By In Baseball

Last Call

There are two outs now, bottom of the ninth here under a full moon at Dodger Stadium. The bases are still loaded, and the Dodgers still trail by a run. And, well now, it looks like Lasorda is calling back Steve Garvey. This is a surprise. The Dodgers are going to send up a pinch-hitter to face Warren Spahn. And it looks like, yes, it’s going to be Vincent Edward Scully. Well, they say strange things happen on nights when there is a full moon, and this is certainly strange.

Vin Scully, well, there’s certainly no need to tell you much about him. He has been with the Dodgers since they were in Brooklyn a few million years ago. Everything about him is familiar, even in this most unfamiliar of positions. Two outs. Bases loaded. And the Dodgers trail by a run.

Spahn winds up and delivers. Screwball just outside for a ball. Scully bats left-handed, of course, and there is a theory that left-handed batters have a better chance against the Spahn screwball because the ball breaks toward them instead of breaking away. But you know what the French biologist Jean Rostand said about theories. He said, “Theories pass. The frog remains.” And the Spahn screwball is the frog.

Scully steps out of the box to consider the moment. What must be going through his mind? He was born in the Bronx back in 1927 or as he likes to say, shortly after the discovery of fire. He has seen this situation countless times. But he knows too that this will be the last time. What must he be feeling?

Juan Marichal begins his windup. There’s that famous high-leg kick and the pitch is in there for a strike at the knees. Scully might have thought that was a bit low, but he has been around this game long enough to know there isn’t much value in saying anything to the umpire now. He goes back to fiddling a bit with his batting glove.

Scully, you already know, longed to be a sports announcer ever since he old enough to dream about such things. When he was 8 years old and in elementary school, Sister Virginia Maria asked all the students in class to write a paper about what they wanted to be when they grew up. The girls, Scully says, all wanted to be teachers and nurses, the boys firemen and policemen. Vin Scully wrote in his paper that he wanted to be a sports announcer.

The count is one and one and Bob Gibson glares in to get the sign. There is nothing in baseball quite as intimidating as that menacing Bob Gibson stare. He could scare one of the knights of the roundtable with that stare. Gibby likes to say he is not trying to intimidate anyone and stares like that because he doesn’t wear his glasses on the mound and he just can’t see the signs clearly. I would say most of the hitters in the National League would prefer he wear his glasses. Here’s the windup and the pitch — high for ball two.

Look at that moon. Can you believe we put a man on it?

It is a good situation for a hero. Jackie Robinson is on third, Pedro Guerrero on second and Adrian Gonzalez is on first. The Dodgers trail by a run. You know that Robinson would love nothing more than to steal home right here. And you also know that pitcher Tom Seaver is well aware of that as well — Seaver is keeping a close eye on Robinson. He’s not about to let Jackie get too frisky out there. Seaver is ready now. Here’s the wind and the pitch — swing and a miss for strike two. Blew the fastball right by him. Scully shakes his head like he remembers a time when you couldn’t throw a fastball by him.

Like I said earlier, this is a good situation for a hero. Scully has always been fascinated by heroics. When he was a kid, he says, he used to take a pillow and crawl under the radio in the family’s fifth-floor walk-up apartment. There was no baseball on the radio in those days, but there was football and the young Vin Scully would lie under the radio, wait for a big moment, a touchdown or an important tackle, and then soak in the cheers of the crowd. He so loved those cheers. He says they would just engulf him like water spouting out of a shower head. He would sure love to hear some of those cheers now and 45,983 here at Dodger Stadium would love to give them to him.

Two and two to Vin Scully. Greg Maddux checks the runners. He looks so professorial on the mound, Maddux does, with his glasses and that incisive look on his face, like he is planning to teach Chaucer after the game. In an age of fireballers, Maddux manages to get people out with his mind as much as with his arm. Maddux into his windup, here’s the pitch, fastball, and Scully barely fouls it back to stay alive. The crowd leaps and then sighs.

