Monday, April 4, 2016, the greatest sportscaster ever began his 67th and final season.
Don’t take the word of two life-long Dodger fans that 88-yearold Vin Scully, the Voice of Da Bums since 1950, is the best. His awards and recognitions are way too numerous to list, so here are the greatest highlights. The American Sportscasters Association named him Sportscaster of the Century in 2000 and first on its all-time Top- 50 list later. Numerous halls of fame, a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, etc.
The reasons for that extend from his encyclopedic knowledge of the game and technical broadcasting skills to his modesty, casual friendly manner, and personal warmth, all conveyed in a lyrically descriptive style via a dulcet voice. His vivid yet simple description of a game has thrilled fans for years.
It all starts with his signature introduction: “It’s time for Dodger baseball! Hi, everybody, and a very pleasant good day/evening to you, wherever you may be.”
When the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles in 1958, fans began bringing their transistor radios to the ballgame because he added so much to what they saw. Part of his charm is his mastery of baseball history and anecdote, which makes fans feel a special connection to him and the game.
He learned early on to be objective and understated, not a home-team shill and loud. And he always kept in mind that sportscasting is about the players and the game, not about him.
He’s witnessed more spectacular sports history moments than anyone. He was there (but not calling the action) for baseball’s most famous moment ever, Bobby Thomson’s pennant-winning “shot heard ‘round the world” homerun in 1951 for the Giants that broke Dodger hearts forever.
Four years later, he called the seventh game of the Dodgers’ first World Series championship ever, which Scully recalls as his favorite moment. On the last out, he said simply, “Ladies and gentlemen, the Brooklyn Dodgers are the champions of the world.” Then he turned the mic to the cheering crowd for an extended time in what became another signature move.
He explains that as an eighty year-old boy, he used to lay his head on a pillow under the large radio counsel in his parents’ home and let the sounds of the crowd and the game wash over him as ate crackers and drank milk. That memory comes back at every good baseball moment, and that’s what he shares with fans.
Other highlights? Kirk Gibson’s 1988 World Series walk off homer that’s widely viewed as the second most memorable moment in baseball history. Hank Aaron’s 715th homer in 1974 that broke Babe Ruth’s most famous career record. Barry Bonds’ 71st, 72nd and 73rd home-runs in 2001 to capture the single-season record.
Did we mention that he called “The Catch” on TV in 1982, when the San Francisco 49ers’ Joe Montana and Dwight Clark beat the Dallas Cowboys and started a dynasty? Yes, he’s great at television, too, plus football, golf and tennis broadcasting.
He’s called five baseball perfect games – no one else has two – beginning with Don Larsen’s in the 1956 Series, the first perfect game in 34 years. And 18 no-hitters, including four by Sandy Koufax, culminating with his perfecto in 1965. Two more perfect games in 1988 and 1991. Then, in 1999 he played himself in arguably the best sports (and date) film ever, For Love of the Game. As the hero takes the mound for the ninth inning, seeking to finish his perfect game, Scully says: “Billy Chapel is 40 years old, arm weary and aching. And you know, Steve, you get the feeling that Billy Chapel isn’t pitching against left-handers, he isn’t pitching against pinch-hitters, he isn’t pitching against the Yankees. He’s pitching against time. He’s pitching against the future, against age, and even when you think about his career, against ending. And tonight I think he might be able to use that aching old arm one more time to push the sun back up in the sky and give us one more day of summer.”
Vin Scully used that dulcet voice to push the sun back up in the sky for one more summer for all of us.
Boston Red Sox starting pitcher David Price, backed by some members of his team, humiliated NESN broadcaster Dennis Eckersley on the team’s chartered plane because Eckersley uttered the word “yuck” in response to Boston pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez’s poor stats that were displayed onscreen during the broadcast of a Red Sox game.
This was originally published at FoulPlaybyPlay.com, a community of foul-mouthed sports broadcasters and bloggers.
Price’s ire with Eckersley has been apparently building because Eckersley rarely visits the clubhouse. But Eckersley’s job isn’t to buddy-up with the Boston Red Sox. His job is to provide entertaining, insightful commentary during games, and sometimes that insight must be critical of the home team. It’s a lot harder to remain objectively critical of your friends, which is likely why Eckersley stays out of the clubhouse.
We all deal with criticism at work, but most of that criticism is kept inside the office and not broadcasted on live television. As a journalist for more than six years, I can somewhat relate to the criticism baseball players and other athletes deal with on a regular basis. Publishing an opinion in the newspaper is not unlike stating an opinion on television or radio, except the response isn’t immediate. I’ve had multiple responses to opinions I’ve published in the editorial sections of newspapers throughout Montana, and as an atheist socialist in a red state, none of them were in support of my opinion. That’s the risk you take in being critical.
I’ve also been threatened with violence for reporting a story, so I feel Eckersley’s pain. Like Eckersley, I didn’t get attached to the players I covered for fear of losing the relative objectivity required to be critical of them when it was necessary (and it becomes necessary more often than not). But NESN won’t defend Eckersley like a newspaper editor defends a reporter because the Red Sox pay the bills, and if a broadcaster isn’t on speaking terms with a star player, it makes it hard for the broadcaster to do his or her job. David Price sells NESN -- not Dennis Eckersley.
We run into similar issues at GCN. We have about 80 shows broadcasted from a satellite on the roof, and while just the hosts of our sports show, View From The Couch, are GCN employees, the network still has to keep the show hosts happy because the show hosts pay the bills.
Eckersley could be loved by NESN viewers and lose his job because David Price doesn’t like him. Judging by his interview with WEEI’s Rob Bradford, he might just resign or retire at year’s end given how tough this season’s been on him. He said he won’t change the way he broadcasts games, but Price thinks he’s been more positive since the incident.
This is a common struggle for local newspapers. Fans want to be reassured. They want to know things will improve and that the team is learning from its mistakes. As a sportswriter for many a bad team, I can tell you I’ve dug deep for positives in games that had very few. Sometimes it’s focusing on the important minutes young players got to play during garbage time. But you never ignore the mistakes. You can treat them as learning experiences for so long, but at some point after the same mistakes are repeated multiple times, it’s hard not to be critical of the team or player who doesn’t seem to be learning from the mistakes.
I can understand taking offense to public defamation, but delivering a derogatory comment on a player’s statistics is not public defamation. Commenting on performance is Eckersley’s job description as a commentator, as is painting the Red Sox in a favorable light that helps sell NESN. With 23 years of Major League pitching experience, he’s certainly qualified to comment on the performance of a pitcher. And while we’d all hope more insightful commentary could be provided than “yuck,” the comment is hardly insensitive. “The Red Sox are hoping those numbers are an aberration and not the new norm,” would have been better, but Eckersley was probably reacting to the statistics in real time. He didn’t have time to think of a way to present his reaction in a positive light.
It makes you wonder what Price would have done to Eckersley had he commented on how Price hasn’t lived up to the seven-year, $217 million contract he signed with Boston as a free agent prior to the 2016 season. Immediately upon signing the deal, Price’s ERA+ dropped from a career high of 164 in 2015 to 111 in 2016. A comment on Price’s lack of playoff success might have ended in violence (2-8, 5.54 ERA). Injuries have limited Price to just 66 innings on the mound this season, just the second of the seven-year deal paying him more than $30 million annually.
The moment local sports broadcasts stop being critical of local sports teams is the moment local sports broadcasters become the team’s public relations personnel instead of sports journalists. If Price’s idea of a purely positive, local broadcast is the future of sports broadcasting, I’ll take my baseball on mute.
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