One of the Greatest Sports Broadcasters of All Time
With his recent passing, the voice of baseball, owned and operated by the legendary announcer Vin Scully, was finally extinguished.
Described as the “soundtrack of summer,” Scully broadcasted for the Dodgers baseball team for 67 years to the delight of fans across the league. “Pull up a chair and spend the day with us.” His words are imprinted on the minds of baseball fans across the globe. Scully, who called some of the greatest moments in baseball history, was considered by peers, players, and fans as one of the greatest broadcasters in all of sports.
What made him so great?
Scully had a distinctive and soothing voice and combined that quality with a curiosity for the unusual story and anecdote. His ability to tell a story eloquently, sometimes across several pitches or innings, was nothing less than magical.
But what stood out about him most was not how he vocalized baseball insights, but how he kept his own ego out of his commentary. In a game full of status and privilege, Scully never sought out attention for himself. He brought an unusual humility to his craft. People loved him because he made it about them and kept himself out of the picture.
“I always wanted to make sure I could push the game and players rather than me,” he told one interviewer. He reached an exalted position by purposely not talking about himself.
Later in his career, he was asked to give the commencement speech at his alma mater Fordham University. He told the graduates, “I’m not a military general, a business guru, not a philosopher or author. It’s only me.” By that time, he was already considered one of the best voices in all of sports.
At every opportunity, Scully poked fun at himself. In a well-known example, Scully described his assessment of legendary pitcher Sandy Koufax during his Dodgers' tryout. “Nothing special.” He didn’t see promise in the young prospect. “What a scout I am,” he told everyone for decades, as Koufax became the most prolific pitcher in Dodgers' history. He consistently underplayed his own skills so he could highlight the talents of others.
In his final broadcast in 2016, the players on both teams looked up to the broadcast booth and, before each at-bat, tipped their caps in respect to him. It took Scully more than an inning to notice. He was bewildered by why they thought so highly of him. For more than half a century, his genuine modesty made him easy to like and to listen to.
Signing off in that last game, Scully told his listeners, “You and I have been friends for a long time. But I know in my heart that I’ve always needed you more than you’ve ever needed me.”
As one writer described him that day, Scully “was an eloquent and humorous reminder that we are strongest with humility and empathy.” For Vin Scully, like so many great leaders, humility was not about thinking less about himself. It was about speaking about himself less.