The Long Goodbyes of Vin Scully and Dick Enberg

Posted on September 22, 2016 by Martin Oaks under Uncategorized
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Photo courtesy of Dominic Disaia.

There is a large body of research which suggests that people live longer if they either remain working, or are engaged in mental activity beyond the typical retirement age. Here at Martin Oaks Cemetery & Crematory, anecdotal evidence that we have seen certainly supports these conclusions.

Two giants in the sportscasting world, who are retiring after the 2016 major league baseball season, literally embody this. Vin Scully, who will turn 89 in November, and Dick Enberg, who will turn 82 in January, are both calling it quits after extremely distinguished careers: along with the late Curt Gowdy, Scully and Enberg are probably the most erudite and eloquent broadcasters in history. This blog will be a small reflection on Scully, we will get to Dick Enberg next week.

Click on this YouTube video of these two lyrical masters in conversation, it is priceless:

I interviewed Vin Scully at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio in the early 1970’s. We spoke for about an hour before the game and after the broadcast he was kind enough to give me more of his time for some final questions. Looking back on it, he was an astonishingly polite, understated gentleman – to give a fledgling reporter that much time was an act of true kindness.

Having listened to Scully on various trips to southern California, he was no stranger to me during that interview — his broadcasts all have an intimate quality about them. It is trite to say, but the listener really feels that Scully is engaged in a one-to-one conversation.

Of the interviews that I have done with various sports personalities, Vin Scully was surprisingly both the least guarded and most forthcoming subject; he took each question seriously and gave me thoughtful answers. My recollections of what Scully had to say are quite vivid, but short of rerunning the interview, let me pass on a few highlights.

Both of us are Roman Catholics, and Scully spoke quite frankly about the importance of faith in his life;

Scully avoided air-conditioning as much as possible – he recently had been in Las Vegas and even in the Nevada heat, he eschewed air conditioning (did not like the impact it had on his voice);

His favorite player as a boy was the then New York Giant, Mel Ott (ironically the final game Vin will call on October 2nd will be the Los Angeles Dodgers vs. the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park);

Thanks in part to the tutelage of his mentor, Red Barber, Vin became a pronounced “non-rooter” broadcaster – a rarity in the 1970’s, even rarer today. Vin’s straight call of the game gives his broadcasts an authenticity that differentiates him; listeners know he is telling the truth without exaggeration;

Scully’s favorite music was Broadway show tunes. If you listen to his broadcasts, references to Broadway shows crop up more than just occasionally (he has been known to describe a good outfielder as being like “the music man: he knows his territory”);

Finally, he really liked the medium of radio. Part of this was based on his love for the English language (I have heard him describe skies as “cerulean blue” or “azure blue,” just one example of the articulate way he expresses himself) and part of this also comes from avidly listening to the radio as a child. References to vintage radio programs occasionally pop up in his commentary: more than once the name Lamont Cranston (“The Shadow”) has found its way onto Dodger broadcasts.

A list of Vin Scully’s legendary quotes could fill many blogs, but my favorite has to be what he said after Kirk Gibson’s dramatic World Series homerun:

“In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has just happened”

You could say the exact same thing about the impossibly successful career of Vin Scully – the pleasure has been all ours!


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