By Nick Shepkowski–
(CBS) Hands down the best to ever do what he’s done is in his final days of work, set to retire after 67 brilliant seasons behind the microphone for the Dodgers.
When you hear the name Vin Scully, you probably think of a few different things.
Obviously, the Dodgers.
The Buckner play.
Koufax’s perfect game.
All of those were tremendous baseball moments that were made that much more memorable because of Scully’s iconic calls.
“Behind the bag!” and “In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened” stand out to any baseball fan probably more than any call of any other plays.
But to me, it’s never been about the big moment when listening to Scully call a game, regardless of whether its Game 1 of the World Series or a contest between sub-.500 teams in mid-September.
Instead, it’s about how important he was able to make the least important moments feel, because of his unrivaled storytelling ability.
Like any young baseball fan, I had heard of Vin Scully long ago, but the equation has changed as I grew up in the ’90s and became a big fan over the years. By the time I started to have any idea of what was going on across all of MLB, Scully was no longer doing TV for the World Series.
I had heard of the man, who even in my childhood had been doing games seemingly forever, but never had I really heard him work his craft. If I saw or heard him, it was a pregame show interview or a late-night talk show appearance.
That all changed for me a couple years after college in 2010, having no expectations for either of the local Cubs or White Sox and needing to get a quality baseball fix somehow. I decided to cough up the roughly 100 bucks for MLB.tv and began taking in plenty of quality baseball that summer, played in many cities other than Chicago.
That was one of the best investments I could have made as a baseball fan.
Instead of just hearing Scully’s famous calls of October moments, I got to finally hear what makes him the best ever to do what he’s done for 67 years.
One of the best I remember hearing was about Angel Pagan. Scully — who will retire after calling his final game on Oct. 2 — began to explain how the then-Giant spent his offseasons spearfishing to help stay in shape. Before long, he’d worked in a reference to a rumor he had heard about when Felipe Alou debuted in the big leagues (50 years previous at the time). He mentioned that Alou used the same training technique and that he also once thought Alou would swim with sharks.
Turns out, Alou didn’t actually swim with sharks, which Scully clarified, but it was those moments that made him the best and made you really kind of hope the game he was broadcasting would never end.
Soon enough, I would be going to bed almost nightly with MLB.tv punched into SNLA-TV’s broadcast of that night’s Dodgers game, and there would wind up being many more memorable stories about the biggest stars as well as the last guy on the bench.
There were other moments over the last couple of years as well that I’ll always remember:
There was a lesson on Socrates when the Diamondbacks were at Dodger Stadium earlier this year, all because Socrates Brito was in Arizona’s starting lineup.
Scully’s annual ways to teach about U.S. history will always stick out as well. He’d recall stories from D-Day each June 6, each more impressive than the last. Around the Fourth of July, he’d offer as much knowledge on the American flag as a high school civics class, except Scully made it much more interesting and seem more important than class ever did. If you’ve never looked those up on Google, then do yourself a favor and do so.
Finally, I was recently I was sent a clip of Scully seeing Clayton Kershaw throw a curveball for the first time. At that time, Scully had been in or around Major League Baseball for 55 or so years, or long enough to have seen just about everything.
“Oh boy, what a curveball” Scully described as Kershaw struck out Sean Casey of the Red Sox in a spring training affair.
“He broke off public enemy No. 1,” Scully added before breaking into child-like laughter.
A man who had seen just about everything happen on a baseball field for more than half a century hadn’t ever seen a curveball like that and wasn’t afraid to show his enthusiasm for it.
For all the magical baseball moments Scully saw and described since 1950, it’s not Buckner, Aaron or Krik Gibson’s calls that I’ll think of first. It’s the smaller moments that he made seem significantly more important and compelling.
At 88 years old, he still brings the same enthusiasm to the ballpark and broadcast each night as you probably did when you attended your first game as a fan. It doesn’t matter to him if it was a perennial MVP candidate at-bat or a September call-up, in the broadcast everyone came across as interesting when described by Scully.
As fantastic as it was, it’s not the walk-off home runs in which he iconically let the crowd noise breathe that I’ll remember. It’s the stories.
Cheers in retirement Vin, but somehow those 67 years in the profession still wasn’t long enough for this baseball fan.
Then again, forever wouldn’t have been either.