Vin Scully, Voice Of The Yankees

The advent of the Mets’ annual visit to Dodger Stadium always reminds me of one of the greatest baseball stories nobody tells.

Let’s correct that.
A decade ago, when I was still working full-time in sports and in Los Angeles, it was the Yankees coming to town for an exhibition game, and, with them, my friend Michael Kay, at that time still a member of their radio team. Michael is usually pretty direct, but on the field before the game, he was hemming and hawing something awful until I finally blurted “out with it!” He explained he was just too nervous to introduce himself to the legendary Vin Scully, even though both were not only major league broadcasters, but also alums of Fordham University in New York.
Mike was still repeating his apology when I explained I knew exactly how he felt. When I had first worked in Los Angeles as a local sportscaster in the ’80s, it had taken me two years to screw up the courage to introduce myself to this nonpareil of my business. As I reassured Michael, Vin was easily the nicest famous person in the sport, maybe in the country. And he always had a story that in some way related to you.

Little did I know.
As Michael began to hyperventilate, I made the introductions. Vin asked about Fordham, about Mike’s youth, about his newspaper career, about the Yankees. And then came the story: “Michael, did you know; Keith, I don’t even think I told you this — I nearly became the Voice of the Yankees?”
Absolute silence for two or three beats, and then, from Kay and Olbermann, a joint “whaaaat?”
“When the Yankees let Mel Allen go in 1964, I got a phone call from the man who they had brought in to run their broadcasting operation, Craig Smith,” Vin began. “He had been in charge of the World Series broadcasts forever, so I’d known him about ten years by then. And he asked me if I’d like to come home to New York and become the lead announcer. He offered a very handsome salary, and a long contract.
“Well, I was amazed, as you can imagine. I’d found a wonderful home here in Los Angeles, but remember, this was only seven years after the Dodgers left Brooklyn. I was still a New Yorker through and through. Plus, here was a chance to work again with Red Barber. And recall, too, that this was just before the Yankee dynasty collapsed. As much as Mr. O’Malley had done here and in Brooklyn, the Yankees were still the marquee name in sports. If it had been 1958 or 1959, when I still missed New York so, I would’ve said yes before he hung up the phone.”
“So, I thought long and hard about that one. But I had a young family, and I think we had all just truly adjusted to living here – takes just about seven years, I think – and in the end I turned it down.”
Michael and I each sputtered various observations about how changed the baseball world might have been. Vin Scully doing the Yankee games? Would the franchise still have ebbed with such a benign but effective salesman at the microphone? Would the Dodgers’ roots, still growing in 1964-1965, have gone in as deeply as they did? Would CBS’s failed experiment in corporate ownership have succeeded, and George Steinbrenner never have bought the Yankees? What would have happened to the man to whom the Yankees gave the job Scully turned down? Would Joe Garagiola have ever wound up on The Game Of The Week, or The Today Show?
Vin laughed. “Oh, to tell the truth, I don’t think it’d made that much difference. It’s not very important.” He excused himself to go back to preparing for his broadcast, and, as usual, made it seem like I had done him a great favor by introducing Michael to him. After Vin had left, Michael and I sat there on the Dodger bench for a few moments in silence. Then he said “If he had been the Yankee announcer when I was growing up, I never would have dreamed of applying for a job as his gopher, let alone as his partner.” I told him that once again I knew how he felt – it was very tough knowing that my sportscasts often preceded Vin’s play-by-play on cable. It seemed somehow a sacrilege to pretend to deserve to be on the same channel.
Still, think of it: 45 years of “Hi again everybody, it’s time for Yankee Baseball!” Or maybe Steinbrenner would’ve quarreled with Vin and eased him out. Or, likeliest of all the alternate-galaxy theories: working in New York, where in the ’60s all the network and advertising executives were still located, Vin Scully would’ve gone on to the Game Of The Week, or something even higher up on the tv food chain, a lot earlier than he actually did.
Who knows – maybe he’d still be doing it – and doing it on NBC.

61 Comments

Thanks to you Keith!,

I am a lifelong Giants fan but have always enjoyed the way Vin
Scully calls the game. Cadence, insight but not rammed down your
throat, just class. Having the esspin/mlb package I have had a chance to listen to him again after awhile.

So thanks for a fun little read.

I got a chance to meet Vin Scully and get his autograph after a game at Dodgertown in Vero Beach a few years ago, and could barely get out the words. And he was such a nice and humble man.

I first heard him as the announcer for the 1986 World Series, making me a Mets fan, and to think that he could have been doing that as a long-time voice of the Yankees in 1986 would have been just plain weird.

I think it worked out for most people that he stayed in Los Angeles and the Dodgers going on 60 years now.

The best part of that story is that, even while reading it, I could hear Scully tell it, complete with the parsing and pauses.

What a great untold story. Thanks for sharing.

