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The Voice Of Vin Scully: LA Dodgers Announcer Calls His Final Game

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

On April 18, 1950, a 22-year-old baseball announcer named Vin Scully called his first game for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Now, 67 years later, Scully will be at the mic for his final game today for the Los Angeles Dodgers. His is, by far, the longest tenure of any announcer in any major sport, but Ben Bergman from member station KPCC reports that Scully will be remembered for much more than just his longevity.

BEN BERGMAN, BYLINE: First, there's his voice - melodic, always welcoming - the sound of summer in Los Angeles.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPORTS BROADCAST)

VINCENT SCULLY: Hi, everybody, and a very pleasant good evening to you wherever you may be.

BERGMAN: As Sports Illustrated put it, Scully has become as much a part of the LA scene as the freeways and the smog, and that was in 1964. Scully works by himself, so instead of most telecasts, where it feels like you're eavesdropping on a conversation, with Scully, it's like he's a friend talking just to you.

SCULLY: And a high fly ball to left field - it is a way out and gone.

BERGMAN: Scully has never cared much about the stats. He's interested in the stories. He's also made the mundane magical, like when he learned what a Twitter hashtag was or a selfie.

SCULLY: You have your little cell phone, and you - and you take a picture of yourself.

BERGMAN: If you turn on a baseball game these days, a lot of announcers sound the same. Scully has always sounded unique, which he told me three years ago is no accident because of a valuable lesson his mentor taught him his rookie year.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SCULLY: Red Barber said to me, you bring something into the booth that no one else brings in. I was shocked. I looked at him. I said, what do I bring in? And he said, yourself. And he said, if you listen to other broadcasters, you'll begin to adopt to some of their intonations. And I thought, I'd be watering my wine.

BERGMAN: While Scully says he's never listened to other announcers, other announcers have certainly listened to him.

CHARLEY STEINER: When I was seven years old growing up in New York, I listened to Vin on the radio. And the first time I heard him, I said, that's what I want to be when I grow up.

BERGMAN: And now Charley Steiner is the Dodgers' number two play-by-play man. He says anyone would be foolish to try to be like Scully.

STEINER: For those of us mere mortals who broadcast baseball games, I think of us as reporters sprinting to keep up with the story and paint the picture as accurately as we can. Vin, on the other hand, is a poet.

BERGMAN: Just listen to Scully's famous call of Sandy Koufax's perfect game.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPORTS BROADCAST)

SCULLY: Three times in his sensational career has Sandy Koufax walked out to the mound to pitch a fateful ninth where he turned in a no-hitter. But tonight, September the 9th, 1965, he made the toughest walk of his career, I'm sure.

BERGMAN: The transcript of Scully's call of that ninth inning was later included in an anthology of the best baseball literature. San Francisco Giants announcer Jon Miller says many people wrongly assumed it had been edited.

JON MILLER: The part that is amazing is when you read it, it sounds like it was all put down on paper after the fact when somebody had a lot of time to get it just right. And, no, it was as he saw it.

BERGMAN: Scully is the last TV announcer to work alone in the booth. He'll likely be replaced by a three-man team. Miller says Scully had remained by himself for all these years for a simple reason.

MILLER: Because that's the way Dodger fans want it. They don't want to hear somebody else with Vin.

BERGMAN: During Scully's final games at Dodger Stadium last weekend, fans could be seen weeping in the stands, mourning the loss of a companion who, in many cases, has been there their whole life. Scully may have been the only one who wasn't sad.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SCULLY: All I feel is thanksgiving. The Lord has blessed me. He gave me this job at such a youthful age and allowed me to live and do it 67 years. What am I going to say? Darn it, why didn't I get number 68?

BERGMAN: For NPR News, I'm Ben Bergman in Los Angeles.

(SOUNDBITE OF GUITAR MUSIC)

MARTIN: B.J. Leiderman is kind of like our Vin Scully. He writes our theme music. This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.