Vin Scully signed off for the final time yesterday, ending his 67 years of baseball broadcasting excellence. While there were a few distractions — in the middle of the game Scully was presented with a plaque by the Giants and was warmly met by Willie Mays, the best player Scully says he ever saw — it was exactly like every other Vin Scully game I’ve heard in the 30+ years I have been listening to him.
It was relaxed. It was comfortable. On some level Scully knows that we all have lives full of important and stressful things and that, baseball, however wonderful it is, is a diversion, not the most important thing in our lives. As such, he did not treat his broadcasts as destination viewing or listening. He did not act like the game he was calling or the fact that he was calling it was the most important thing going on at that moment. No phony superlatives. No unwarranted hype, hot takes or artificial intensity. He never, ever, pretended that he had any superior insight into the game than you the fan did, even though he obviously did. He simply talked about what was happening in plain terms and let you know things that he knew that might make the game more enjoyable for you. He didn’t style himself some baseball expert. He took ample time during breaks in the action to tell us interesting and amusing stories and make our diversion pleasant in any way he could.
I started watching the game on TV yesterday afternoon. By around the fifth inning I had to do some household chores and then start making dinner, so I switched to the radio feed on my phone. The inferior sound quality of the phone to the TV was, in some ways, preferable. It made me feel like I was listening to Scully on some transistor radio the way so many Dodgers fans in Los Angeles did in the 1960s during which their love for Scully grew and during which his legend was forged. Both baseball and Scully were made for the radio.
At one point yesterday Scully realized that he had forgotten he was being simulcast and that he wasn’t just on TV. As such, he apologized for not being descriptive enough in his play-by-play, what with all of the remembrances and things occasioned by his last game. His apology was wholly unnecessary. The game was a blowout. The Dodgers were listless and the Giants rolled easily. It was just one of over 2,400 other baseball games this season, important for the Giants’ playoff hopes, but not in and of itself indispensable for any other reason.
I listened to the game as I folded laundry. I listened as I chopped vegetables and cooked dinner for my family. At times I lost track of the count or how many runners were on base but Scully would always get to that after coming to a stopping point in one of his stories. Scully also realized that there were stopping points in the game which gave him room for those stories. Indeed, at one point, as he was in the middle of a good one when a Giants batter fouled a ball away. Scully tipped his hand and said “good, that gives us a chance . . .” and went on and finished the story when the batter stepped out and a new ball was rubbed up and by the pitcher. Scully knows, and has always known, that what happens when there is no action in the game can be just as important as what happens when there is action.
The rice on my stove finished cooking in the top of the ninth inning. It was only then that, for a few brief moments, what was going on at AT&T Park was far more important than what was going on in listeners’ lives. Rather than call the kids down for dinner right at that moment, I stopped and listened to Scully’s last half inning as a broadcaster. As always, it was the perfect blend of baseball and something else, seamlessly and calmly mixed together:
I’ve always thought it was attributed to Dr. Seuss, but apparently not. It’s still a good line, and it’s one certainly I’ve been holding onto for, oh, I think most of the year — here’s Barnes, and Romo ready, and the first pitch for Austin, taking first strike.
“Don’t be sad that it’s over. Smile because it happened.” And that’s really the way I feel about this remarkable opportunity I was given, and I was allowed to keep for all these years.
0 and 2 the count.
I said goodbye at Dodger Stadium; I’ll be saying goodbye here in San Francisco shortly. My little, modest message and wish for you will be right after the game.
The inning wore on.
For the Dodgers, Turner had a hit with two out, Gonzalez had a hit with two out, Grandal had a hit. That was the run. And they didn’t have another hit until here in the ninth, 13 in a row had been retired.
Segedin takes low.
This crowd is bursting at the seams right now. Two balls, two strikes, two out. Boy, 489 consecutive sellouts here at AT&T Park.
All right, big pitch coming out. Romo out of the stretch, and the 2-2 pitch on the way.
Sergio deals a slider hit in the air to left center, coming over is Pagan — he puts it away!
And the Giants are the wild-card team. The city is going wild, appropriately enough, and they are heading for New York.
No runs, one hit for the Dodgers, who managed to leave four men on base because they were the only four they got on base. The Giants in the Western division are 45-31, the Dodgers are 43-33, so inside the division, they certainly were the better team.
That was awfully nice. The umpire just stood up and said goodbye, as I am saying goodbye. Seven runs, 16 hits for the winning Giants, 1-4-1 for the Dodgers. The winner, Matt Moore, the loser, Kenta Maeda. I have said enough for a lifetime, and for the last time, I wish you all a very pleasant good afternoon.
Scully came back after the break with some final words and they were, of course, eloquent:
You know friends so many people have wished me congratulations on a 67-year career in baseball and they wished me a wonderful retirement with my family and now, all I can do is tell you what I wish for you:
May God give you.
For every storm, a rainbow,
For every tear, a smile,
For every care, a promise,
And a blessing in each trial.
For every problem life sends,
A faithful friend to share,
For every sigh, a sweet song,
And an answer for each prayer.
You and I have been friends for a long time, but I know in my heart I’ve always needed you more than you’ve ever needed me. And I’ll miss our time together more than I can say.
But you know what? There will be a new day and, eventually, a new year. And when the upcoming winter gives way to spring, oh, rest assured, once again, it will be time for Dodger baseball.
So this is Vin Scully, wishing you a very pleasant good afternoon – wherever you may be.
Touching stuff to be sure. But as Scully so often made it clear, he did not like being the center of attention. He was more than entitled to that final signoff, of course, but I will always remember this last half inning and his quote about not being sad that it’s over, but smiling because it happened as Scully’s true farewell.