I have long been a fan of the great voices. Here in Delaware, it was Harry Callas and I cannot imagine Phillies games without him. Without the Phillies, yes, but not Harry.

And yours as well Keith.

WTF

Fun anecdote is fun!

Hey Keith

a few tidbits……

first of all a belated offer of sympathy on the passing of your mom….
interesting that my favorite political commentator is friends with my favorite YES play by play man….
having been a die hard Yankee fan since bill mazerowski broke my heart in 1960, I’m still baffled as to why they fired Mel Allen…..
.in my mind vin scully is the only broadcaster who could ever be mentioned in the same breath with Mel. my apologies to Harry Carey and jack buck etc….
.i saw that Bill O the clown was at Friday nights Yankee game. he was seated front row down the first base line (not too far from where you usually sit) with Mr. bad comb over himself (Donald trump) it would’ve been a scream if you were there also.

anyhow, i love your work. your show is the voice of sanity. thanks for being there, Keith.

Interesting story!!
A pity for the Yankees. Scully is the very best.
The current Yankee team of radio broadcsaters just doesn’t compare!!

The upshot here would have been that if all things were the same leading to this point, Scully would be able to do a ton more broadcasts on the east coast with his current travel schedule. Meaning, since he only really does west coast games, limiting him to a handful of ballparks, on the east coast he could be doing a lot more right now.

Keith…you hit the nail on the head. I could only imagine growing up that it would have been Vin Scully instead of having to listen to Sterling and Waldman. If only we could get rid of them now and lure the great Vin Scully to NY.

Utterly fantastic story Keith. Linked in from Dodger Thoughts btw, where Pierre (once nicknamed Slappy McPopup) seems to be out of the doghouse…. for now :p

Anyway, always loved your shows on channel 2 when I lived in Santa Monica. Glad to see you still have that same sense of humor, definitely be keeping an eye on the blog here.

What is it about us nerds??
I had a 35-year successful career in radio……….
Scully is my role model….I’ve heard/watched 90% of his games since ’66……..
BUT——I’ve stood “thisclose” to him in the press box many times……2-different Padres PA announcers have offered to introduce me to him……so has a Padres VP………
I’ve refused each time….I’m scared!
I know it’s not like meeting The Wizard of Oz…………..
Why? Why? Why?…….
Maybe it’s the old Groucho line…..

jeff prescott, la jolla

Great story, Keith. Thanks for sharing that with us. I guess we all have someone we look up to.

While I can’t profess an undying love for Vin Scully, (Hey, I’m a mid-western boy who grew up listening to Jack Brickhouse call Cubs games!) I have had the pleasure of listening to his broadcasts from time to time. The man truly is one of the greats and sadly, part of a dying breed.

Another life-long Giants fan chiming in with love for Vin Scully. I’ve been known to tune “in-between” stations to pick up a Las Vegas station which runs Dodger games, just to listen to Vin. What a great story!

Funny, but as a lifelong Yankees fan – and as someone who ran MLB’s “Pitch, Hit, and Run” competition for several years back in the mid-70’s – I had that same out-of-body moment once when I was introduced to broadcasting great Lindsey Nelson.

I had an appointment with Mr Nelson at Shea to record a demo radio spot for a new MLB sponsor. I had grown up listening to him broadcast not only many Met games but also lots of college football. NYC seemed to grow radio/tv sports broadcasting icons (Bob Wolff, Mary Glickman, etc.) and Lindsey had come to prominence during that Golden Age.

But like Michael Kaye’s experience with Vin Scully, Lindsey was, simply put, a gentleman. He was gracious, attentive, and respectful of the job this twenty-something ad exec had to do. He cut the spot in two takes, shook my hand, and headed for the clubhouse for his usual pre-game meal.

I can still recall that encounter as if it was yesterday. The world should have more people like Scully and the late Nelson.

I remember when I first started watching & listening to local broadcasts of Red Sox games as a kid, I thought Ned Martin and Ken Coleman were the best ever. As the years went on, and I found that I not only loved the Red Sox, but baseball in all its glory, I found myself mesmerized listening to truly great broadcasters with their funny accents. Vin Scully was one who I loved listening to. It was such a treat to listen to the “big guys” all across the country as I grew up. Especially during the World Series. Al Michaels though is my favorite baseball announcer of all time. And I do love Joe Buck and Tim McCarver together. Smart, entertaining and great story tellers. Bob Uecker, Jack Buck were great too. But hands down – Al Michaels. I think I may have remembered Bob Feller broadcasting as well, or perhaps just a guest in the broadcasting booth? Not sure.

“I don’t like them fellas who drive in two runs and let in three”. – Casey Stengel

One more announcer I just thought of – does anyone remember Curt Gowdy? He was terrific as well.

