Vin Scully and Glimpses of Glory

Vin Scully, the long-time voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers, is arguably baseball’s greatest living announcer. It is inarguable that he is one of the game’s all time greats. His resume includes being enshrined in both the Baseball and Radio Halls of Fame. The American Sportscasters Association named him the Broadcaster of the Century in 2000 and listed him as #1 on its list of the 50 greatest broadcasters of all time. Fittingly, he has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

But when I first heard Scully as I was growing up, I knew none of this. He was simply the voice of NBC’s Game of the Week on Saturday afternoons. There was less baseball on TV then, and so the game of the week seemed to be more of a big deal. My brother and I would mow my grandma’s yard in the morning, have lunch, and then often watch as Scully called games with his partner, Joe Garagiola.

The best I can describe my memory of those experiences is that they somehow just seemed right. I don’t even remember any particular calls. I simply have general recollection of Scully’s presentation, especially his uncannily perfect cadence, one that still serves as just the right punctuation to the action on the field.

As a excellent recent essay by Sports Illustrated’s Joe Posnanski points out, Scully’s gift is not just his delivery. He also has a remarkable power to frame an experience with words—or the lack thereof. Here’s the last bit of Scully’s 1965 call of Sandy Koufax’s perfect game:

Two and two to Harvey Kuenn, one strike away. Sandy into his windup, here’s the pitch:


Swung on and missed, a perfect game.


(Thirty-eight seconds of cheering by the crowd.)


On the scoreboard in right field it is 9:46 p.m. in the City of the Angels, Los Angeles, California. And a crowd of twenty-nine thousand one-hundred thirty nine just sitting in to see the only pitcher in baseball history to hurl four no-hit, no-run games. He has done it four straight years, and now he caps it: On his fourth no-hitter he made it a perfect game. And Sandy Koufax, whose name will always remind you of strikeouts, did it with a flurry. He struck out the last six consecutive batters. So when he wrote his name in capital letters in the record books, that “K” stands out even more than the O-U-F-A-X.

Or, for those of us who are younger, here’s Scully’s call of a painfully hobbled Kirk Gibson’s miraculous, game-winning home run off Dennis Eckersly in the 1988 World Series:

All year long they looked to him (Gibson) to light the fire and all year long he answered the demands.

High fly ball into right field.

She is…gone!

[pause]

In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened.

There are moments in sports, in all facets of life really, where something barely definable flares into brilliance. These moments are stubbornly unpredictable, powerful, glorious even if in quiet ways, and always momentary. C. S. Lewis referred to the feeling they inspire as a kind of joy…though we experience it as an aching or longing for something not realized. Not yet at least.

Such experiences are meant, Lewis said, to point us beyond themselves to something even greater. They are the barest glimpses of glory, tiny windows into the consummation of God’s great redemptive work, a time when we will finally be satisfied in the deepest sense of the word.

I did not hear the above Scully calls live. I had not been born when Koufax threw his perfect game, and I saw the Gibson home run on TV, and was thus treated to another wonderful call by Jack Buck (“I don’t believe what I just saw.”). Still—and some will no doubt think it’s silly—as I read Scully’s words and either imagined or remembered the circumstances in which they came about, I had tears come to my eyes. Somehow, for someone who grew up loving baseball for so many reasons, those words with those events just seemed pitch perfect. For whatever reason, they allowed me one of those strange and wonderful glimpses. Like I said, they are stubbornly unpredictable. But they are no less welcome for it.

Posnanski writes of Scully’s call of the Gibson home run: “He will say, like he has often said before, that he still doesn’t know where that line came from. He thinks it was a gift from God.”

I think he’s right.

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