November 29, 2010

Happy Birthday, Vin Scully!

Vincent Edward Scully celebrates his 83rd birthday today. He has been the play-by-play voice of the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers for 61 seasons -- the longest of any broadcaster with a single club in professional sports history.On September 9, 1965, Sandy Koufax took a perfect game against the Chicago Cubs into the top of the ninth inning. Los Angeles led 1-0, but the Dodgers had only one hit.

This is Scully's call of the ninth inning:
Three times in his sensational career has Sandy Koufax walked out to the mound to pitch a fateful ninth where he turned in a no-hitter. But tonight, September 9th, 1965, he made the toughest walk of his career, I'm sure, because through eight innings he has pitched a perfect game. He has struck out eleven, has retired 24 consecutive batters.

And the first man he will look at is catcher Chris Krug -- big right-hand hitter -- flied to second, grounded to short. Dick Tracewski is now at second base; and Koufax ready -- and delivers: curveball for a strike -- 0-and-1 the count to Chris Krug.

Out on deck to pinch-hit is one of the men we mentioned earlier as a "possible": Joey Amalfitano. Here's the strike one pitch to Krug: fastball, swung on and missed, strike 2.

And you can almost taste the pressure now. Koufax lifted his cap, ran his fingers through his black hair, then pulled the cap back down, fussing at the bill. Krug must feel it too as he backs out, heaves a sigh, took off his helmet, put it back on and steps back up to the plate.

Tracewski is over to his right to fill up the middle. Kennedy is deep to guard the line. The strike two pitch on the way: fastball, outside, ball 1. Krug started to go after it and held up, and Torborg held the ball high in the air trying to convince Vargo but Eddie said "No, sir."

One-and-2 the count to Chris Krug. It is 9:41 p.m. on September the 9th. The 1-2 pitch on the way: curveball, tapped foul off to the left of the plate. The Dodgers defensively in this spine-tingling moment: Sandy Koufax and Jeff Torborg -- the boys who will try and stop anything hit their way: Wes Parker, Dick Tracewski, Maury Wills and John Kennedy -- the outfield of Lou Johnson, Willie Davis and Ron Fairly.

And there's 29,000 people in the ballpark and a million butterflies: 29,139 paid. Koufax into his windup and the 1-2 pitch: fastball, fouled back out of play.

In the Dodger dugout Al Ferrara gets up and walks down near the runway, and it begins to get tough to be a teammate and sit in the dugout and have to watch.

Sandy back of the rubber now, toes it. All the boys in the bullpen straining to get a better look as they look through the wire fence in left field. One-and-2 the count to Chris Krug. Koufax, feet together, now to his windup and the 1-2 pitch: fastball outside, ball 2. [crowd boos]

A lot of people in the ballpark now are starting to see the pitches with their hearts. The pitch was outside. Torborg tried to pull it over the plate but Vargo, an experienced umpire, wouldn't go for it. Two-and-2 the count to Chris Krug. Sandy reading signs, into his windup, 2-2 pitch: fastball, got him swingin'! Sandy Koufax has struck out 12. He is two outs away from a perfect game.

Here is Joe Amalfitano to pinch-hit for Don Kessinger. Amalfitano is from Southern California, from San Pedro. He was an original bonus boy with the Giants. Joey's been around, and as we mentioned earlier, he has helped to beat the Dodgers twice, and on deck is Harvey Kuenn.

Kennedy is tight to the bag at third. The fastball, a strike. 0-and-1 with one out in the ninth inning, 1-0, Dodgers.

Sandy reading, into his windup and the strike 1 pitch: curveball, tapped foul, 0-and-2. And Amalfitano walks away and shakes himself a little bit, and swings the bat. And Koufax with a new ball, takes a hitch at his belt and walks behind the mound. I would think that the mound at Dodger Stadium right now is the loneliest place in the world. Sandy, fussing, looks in to get his sign, 0-and-2 to Amalfitano -- the strike 2 pitch to Joe: fastball, swung on and missed, strike 3!

He is one out away from the promised land, and Harvey Kuenn is comin' up. So Harvey Kuenn is batting for Bob Hendley. The time on the scoreboard is 9:44. The date, September the 9th, 1965, and Koufax working on veteran Harvey Kuenn.

