Like so many kids who grew up in the Los Angeles area in the ’80s (or the ’60s, or the ’70s, or the ’90s — well, you get the picture), for me, Vin Scully was the voice of summer. Yes, the Dodgers were our boys of summer, but the names on the backs of the jerseys frequently changed. Vin Scully, and the traditions he started and maintained, were our stability, our reassurance in turbulent times.
It wasn’t just that Vin was a great announcer. As is widely acknowledged – even by Yankees, Giants, and RedSox fans – Vin was the GOAT. He was also the embodiment of the type of brother, dad, uncle, grandfather, or friend we would all like to have, and the type of quiet leader we yearn for.
@TheVinScully was (is) the gold standard for not only baseball, but class, dignity and professionalism, period. Legend is overused, but applies here. RIP and thank you for decades of joy. You’ll be missed (but certainly remembered)!
— CaryRobinBronstein™️ (@BronsteinCary) August 3, 2022
Vin Scully was a bit of an enigma. He was exceedingly approachable, but also a man no one wanted to disappoint. He was so kind and welcoming to Dodgers players regardless of how the fan base felt that one could conclude that he was a bit of a pushover, yet he survived for 67 years in a cutthroat business, and with the same organization that employed the famously explosive Tommy Lasorda.
(Warning: Language is absolutely NSFW.)
He had a magical quality that made people feel like they knew him, and made them feel like he was family, but the one thing he regretted about his career was how many times it took him away from something he loved even more than he loved baseball — his family. He once had a medal made for his wife in recognition of all of the summer evenings she pulled parenting duty alone, and in 2006 (after 57 years in the booth) told the Los Angeles Times:
“My ache now is all the things I missed because of my job. Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, you name it.
“It has been a series of misses. And it has made my heart ache. Baseball just devours you.”
Vin was able to acknowledge the significance of certain moments, historical and otherwise, without being preachy, as when he announced Hank Aaron’s 715th home run, which broke Babe Ruth’s record.
“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 the record of an all-time baseball idol, and it is a great moment for all of us.”
Los Angeles has more than its share of racial tensions and violence, and some of the worst riots in the country (Watts and 1992 riots) took place while Scully was with the Dodgers. And, there’s a difficult history between the city’s Mexican-American community and the organization due to the manner in which the Chavez Ravine land for Dodger Stadium was acquired by the City of Los Angeles for public housing but then later sold to the Dodgers “for small consideration.” Yet Angelenos of all colors and socioeconomic backgrounds adore Scully and consider him one of their own. As LA Times columnist Bill Plaschke wrote:
His words were, indeed, the inspiration that helped a community soar, his inclusive embrace of the diverse Dodger Nation forging a connection felt far beyond the baseball field.
He spoke to all of us, in a language everyone understood, his public embracing of players from Sandy Koufax to Fernando Valenzuela to Hideo Nomo to Yasiel Puig setting the stage for Dodger Stadium to become the most Los Angeles-centric place on the planet. On any summer night, the multi-cultural crowds at Chavez Ravine look like our city because Scully made them comfortable for our city.
We don’t just consider him one of our own; we feel like we know him. As my friend Javi recalls:
The fact that you can cry for a mans death whom you never met but felt like you knew him your entire life is a beautiful thing . #ThanksforallthememoriesVin
— Javi (@fromlos) August 3, 2022
And many of us who grew up listening to Vin with our parents were able to share the magic with our own children as if we were sharing priceless family history. Because we were. (Even if some of our kids grew up to be RedSox fans.)
Scully befriended and mentored scores of Dodgers players — no matter how poorly they were received by some fans. Yasiel Puig (who I’ve always felt was misunderstood and didn’t get the support he needed, but that’s my unpopular opinion) tweeted shortly after Scully’s passing was announced:
You gave me my Wild Horse name. You gave me love. You hugged me like a father. I will never forget you, my heart is broken. My hand over your family’s hearts.
Los Angeles, I am sorry I am not there with you today to cry together. @TheVinScully @Dodgers pic.twitter.com/OgazZYQ8pU
— Yasiel Puig (@YasielPuig) August 3, 2022
Scully was so kind and unassuming that it would be easy to assume that he could be that way because he hadn’t faced many challenges in life. But perhaps it was because he had faced some of the most devastating challenges one can face in life — and refused to allow himself to become bitter or broken because of them — that he was possessed of such a genuinely compassionate and wondrous disposition.
Vin was four years old when his father, Vincent Aloysius Scully, died of pneumonia. His mother eventually remarried, and while Vin never considered Allan Reeve as a stepdad, he remembered the ache he had from not knowing his father, telling the Los Angeles Times:
“I never thought of him as a stepdad. I had an ache because I never knew my father, and it was washed away by my dad.”
