The beauty of a ballgame on the radio and a voice in your ear
One of the great broadcasters of all time, Vin Scully—the voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers—died last week. WFAE’s Tommy Tomlinson, in his On My Mind commentary, thinks about the beauty in Scully’s voice, and the beauty of the radio.
There’s something I’ve spent the past few days listening to over and over. It was originally broadcast on TV, and you can find it on YouTube, but I’ve been turning off the video, because I want to hear it like it’s on the radio.
It’s the ninth inning of Game 1 of the 1988 World Series. The Oakland A’s are leading the L.A. Dodgers 4-3. The Dodgers have a man on base, but they’re down to their last out.
Vin Scully is calling the game. By this point he has been broadcasting Dodgers games for 38 years. He knows exactly how to set the scene.
“Well, look who’s coming up …”
The pinch-hitter is Kirk Gibson. He is the Dodgers’ best player; he wasn’t in the lineup because both his knees are wrecked. But now the Dodgers are desperate.
The Los Angeles crowd is going crazy. It is one of those perfect baseball moments, wound tight with tension. Gibson fouls off a couple of pitches. He’s down to his last strike. Vin Scully, the calmest soul in the building, walks us through the story.
“Gibson shaking his left leg, making it quiver, like a horse trying to get rid of a troublesome fly …”
Vin Scully died last week at 94. He ended up being the voice of the Dodgers for 67 years. I don’t think anyone has ever been better calling a game, and certainly no one was ever so good for so long.
Even in these days when you can watch every game on some screen somewhere, there is magic in baseball on the radio. Most of it is the magic of radio itself—one voice, reaching out to you across the waves, telling you a story. You don’t need to see it to see it. You can just close your eyes.
Kirk Gibson worked the count to 3-and-2. And then …
“High fly ball into right field … she is … GONE!”
And then he let the sound of the crowd take over. He didn’t speak for a full minute. When he finally spoke, this is what he said:
“In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened …”
That’s how I felt about Vin Scully. That’s how I feel about radio itself. It’s improbable that he lived that life. It’s impossible that one person can say words into a microphone, and people all over the world can hear those words and remember.
Sometimes we get so used to things, we forget they are miracles.
Tommy Tomlinson’s On My Mind column runs Mondays on WFAE and WFAE.org. It represents his opinion, not the opinion of WFAE. You can respond to this column in the comments section below. You can also email Tommy at firstname.lastname@example.org.