You already know this will be Scully’s final season. And it has been a marvelous career. There are so many statistics we could use to describe his unfathomable baseball life. This is his 67th season with the Dodgers, which means he has been around for 12 different managers from Burt Shotton to Dave Roberts. He has survived 18 different Dodger owners.  How about this one? The Dodgers have played 145 different people at first base since Vin Scully joined the Dodgers. There are many more but I fear in passing along statistics like this I will be, as Scully himself says, using statistics the way a drunk uses a lamppost … for support rather than illumination. The people of Los Angeles have made clear how they feel about Mr. Scully again and again and again, as they do now.

Deuces wild on the scoreboard, two balls, two strikes, two outs. Randy Johnson checks the runner at third, and he steps off the rubber to gather himself. You could hear the crowd exhale, couldn’t you? You probably know that Randy Johnson, at 6-foot-10, is the tallest pitcher in Major League Baseball history but do you know who was the tallest pitcher before the Big Unit came around?. That’s one that might stump your friends: It was a pitcher named Johnny Gee who pitched for Pirates and Giants in the 1940s.  He was 6-foot-9, and he won seven games in his career. Ol’ Johnny Gee — people didn’t know what to call him. Some naturally called him Long Johnny Gee. But others called him Johnny Gee Whiz.

Johnson’s ready now, he delivers the 2-2 pitch and, it’s outside for ball three. And here we are, everyone is on their feet. It’s a full count to Vincent Edward Scully with the bases loaded and the moon dangling over Dodgers Stadium, and the Dodgers trailing by a run. A funny thing, when you see a rookie take the field for the first time, so full of life and energy and hope and wonder, you never think it will end. When you see someone in the prime of their career, in the prime of their life, doing the sorts of thing that make your heart soar, you never think it will end. But end it must.

And here we are at the end for Vin Scully. Madison Bumgarner nervously kicks at the dirt like a kid getting ready to ask a girl to the prom. Now, he looks up, and Scully digs in. The windup. The pitch.


It is midnight in the City of Angels, Los Angeles, California, and Vin Scully, whose name will always remind you of the way baseball can clutch your heart and make you float a few inches above the ground, rounds the bases, and he lets that sound, that wonderful sound he has chased all his life, engulf him one more time, like water from a shower head.

57 Responses to Last Call

  1. KCJoe says:

    I hope that one day someone will come along who can give an honor to you like you have just done for the Greatest baseball announcer of all time.

    I read that whole thing in Mr. Scully’s voice and it was amazing.

    Thank You

    • Cary Allen says:

      If someone does write such a thing, it will be interesting how they work in the child-rape apologetics. Should be a riot.

    • Pat says:

      KCJoe, there is something already like that. You probably know this (sorry; couldn’t resist), but Cy Young never won any award for being the best pitcher. He never got the chance. But it was made up to him: They named the award after him.

      Well, the best online baseball writing award is the Joe Posnanski Award. It’s a bit different, of course—Cy Young died before the award was given out, whereas Joe’s still writing. My own theory is that Joe was made ineligible for the award, because if he weren’t, there wouldn’t be any point: He’d win it every year.

  2. Lou Wainwright says:


  3. Greg Tamblyn says:

    Makes me wish I lived in LA. Probably the only thing that could.

    • invitro says:

      I wouldn’t live in L.A. unless every other place in the USA burned down except for it, S.F., and N.Y., and maybe Seattle. For a long time, anyway, I think I’d love to live there about three months. I’d love to visit the famous crime scene locations… there are so many big famous crimes in L.A.. Or maybe I’ve read so much Hammett/Chandler/Ellroy that the dark side of L.A. seems very romantic to me. I’d also like to visit the famous rock music clubs on Sunset Blvd.

      • Marc Schneider says:

        Yes, who would want to live in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Seattle? They are such terrible places that millions of people visit every year. Gee, I wonder if it has anything to do with the politics?

        • Ctwink says:

          Maybe so. Or it could just be you are looking for a reason to be jerky…

        • invitro says:

          Politics are a big part of it. But people from those cities tend to be particularly full of themselves. The two things are related of course; people that have inflated opinions of themselves tend to be fans of big government.