In 1972 Vin’s wife of 15 years, Joan, died of an accidental medicine overdose, and he was suddenly a single father of three. Late the next year he married Sandra Hunt, a single mom of two who was the executive assistant to Carroll Rosenbloom, then the owner of the Los Angeles Rams, and they were married for 48 years when Sandi died in 2021. They had one child together.
It’s rare enough for someone in their 40s to have to bury a spouse, but Vin faced another rare heartbreak when his son, Michael, was killed in a helicopter crash in the aftermath of 1994’s Northridge earthquake.
[Michael] worked as an engineer for Arco and had been inspecting a pipeline near Fort Tejon by Interstate 5 looking for quake damage. The helicopter became entangled in wires, crashed and exploded on contact….
Michael and his wife Kathy had a 3-year-old son and Kathy was pregnant at the time with their second child. After the accident, Vin and Sandi flew in an Arco jet to Bakersfield to be with Kathy. As they were all flying back to Burbank, Kathy went into labor and was rushed to a hospital upon landing where a second son was born, premature but healthy.
Three days later, Kathy attended her husband’s funeral.
What an incredible emotional rollercoaster of a week Scully also went through, learning of his son’s death, then facing the trauma and uncertainty of the premature birth of a new grandchild, and then burying his child.
Scully credited his ability to keep going to his Catholic faith:
Thank God, my faith has always kept things in perspective. Completely. It has not wavered.
As many who have known me know, I’ve had some pain in my life. Faith is the one thing that makes it work, makes me keep going. You appreciate what you’ve been given.
You know, this isn’t the only stop on the train. There’s one big one we’re still waiting for.
Knowing these things about Vin, the expression on his face and his reaction to the overwhelming adoration poured out during the Dodgers’ Appreciation Night for him in the fall of 2016 — while he was still broadcasting — makes sense. The ceremony was a Hollywood production, blended with masterful storytelling similar to the tales Scully would relay during games.
A few things were apparent above all else to the spectators, though: Scully’s complete humility and gratitude for the life he’d been blessed with, and his devotion to his wife.
Kevin Costner’s presentation in particular blended Scully’s storytelling and Hollywood production in capturing Scully’s otherworldly talent, and is worth a watch.
We will miss you, my friend. We will miss you in our radio, in our cars, in our backyard. You’ve been a gift to Los Angeles and to baseball itself. It seems forever that you’ve been guiding us through your personal window into the game.
How lucky we were that day in Brooklyn when the microphone passed into your hands. You were the skinny redhead who stood on the shoulders of the biggest kid, ready to look through the knothole in the fence and describe for the rest of us what was going on.
You were better than a golden ticket. You invited us all to pull up a chair, spend the afternoon, and then proceeded to walk us into the next century.
When we were lost for words, you were Norman Rockwell, painting for us the pictures, describing some of baseball’s greatest moments as if they were nothing more than a familiar bedtime story.
For 67 years you managed to fool us into believing that you were just a sports announcer, when in fact you were really a poet, a wordsmith.
Dodgers fans did not want Vin to go. Sandi was already battling ALS, and Vin was getting older. But as Costner explained, our sadness at his retirement was for us, not for Vin. His closing remarks were ostensibly about Vin’s retirement, but we all knew that they were also about the farewell Vin would eventually bid us, and bade us Tuesday night.
So as the game gets closer and we know that you have to move up to the press box, don’t mind us as we turn in our seats to look one more time…. Should your mind begin to wander as innings start to slip away, we already forgive you. If the memories suddenly become too thick, then just stop and look around. You’re our George Bailey, and it has been a wonderful life.
But yours is real, Vin. Yours is real. You found your way, you found your calling. You did the work. You reached the top of your profession playing fair and never taking advantage. So we promise, we promise, we won’t be sad for you. How could we be? We’re only sad for ourselves, because we would all like to retire someday, too.
Don’t blame us for wanting to push the sun back up into the sky one more time, for asking God to give us extra innings and a Dodger win. You can’t blame us for trying to hold on to you as long as we can, and you can’t stop us from saying that we love you. So live your life, Vin. Live your life.
And Vin did — he stayed by Sandi’s side until she succumbed to ALS in 2021. He did the regular things he couldn’t when he was traveling with the team. He went with Sandi to the local Costco (I never was able to run into them there!). He gave opening day speeches to the local Little League, whose players were just as star-struck as their parents were. He spent time with his family, and at his parish in Westlake Village.
He told the LA Times’ Plaschke, “The main thing, I want people to remember me as a good man, a good husband, a good father, a good grandfather,” he said. “That’s the most important thing of all.” Oh, we do, Vin. We do.