For the better part of the last few months, I have thought about what I wanted to say when this moment came, and had grand designs of what would make a proper send off to a man who has been with me, even if he didn't know it, for nearly all of my life.
We have reached the final weekend of Vin Scully's amazing career. For three more games, we will get to listen to him bring baseball to life. Three more games to finish off a remarkable 67 years behind the microphone.
Ever since I started following baseball as a child, Vin has always been there. He was there for my older brothers. He was there for my parents and uncles. He was there for my grandma, too. We all might have viewed the game in a different way, but our common lens was Scully, bonding us all in yet another way.
We have known for over a year that 2016 would be Scully's final year on the job, but I'm not sure the finality really hit me until earlier this month. I noticed there were only 10 broadcasts left with Scully on the call. Even knowing the end was near, I wasn't quite ready for it.
Scully called last weekend his Thanksgiving, blessed to be able to do a job he loved for so long. After that glorious Dodger Stadium finish, there are no more tears of sadness that Vin will no longer call games. There will only be gratitude, and a happiness that he is going out on his own terms.
For all the years you have given us, for the countless hours of enjoyment, all I can say is thank you. For everything.
Vin Scully and Joe Garagiola at Shea Stadium, in 1986. (Photo: NBC via Getty Images)
Aaron's 715th HR
Hank Aaron was the model of consistency, with a career OPS that never dipped under .900 after his age-23 season. He ended his 20th season, in 1973, with 713 home runs, just one behind Babe Ruth for the all-time lead.
During that winter and going into the 1974 season, Aaron certainly had support but he also received some racist hate mail about a black man breaking the great Ruth’s hallowed record. Ruth was the all-time home run leader since 1921.
Aaron tied Ruth on opening day in 1974 on the road, then returned home to face the Dodgers.
In the bottom of the fourth, the Dodgers led 3-1, and Aaron came up for the second time with a runner at first. On the 1-0 pitch, Aaron hit an Al Downing fastball over the left field fence (and over a climbing Bill Buckner) to become the all-time home run leader.
After Vin Scully called the home run and let the crowd roar, he came back and put into context how important this moment was in not only baseball history but human history.
"What a marvelous moment for baseball; what a marvelous moment for Atlanta and the state of Georgia. What a marvelous moment for the country and the world," Scully said. "A black man is getting a standing ovation in the Deep South for breaking a record of an all-time baseball idol. And it is a great moment for all of us, and particularly for Henry Aaron"
A few seconds later, Scully, without saying the exact words, commented on everything Aaron had gone through for the past year:
"And for the first time in a long time, that poker face of Aaron’s shows the tremendous strain and relief of what it must have been like to live with for the past several months. It is over. At ten minutes after nine in Atlanta, Georgia, Henry Aaron has eclipsed the mark set by Babe Ruth."
The Sound of Silence
My first memories of Scully were in the 1980s, which was arguably Scully’s peak, at least on a national stage. He worked for CBS and called golf and the NFL in the late 1970s and early 1980s — his call of "The Catch" by Dwight Clark in the 1981 NFC Championship Game is especially memorable — but when he joined NBC in 1983 he was the lead national play-by-play voice for baseball, in addition to his Dodgers duties.
Scully called four National League Championship Series for NBC — 1983, 1985, 1987 and 1989 — the first two involving the Dodgers, and called three World Series — 1984, 1986 and 1988.
I first started playing close attention to baseball at some point during the 1984 season, though I don’t remember many details about that season. My first foray into full-fledged fanhood came in 1985, when at age nine I devoured every piece of baseball news — Dodgers or otherwise — I could find.
We had a part for my mom's 50th birthday party during the 1986 World Series, between the Mets and Red Sox. I distinctly remember watching Game 6 at that party, at my grandma's house, at age 10, hearing this familiar voice from Dodgers games calling this national game on TV.
The Mets staged a furious comeback to win Game 6, culminating in an error by former Dodger Bill Buckner at first base, as the ball rolled through his legs and into history.
There are two things that make this call from Scully great, in my opinion:
1) "Little roller up along first, BEHIND THE BAG! It gets through Buckner! Here comes Knight and the Mets win it!" That extra octave that Scully finds at the end of that call, plus the genuine excitement of "BEHIND THE BAG", add to the event itself.
2) The incredible amount of restraint shown by Scully.
