Remembering Vin Scully’s 95th Birthday

Note: This was submitted to the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America substack platform and appeared there first on Nov. 29, 2022. We are republishing it here:
Tom Hoffarth / FartherOffTheWall.com

Lifetime members of the Vin Scully Marching and Chowder Society might appreciate this: The Dodgers’ late broadcasting icon would have celebrated his 95th birthday today. 

We were grateful for a recent post-Thanksgiving Day ritual, breaking up baseball’s annual dreadful post-World Series, pre-spring training pause, when we could reconnect with him on the phone to mark the occasion, as well as reflect on the past, catch up on the present and ponder the future.

There may continue to be pangs of sadness about his passing last August, but far more gratitude for the moments shared. If anything, the time after his retirement from the broadcast booth in 2016 – following a record 67 seasons – has probably helped us, and the city, through any kind of prolonged grieving process. In fact, a column we did before the ’17 season that tried to help Angelinos possibly identify and cope with our “Scully Separation Anxiety” could still be effective. We also think about how Scully told audiences who saw him during appearances in a Distinguished Speakers Series after his retirement: “It’s better to be gone and not forgotten than to be forgotten but not gone.”

The Voice of Vin, the Sound of Scully, is comforting these days as we process whatever other curve balls life throws at us. It may be with some irony we remember him more for his actions speaking louder than his Hall of Fame-worthy words. 

Upon his passing, we did an appreciation column for Angelus News, the local Catholic-based news organization, that tried to frame his character based on his foundation of profound belief through many personal tragedies. A friend of ours created a beautiful blue-toned cover to go with it. 

There was even a reason to do an essay that broached the idea: For his impact on the City of Angels, why isn’t there a path to canonization for Vin Scully? As former Dodgers GM Ned Colletti tweeted out on the day of Scully’s funeral: “He showed us every day what true goodness looks like.”

Our connection to Scully starting as a journalist covering the team and the sports media in the 1990s evolved into conversations about history lessons, shared family experiences, and even faith-related topics. He’d offer to call my mother on her birthday, knowing she was such a big fan of the team and of his work through the decades. She even met him once in the Dodger Stadium press box for a photo op and a hug.

We gladly returned the favor to him every November 29.

Five years ago, as his 90th birthday approached, we talked about he would spend the day dedicating a new Jackie Robinson statue in Pasadena. But it also would include going to his local Catholic church to offer a prayer of gratitude for allowing him this earthly existence.

He talked about how as a kid, he didn’t really want to expect too much on his birthday.

“We lived in a fifth-floor walk-up apartment in New York, not a tenement, but where if you looked out the window, you’d see another window,” he said. “I knew we didn’t have any money. So I always tried to downplay my birthday so that my parents wouldn’t feel obligated to spend money they really didn’t have. I never thought about the number itself. I just kind of pushed it aside as something personal but not for anyone else to get excited about.”

In 2014, as he was turning 87 and pondering when his last season behind the mic may be, we talked about which of the five senses he was most thankful for.

“For me, the sense of sight has to rank No. 1,” he said. “Not only because there’s this great big world to look at, but when you do what to beat a hasty retreat from it, there’s always a good book you can find to read.”

We had talked about the importance of his eyesight earlier as he was preparing to be the grand marshal of the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade in January 2014. We asked if he saw the world now with rose-colored glasses. He laughed and replied that he recently had refractive eye surgery so that he wouldn’t have to keep wearing a pair of large eyeglasses while he worked. But he also asked: Please don’t include that in the story. I don’t want people to worry about me and this surgery. 

The surgery came out just fine, and few knew that the procedure even occurred. Except he stopped wearing the glasses.

Upon Scully’s passing, the Los Angeles Daily News worked with Triumph Books in Chicago to publish a tribute book,  republishing stories the newspaper had done about him over the years. Of the two dozen or so pieces included, we’re humbled to have a handful of our essays there.

One of them we wish we could update.

In 2016, we created a list of Scully’s Top 10 calls of all time, ranging from the Kirk Gibson 1988 World Series home run to his 1982 NFC Championship game for CBS on the Joe Montana-to-Dwight Clark catch to his ad-libs in the 1999 movie “For Love of the Game” with Kevin Costner. But we were reminded this last October that Scully was on the call for the final innings of the nationally televised broadcast when the New York Yankees’ Don Larsen threw a perfect game in the 1956 World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers.

This came up because the current voice of the Dodgers, Joe Davis, just called the second no-hitter in World Series history when the Houston Astros’ Cristian Javier and three relievers blanked the Philadelphia Phillies, 5-0, in Game 4 on Nov. 2.

A piece in USA Today noted how Scully, 29 at the time and sharing the broadcast as the Dodgers’ broadcaster along with the Yankees’ Mel Allen, set the scene at the end of the eighth inning: “Well, all right, let’s all take a deep breath as we go to the most dramatic ninth inning in the history of baseball.” When Larson struck out pinch-hitter Dale Mitchell to end the game, Scully said: “Got him! The greatest game ever pitched in baseball history by Don Larsen. A no-hitter, a perfect game in a World Series!”

Another story we did on Scully that’s missing from the Daily News collection continues to be front and center in our thinking today.

We’ve endorsed having the Ford C. Frick Award, given annually by the Baseball Hall of Fame to someone whose lifetime of broadcasting merits attention, renamed in Scully’s honor. It was recently brought up again by local media.

Scully won this award in 1982, after his 33rd season in the business. He then ran off another 34 seasons before retirement.

Kinda think he should have received two of these awards, right?

Back in 2016, when we asked the Hall of Fame about this name change possibility, there didn’t seem to be any urgency. We even reached out to John Thorn, the official Major League Baseball historian, who gave us this thought: “I try not to have opinions about other people’s business, but Frick is an odd namesake for the award.”

We could give you 95 reasons why the broadcasters’ lifetime achievement honor, which will be announced on Dec. 8 at the Baseball Winter Meetings in Orlando, Fla., should be rebranded as the Vin Scully Award. He embodies the award’s criteria: “Commitment to excellence, quality of broadcasting abilities, reverence within the game, popularity with fans, and recognition by peers.” Here’s a link to the Hall of Fame Frick 2022 ballot.

There are plenty of other things afoot to honor Scully’s memory, such as his alma mater at Fordham University planning all sorts of events as Scully’s estate recently bestowed some noteworthy donations to the facilities.

We have our own Scully tribute area in our office. We see him daily as the background on our desktop computer screen – an unassuming, peaceful shot we took of him from behind when we walked into the Dodger Stadium broadcast booth prior to the 2011 Opening Day Ceremonies and saw him prepping for the game.

This, again, makes us smile. Happy Birthday, Vin. Instead of blowing out another candle on the cake, we’ll light another one in your memory.

Tom Hoffarth is a past IBWAA president in its former incarnation. He has covered sports in Southern California for more than 40 years. His website is www.fartheroffthewall.com/blogs as well as www.TheDrillLA.com

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