Today is retired LA Dodger announcer Vin Scully’s 91st birthday. He is an amazing personality not only in baseball but all sports. For years, he was the TV announcer for the World Series games and always provided an informative and entertaining telecast. He broadcasted for 67 seasons, a record for any announcer in any sport.
The living baseball legend called Don Larson’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series, four Sandy Koufax no hitters including a perfect game against the Cubs in 1965, Hank Aaron’s 715th home run in 1974, the hobbled Kirk Gibson’s epic World Series Game 1 walkoff homer in 1988 ("In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened") and many more classic baseball moments.
He wasn’t as flamboyant as Harry Carry or Bob Uecker, but his amazing stories were the greatest. To quote MLB.com, "You could build Vin Scully's legacy with his calls of some of baseball's most iconic moments -- the walk-offs, the perfect games, the World Series wins. But what made him so special, what made him America's voice, has always been his ability to fill in the gaps with bits and pieces that breathe new life into the game, day after day, for more than six decades. The man could turn a grocery list into poetry.” A couple examples follow:
Normandy Invasion Heroics:
On the 71st anniversary of the Allied invasion of Normandy during World War II, Scully made sure his audience wouldn't go uninformed, sprinkling anecdotes from that fateful day throughout the game. Ever the showman, in the 8th inning, Scully told the tale of Lt. Col. John Malcolm Thorpe Fleming Churchill, otherwise known as "Mad Jack.”
Jack, as you may have guessed, more than lived up to his name: "He actually jumped from his landing craft with a sword in hand," Scully explained. "He also threw a grenade for good measure as he ran towards the battle, and he managed to capture over 40 German officers at sword point during one raid.”
He closed the game by telling of a young author, slated to land on Utah Beach on the frontlines of the invasion. But ocean currents that morning pushed his vessel further down the coast, and he and his fellow soldiers ended up reaching land at a point less-heavily defended by the Germans, helping him survive the day. The author's name? J.D. Salinger, and he happened to have the draft of the first six chapters of "Catcher in the Rye" in his backpack the entire time.
MADBUM Madison Bumgarner:
“During spring training in Arizona, Bumgarner and his wife were roping cattle, which is what they do—one-one pitch. Sinker low ball. Two and one—and they were startled by a large snake. And Madison thought it was a rattlesnake, so he grabbed an ax and hacked the snake to pieces. But there’s something more to this story—low ball pitch. Low. Ball three. Three and one—His wife Ali examined what was left of the snake, she found two baby jackrabbits. And after she extracted them—three one pitch to Turner. Way inside. Ball four—she noticed that one of the rabbits was alive. Well his wife brought the rabbit back to their apartment, the next days they kept it warm, bottle nursed it, and the rabbit was soon healthy enough that they released it into the wild.”
Jackie Robinson #42
“It was in the early ’50s, I was traveling with the ball club and we were in Cincinnati. Now, Jackie Robinson had received a lot of threatening letters, but when we got to Cincinnati, they really took a particular letter very, very seriously... And the Dodgers were having their usual pregame meeting, although on that particular day that meeting was very tense. And it was very serious as you can imagine, talking about what might happen, what disaster might occur to Jackie Robinson... In the middle of these tense discussions, [Gene] Hermanski said ‘I’ve got it!’ and everything stopped and everybody looked at Gene and he said, ‘let’s all wear number 42...’ And it came to pass, years later, where indeed, like Gene Hermanski said, everybody should wear 42.”
Willie Mays Greatest Catch:
“I was also privileged to see Willie make the greatest catch of his career, and he agrees with me that it was. No, not the catch in the World Series against Vic Wertz and Cleveland, I'm talking a Dodger-Giants game at Ebbets Field. Dodgers trailing by a run, bases loaded and two out. We had a young third baseman out of Oklahoma by the name of Bobby Morgan and Morgan hit a line drive out to left center. As soon as the ball left the bat you knew it was an extra base hit. Everybody knew that, except Willie. And Willie, running as hard as he can, left his feet, parallel like an arrow throughout the air, and caught the ball. In those days, certainly at Ebbets Field, we had a gravel warning track. So Willie, going head first, hit that gravel and then bounced head first into the wall. And he was not wearing a helmet. They didn't wear helmets in those days. He hit the wall and rolled over onto his back. The left fielder was a fella named Henry Thompson for the Giants. Henry came over, bent down, there was Willie, unconscious, holding the ball on his chest, and Henry reached down, held it up for the umpires. ‘Out,’ for Bobby Morgan. And that, was the greatest single catch I've ever seen.”
Friday the 13th:
"It's pretty hard to figure out, and in doing a little research about why and how Friday the 13th became such a superstition. You have to go back to an 1869 biography of a musician, where they referred to it as a bad day... in numerology, the No. 12 is considered completeness. You know 12 months of the year, 12 hours on the clock, 12 gods of Olympus, 12 tribes of Israel, the 12 apostles of Jesus, the 12 successors of Mohammed in Shia Islam, the 12 signs of the Zodiac, for that matter as well... The number 13 is considered irregular. You might not know it, I never did, in Spanish speaking countries, instead of Friday, Tuesday the 13th is considered a day of bad luck. Tuesday the 13th. I never knew that.”
"The legacy of Yogi Berra, I believe, as long as people talk about the game, whenever they mention the name Yogi Berra, they will smile. Because he was that kind of a human being. Don Mattingly played with him, knew him so very, very well -- Don usually wears a windbreaker, but he is not wearing the windbreaker tonight. He is proud to wear the No. 8. That was Yogi's number when Don played with him in New York. ... One of the sweetest men, and one of the great players. Overshadowed by some of the great names in Yankee history … but for instance, you know he only hit three home runs less than Joe DiMaggio?”
Check out this past blogpost on memorable Cincinnati Red’s announcers Waite Hoyt & Joe Nuxhall during my childhood.
Vin Scully has won every award one could possibly imagine and is universally considered the finest announcer to ever call a baseball game. I couldn’t agree more.
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