If you watch "The Catch" above, you'll notice Scully goes a full 26 seconds between calling the play and saying another word, giving that extra oomph when he chimes in with, "It’s a madhouse at Candlestick."
After calling Kirk Gibson's home run in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series, Scully is silent for 68 seconds before delivering the perfect, "In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened."
But during this call of the delirium at Shea Stadium, Scully goes quiet for over 3½ minutes. It doesn't even seem real, looking back. Yet it also felt like the right thing to do. More weight was added to Scully's next words on the broadcast: "If one picture is worth a thousand words, you have seen about a million of them."
Last week, Scully explained his penchant for silence during his calls.
"When I got into broadcasting, I was again captivated by the roar of the crowd. So what I've tried to do ever since the beginning was to call the play as accurately and quickly as possible, then sit back, and revel in the roar of the crowd," Scully said. "And for that brief few seconds, I was 8 years old again, I guess."
The 4+1 Game
On September 18, 2006, the Dodgers were hosting the Padres in the last game of a four-game series and trailed them by a half-game.
After a back and forth game, it was now the bottom of the ninth, the Dodgers trailed 9-5 and Jeff Kent was due up first.
"And a drive to center, going back is Cameron, to track, at the wall and gone, so Jeff Kent comes up with a home run, leading off the ninth, his fourth hit of the game."
"And another drive to deep right center and that is gone, whoa was that hit! So now it is 9-7."
"A drive into left center by Martin, that ball is carrying into the seats. Three straight home runs!"
"And another drive into high right center, at the wall, running and watching it go out. Believe it or not, four consecutive home runs and the Dodgers have tied it up again."
Kent, J.D. Drew, Russell Martin and Marlon Anderson hit four consecutive home runs to tie the game 9-9. The last three home runs came on consecutive pitches albeit by two different pitchers.
Here’s the thing, I didn’t hear these calls when Vin Scully made them, I was among the announced crowd of 55,831 to take in this game.
All of us were thrilled and stunned and could not believe what had just happened. And here’s another thing, this was before the "smartphone" era, those of us at the game, unless we called someone, were experiencing this with just the people in the stands.
I would later read through the game thread on "Dodger Thoughts" and marvel through all the comments talking about the events I had witnessed hours earlier. But while I was at the game, it was just us who were there who could talk and experience it together.
Without going into great detail, the Padres scored a run in the top of the 10th and the Dodgers would try to rally with Kenny Lofton, Nomar Garciaparra and Kent due up in the bottom of the inning.
Lofton walked and Garciaparra came up, leading to this:
"And a high fly ball to left field, it is a way out and gone, the Dodgers win it 11 to 10, unbelievable."
Later, when I got home and watched the replay, I heard Scully say after all the cheering was dying down, "I forgot to tell you: The Dodgers are in first place!"
This game was all about the joy of seeing something that is totally unexpected.
Vin Scully, surveying his domain at Dodger Stadium in 1987 (Photo: George Rose | Getty Images)
BY THE NUMBERS
Years that Scully has called games for the Dodgers, beginning in 1950 with Brooklyn. Scully was recognized in the Guinness Book of World Records in 2015 for the longest consecutive service of any sports broadcaster with one team.
No-hitters called by Scully, the most recent by Clayton Kershaw on June 18, 2014. Of those 20 no-hitters, three were perfect games — by Don Larsen in the 1956 World Series, Sandy Koufax in 1965, and Dennis Martinez in 1991.
Scully's final broadcast is Oct. 2, 2016, which is the 80th anniversary of Game 2 of the 1936 World Series, when the Yankees clobbered the Giants. That's when an eight-year-old Scully first became a baseball fan. He recalled the story last week.
"I was walking home from grammar school. I went by a Chinese laundry, and in the window was the line score of the World Series game, that would be October 2nd, 1936, and the Yankees beat up the Giants 18‑4.
"As a little boy, my first reaction was, oh, the poor Giants. Then my grammar school was 20 blocks from the old Polo Grounds, so I could walk after school at 2:30, catch the game at 3:15 for nothing, because I was a member of the Police Athletic League and the Catholic Youth Organization. So that's when I fell in love with baseball and became a true fan. My last game with the Giants will be October 2nd, 2016. That will be exactly 80 years to the minute from when I first fell in love with the game.
"So it seems like the plan was laid out for me, and all I had to do was follow the instructions."
Vin Scully said his goodbyes at Dodger Stadium last Sunday (Photo: Harry How | Getty Images)