“Let Ty Cobb sleep if he will. If you get him riled up, he will annihilate us.” – Connie Mack

What a great story! I get to watch/listen to Vin nightly(he no longer travels outside the NL West) as I live in the Dodgers viewing area.

Every year we wonder if it will be his last with the organization. I never want him to retire, which is selfish of course.

Vin Scully is the best, when he retires baseball will lose a wonderful announcer that no one can hold a candle to in my humble yet vocal opinion.

My all -time favorite Vin Scully quote was about a ball player who was listed as day- to -day. Vin then said ,”but then again, aren’t we all.” As a liver transplant 5 year survivor I think of that truism once in a while. When I see that someone is listed day -to -day on a crawler I also think of Vin’s quote.

Who knows? Perhaps Vin would have been the baseball announcer voice on Meatloaf’s “Paradise by the Dashboard Light.”

Here’s a thought I just had: try to imagine Vin and Phil Rizzuto sharing the Yankees broadcast booth. Or, WOULD that have happened??
Then again, maybe Vin wouldn’t have done that stupid game show (“It Takes Two”) he hosted in the early ’70s…
But then you ARE talking to a guy who’ll NEVER forgive Dan (the “Prima Danna”) Snyder for firing Frank Herzog after 25 years of doing Redskins games on radio. Of course, I did get to hear Jim Karvellas doing Bullets games on TV here in the Washington area (even though they were still in Baltimore in those days).
Oh well…
Gary
Nasty Nats Live Here (and Everywhere)
http://go-nasty-nats.mlblogs.com
http://twitter.com/gonastynats
http://www.youtube.com/DCSportsNut

Oh wow – what a great story – and what a difference it would have made in my childhood!

Would I have fallen in love with the Dodgers as a girl growing up in Orange County or would I have leaned to the closer in proximity Angels?

Would I have fallen so in love with baseball at all?

Would I have spent my evenings with my ear against the console radio/phonograph listening to the crackling in and out signal as Vin Scully told me my nightly baseball bedtime story as it unfolded?

Would I forever have engraved in my heart and mind “Well, hi everybody and a very pleasant good evening to you wherever you may be.”

Oh what a tragedy and much more empty childhood it would have been!!!

One of the many reasons why you are one of my most favorite people Keith – that you view Vin Scully with the same amount of awe as I do. And, of course, that you’ve actually met him!!

Wow, I have been listening to Vin for over 50 years now and have never heard that one! My Mother, God bless her, bled Dodger blue and listened or watched every game they played, often in the kitchen with the lights off, huddled over the old radio she kept out there. If Mom was out in the front yard watering the lawn furiously, we all knew the Dodgers were struggling during a game. Dad was a Reds fan, and I remember Dad on one end, Mom on the other, and all of us six kids sitting in middle during those games. When I was young we came early for battling practice and Vin waved to us from the booth, my Mom was in heaven.
I am in awe of the man and want to thank him for giving me, and my family, so much enjoyment every summer!

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What is truly amazing is how for years the Yankees had one of the best television sets in the game with Kaat and Singleton, but most radio stations. And unfortunately, now the TV crew is beginning to fall too. O’Neill and Cone recalling old times at the expense of mensagens para orkut detailed analysis is not the answer to the problems of the Yankees.By the way, anyone here familiar with the radio equipment of the Fathers? I know it sounds completely implausible, but if all they are even worse than the “Yankees.” Ted Leitner is the pound sterling and John Coleman Jerry’s Phil Rizzuto. Except Rizzuto has always had a white Bill or Tom Seaver to keep it under control when Coleman did not , and by law had long Michael Kay to be mocked, not Leitner.

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Wow, I have been listening to Vin for over 50 years now and have never heard that one! My Mother, God bless her, bled Dodger blue and listened or watched every game they played, often in the kitchen with the lights off, huddled over the old radio she kept out there. daily text sms
If Mom was out in the front yard watering the lawn furiously, we all knew the Dodgers were struggling during a game. Dad was a Reds fan, and I remember Dad on one end, Mom on the other, and all of us six kids sitting in middle during those games. When I was young we came early for battling practice and Vin waved to us from the booth, my Mom was in heaven.
I am in awe of the man and want to thank him for giving me, and my family, so much enjoyment every summer!

My all -time favorite Vin Scully quote was about a ball player who was listed as day- to -day. Orkut Scraps
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What a great untold story. Thanks for sharing.

I have long been a fan of the great voices. Here in Delaware, it was Harry Callas and I cannot imagine NewsMoments
Phillies games without him. Without the Phillies, yes, but not Harry.

And yours as well Keith.

Hey Keith

a few tidbits……

first of all a belated offer of sympathy on the passing of your mom….
interesting that my News360
favorite political commentator is friends with my favorite YES play by play man….
having been a die hard Yankee fan since bill mazerowski broke my heart in 1960, I’m still baffled as to why they fired Mel Allen…..

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