          • Chris K. says:


            I’m only mildly offended by your generalization. But only mildly, as there are pretentious people in every big city.

            Come visit — but leave the politics behind. It’s only one of the most beautiful places on earth. In my humble opinion, of course.


            A long suffering Mariner fan

          • invitro says:

            I guess you’re talking about Seattle. I have visited it once, way back in 1996 my girlfriend and I won a trip to see Soundgarden’s last concert (maybe last Seattle concert). The concert was great, and the places east of Seattle that we drove around were great (I’m a big Twin Peaks fan and had to see the filming sites). The people of Seattle weren’t great. Well, these were just the hipsters, but I went in expecting good, not bad. Anyway, my comment was meant mostly tongue in cheek — I know that there are people of all types in all cities and towns, and that my short visit is a tiny sample size, not really making generalizations about.

            On the other hand, I’ve read so many things about San Francisco (I haven’t visited that city) that I feel confident I wouldn’t want to live there. Well, unless I could have my current lifestyle, which is living on five acres deep in a forest, paying very little rent, and having no traffic to deal with. If I could have that in San Francisco, I’d happily put up with the politics. But this lifestyle would probably cost a few million dollars a year there, if it’s even possible (and legal).

      • oira79 says:

        I live in San Francisco. I think I speak for many of us when I say, whew, this guy doesn’t want to live here. Great!

      • John Larsen (Los Angeles Native) says:

        Yes, in vitro… This was all about you which, one can be certain will always be true. Now back under your rock, little fella. No one needs you here.

  4. Ron H says:

    I will listen to Vin Scully from time-to-time on XMSirius MLB. Once heard him describe a soft liner over the head of the shortstop drop in for a hit as “poached eggs on toast”. Perfect!

  5. Skip Albright says:

    very nicely done, Joe

  6. RGordon says:

    Well done as always Joe. Great tribute. You paint a picture just like Mr. Scully.

  7. Barry Deutsch says:

    An essay worthy of the recently died WP Kinsella. Well done.

  8. the_slasher14 says:

    He and I came along at almost the same moment. He arrived in April, 1950; I began following baseball a few months later — rooting for the Dodgers, of course. I remember hearing him once again while on vacation in California in 1959 and loving the sound of that voice again.

    Final day of the season, 1971, the Astros at the Dodgers, the game broadcast on radio nationally because the Dodgers were still in the race. Fourth inning, runners at first and second for Willie Crawford, none out. He hits a grounder to second, the throw goes to the shortstop for the force and the relay to first is close. Bob Watson stretches for the relay but Crawford beats it out; Dick Allen moves to third. A pause. Watson is checking his uniform, thinking he might have torn it with that stretch. Crawford is laughing at him and assuring him he is “socially acceptable,” Scully tells us. The game resumes and the batter hits a grounder to first. Instead of bringing the play home, Watson jogs to the bag for out number two and starts to leave the field. Then he realizes it’s only two out and Allen has crossed the plate with the game’s first run. “So the Dodgers get a run on a break,” says Scully, “or should I say on a tear.”

    I listened to this on RADIO, and Vin Scully had the whole picture in front of me as if I was in the ballpark. The man was incredible.

  9. Richard Aronson says:

    The only thing better would be hearing it play on thousands of transistor radios, in “the friendly confines of Dodger Stadium”.

  10. Richard Aronson says:

    The last line should read “one more time” not “on more time”.

  11. Greg says:

    In tears here. Thank you.

    • invitro says:

      I told myself I wouldn’t post until somebody posted that they were crying. Anyway. I don’t like Scully and never did. I’ll take Caray and Stone, or Caray and Van Wieren/Simpson, or Brennaman and Nuxhall any day over Scully. Scully is just so damned POLITE.

      • Marc Schneider says:

        Invitro, being polite is certainly not a description anyone would apply to you.

      • Matthew Carver says:

        Pump your brakes kid. That man’s a national treasure.

