Tuesday August 2nd the sports world lost one of its greatest voices, Vin Scully, the 67 year voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers. He left his mortal earthly being at his home in Hidden Hills, California, at the age of 94 after failing health finally took hold. Scully represents a somewhat bygone era of classic radio voices that called sporting events. Not too along ago, there weren't 700 channels and TV packages to be purchased that allow you to see your ball club play all its games, so families huddled around a radio or drove around town listening to the radio broadcast. Unlike television, the radio play-by-play announcer has the burden of painting the picture of the action on the field or court with only their voice. There are very few however that called so many games and for so many momentous occasions. Scully called the game when Hank Aaron beat Babe Ruth's record, the Joe Montana throw and Dwight Clark catch in the end zone in the 1981 NFC Championship game, Sandy Koufax's perfect game in '65, Kirk Gibson's walk-off home run in the 1988 World Series, and so many more. Of all the huge events Scully's voice artfully painted the picture for, he began every broadcast with a simple phrase, "A pleasant evening to you wherever you may be."
For younger audiences the idea of listening to the radio for a sporting event might seem absurd, but for many what was once a necessity became a lifelong obsession. This 41 year old author can certainly relate. Hailing from the state of North Carolina, I grew up with the UNC Tar Heels who had a play-by-play announcer by the name of Woody Durham that voiced North Carolina's action for 40 years. My entire life, Woody graced my house and my car week in and week out during every single Carolina football and basketball game. He passed in 2018 at the age of just 76. None the less I carry on the tradition each football and basketball game with Jones Angell, Woody's successor, by synching the radio with the TV. Even my personal voicemail outbound greeting is none other than the long time voice of the Tar Heels, Woody.
Unfortunately the radio play-by-play is a dying art form with the advent of 4k and 8k TV's and how difficult that makes it to match up an analog audio signal to a super high definition television image. I put in the effort because it's important to me, and it's what my family always did. Now with mom and dad gone for 8 and 4 years respectively it feels extra important to continue that radio synced with the TV tradition.
I encourage sports fans to give radio a shot and listen to the artistry of the really good at their craft. The names that come to mind of true radio greats of course include Vin Scully, but also Chick Hearn (Lakers), Dick Enberg (Padres, Rams, Angels), Harry Caray (White Sox, Cubs), and my personal favorite, the aforementioned Woody Durham. Even TV has great voices too and that list has to start with Al Michaels and his Miracle on Ice call at the Lake Placid olympics in '80. And that makes you think John Madden and Pat Summerall, Marv Albert, Brent Musberger, Dr. Jack Ramsay, and Jim Nantz.
The artistry Vin Scully demonstrated as he called the games is unmatched; the pause to let you hear the crowd react to a big moment and let you sneak a mental glimpse into the atmosphere instead of letting his voice get in the way. That is why it's an art form, to know when to speak, when to have a catch phrase, and when to get out of the way and let the moment breathe. The voices that will follow Vin Scully will become fewer and further between as that medium dissipates, there will be fewer youngsters that aspire to that profession and fewer greats to inspire them. "America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again." One thing that has remained is the art of painting a mental image of a sporting event with just a voice. Let's hope that never dies.
"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 seems a faithful friend to share. For every sigh a sweet song and an answer for each prayer."
Vincent Edward Scully
Born: November 29, 1927 The Bronx, New York
Died: August 2, 2022 Hidden Hills, California