Sandy into his windup and the pitch, a fastball for a strike! He has struck out, by the way, five consecutive batters, and that's gone unnoticed.

Sandy ready and the strike 1 pitch: very high, and he lost his hat. He really forced that one. That's only the second time tonight where I have had the feeling that Sandy threw instead of pitched, trying to get that little extra, and that time he tried so hard his hat fell off -- he took an extremely long stride to the plate -- and Torborg had to go up to get it. One-and-1 to Harvey Kuenn. Now he's ready: fastball, high, ball 2.

You can't blame a man for pushing just a little bit now. Sandy backs off, mops his forehead, runs his left index finger along his forehead, dries it off on his left pants leg. All the while Kuenn just waiting.

Now Sandy looks in. Into his windup and the 2-1 pitch to Kuenn: swung on and missed, strike 2! It is 9:46 p.m. Two-and-2 to Harvey Kuenn, one strike away.

Sandy into his windup, here's the pitch: Swung on and missed, a perfect game! [38 seconds of cheering]

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 29,139 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.

I remember reading this more than 20 years ago (in The Baseball Reader, edited by Charles Einstein) and being dumbfounded that this was Scully simply speaking as the inning progressed and not something he wrote down.
Cubs    - 000 000 000 - 0  0  1
Dodgers - 000 010 00x - 1 1 0
Poor Bob Hendley: 8-3-1-1-3 -- he allowed only two baserunners and the run was unearned.

In 1999, Scully wrote on the Dodgers Website:
There are a lot of times you sit in a hotel room and you can hear the meter ticking. And you begin to think about your own mortality. But I do love the game so much.
That was more than 11 years ago. In 2011, Vin Scully will return for his 62nd year with the Dodgers next spring, calling home games and road games within the NL West.
The game of baseball, I love with all my heart and soul. I found in the deep recesses of my mind that I did not want to sever the relationship. I just love it so much. It's like a very good marriage. I found when push came to shove, I just did not want to leave. My wife understood it, God bless her. She said, "If you love it, do it." So I love it and I'm going to do it.


Amy said...

Thanks for posting this. It is so moving to read. I hate to admit this, but I do not think I have ever heard Scully call a game (or when I did, it did not register with me since I rarely listen to announcers anyway). Now I hope to get the chance before he really does retire.

Thanks again!

Brad said...

I am glad that as I write this it is "as cool as the other side of the pillow" here in Dallas (my most favorite "Scullyism").

Years ago Thomas Boswell wrote a column titled "99 Reasons Baseball is Better Than Football". I don't remember many of them - but one the I do remember was "Turning the radio dial on a summer night"... I think if that often and whenever I do, it's always Vin Scully's voice that I hear.

Thanks for sharing this. He is a very special person. Happy Birthday Vin.

FenFan said...

Huh... no mention of the Amica pitch zone? Great post. Unfortunately, "calling a game" is a lost art, whether on television or the radio. Too much time spent talking nonsense or pitching products.

L-girl said...

When we first got the baseball cable package - in the days when I was able to stay up a little later - after our game ended, I loved to flip around until I found the Dodgers game, and listen to Vin for at least a few innings.

It feels like everything I love about baseball is encapsulated in his voice. I don't know if that can be true, but it feels that way as I'm listening.

Happy Birthday, Vin! We love you!

L-girl said...

Look at this:

And there's 29,000 people in the ballpark and a million butterflies: 29,139 paid.

. . .

A lot of people in the ballpark now are starting to see the pitches with their hearts. The pitch was outside.

Two little examples of how Scully weaves facts and poetry - or as they call it in his business, play-by-play and colour. You always have both - the factual details and the feel, the texture, that you need to follow the game. And he simply weaves them together while speaking extemporaneously.

Daniel said...


tim said...

Chilling. Must listen to audio now. I wish I was around to hear more of this man's game calling. Whenever I get the chance, like you said L, I try to catch a bit of Dodgers games whenever we get that feed to hear the greatness that is Vin Scully.

Honestly, it just feels so great and refreshing to watch/listen to a game he is calling. The commentary is so great and fluid, nothing sounds forced, its like listening to a great orator tell a great story.

Happy Birthday, Vin!

Mrs.GotRibe said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you. I had never had the pleasure of hearing that. Wonderful.

SoSock said...