scully said that about 45 minutes before the start of the game, Strasburg was scratched due to a back ailment.

“Strasburg let me down,” Scully said. “So anyway, I’m sorry. We’ll do the best we can. Maybe I thought all of a sudden I’ll feel 100 percent, when Strasburg and Kershaw … something magical will happen.”

Then Scully paused, and obviously not feeling well at all, called himself a “dummy.”

There was something special and unique about it. In this era when many announcers are cookie-cutters and mechanical, Scully is as real as they come. He treats his audience as friends, as people who have dropped by for a drink and want to talk. He treats his listeners like individuals, and he genuinely felt bad for not sounding good Monday. So Scully decided to be honest and tell his listeners why.

Calling baseball games is not rocket science. Heck, I’ve even done it before. But Scully is Frank Sinatra. He’s Michael Jordan. We were fortunate to hear Ernie Johnson, Pete Van Wieren and Skip Caray call Atlanta Braves games for years. They were the best broadcast team in baseball history, but Scully is the best announcer the game has ever had.

When I was in Los Angeles a few weeks ago, I was able to briefly meet Scully. It was a thrill, and he was just as nice in person as he is on the air. Scully is baseball. His voice is synonymous with this sport. And boy, we sure will miss him when he’s gone.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on “Middle Georgia’s ESPN” – 93.1 FM in Macon and 99.5 FM in Warner Robins. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.

com.

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