      • Darrel says:

        Hate to agree with Invitro but I’m just not a Scully guy. Not that I think he’s bad or anything but baseball to me has always been more conversational. For that reason I much prefer the two man booth and can find myself missing the give and take. That plus I really don’t need to know what neighbourhood each player grew up in, where he went to high school, and what his Grandmother’s name is.

  12. Nickolai says:

    Just fantastic. Thanks Joe, and thanks for everything Vin.

  13. Michael says:

    Does anyone know where Vin Scully radio broadcasts of Dodger games are archived (available to listen to)? Searched on the web and only found a few, although many more must be available, right? There really should be a free archive.

  14. Buzz says:

    65 year old man here with tears in his eyes! Well done Joe, well done.

  15. Reid Joyner says:

    A very nice tribute, Joe. Thanks. On NPR’s April 2, 1990, Morning Edition broadcast, Red Barber shared the story of his meeting Scully and hiring him to be trained live on the air as a baseball announcer in the early 50s. Barber called Scully the best sportscaster in America. Who will carry on that rich bloodline after Barber and Scully?

  16. Ctwink says:

    Awesome, Joe!

  17. Rick Rodstrom says:

    When I was growing up in New York in the 1970’s, my Dad told me a story about the turn-of-the-century catcher Ossee Schrecongost having a contract that forbid his roommate from eating crackers in bed. I remembered the story not so much because of the crackers angle but from the shocking realization that baseball roommates used to sleep in the same bed together. My Dad never told me where he learned this bizarre anecdote however.
    I moved to Los Angeles in the late 90’s, and one day, while listening to the Dodgers, I heard Vin Scully rattle off the story of Ossee Schrecongost having a contract that forbid his roommate from eating crackers in bed. I now knew where my Dad had picked up the story, listening to Vin do Dodger games, only he was listening to Vin broadcast the Brooklyn Dodgers. Which meant that Vin had been telling the same story for 50 years.
    And that is why I think it is high time for Vin to hang ’em up. He has been telling the same stories for 7 decades now, and like your Grandpa’s stories, you have heard them all many times before. Listening to Vin, you don’t listen to the game, you listen to Vin tell stories, usually paraphrased from the team’s press guide, but sometimes taken from Vin’s vault. This would be fine if he had a broadcast partner who could keep his eye on the game at hand, and who had cultural references more current than 1940’s radio comedians, but for whatever reason, Vin insists on a one man booth. So whenever the Dodgers games are broadcast on another channel, Fox or ESPN, I will switch over to the other channel, so I can listen to the game, and not have to wade through the life history of the third base umpire, or listen to some hoary old chestnut from a bygone era when it wasn’t considered unusual for baseball players to share the same bed.

    • invitro says:

      “turn-of-the-century catcher Ossee Schrecongost” — is this guy at all related to Ossie Schectman, the man who scored the first point in NBA history?

  18. EnzoHernandez11 says:

    As a good San Diegan, I grew up despising everything about Los Angeles, but especially the Dodgers. When I attended the 1978 all-star game at San Diego Stadium, I joined the crowd in booing every Dodger from Tommy Lasorda to the team trainer. To this day, I still think of the Dodgers the way Alabama thinks of Auburn.

    But I could never bring myself to hate Vin Scully. When the Padres weren’t on, I’d often listen to Scully on KABC out of L.A. He really was more lyricist than announcer, to the point that I’d sometimes get so caught up listening to him that I’d forget how much I hated the team he was describing. Scully managed to convey his love for the Dodgers without ever crossing the line into homerism. Almost every MLB hometown announcer will piss you off if you’re pulling for the other team; Scully never did.

    To me, the ultimate Vin Scully moment came in 1993 when he had to announce the unexpected death of his longtime partner, Don Drysdale, who had passed away that morning in Montreal. He had to keep this terrible knowledge to himself for several innings while Drysdale’s family was notified in California. When Scully finally shared the news, he somehow managed to convey his shock and sadness with composure, professionalism, and dignity, as though he had been preparing for the moment for years.

    • invitro says:

      “Almost every MLB hometown announcer will piss you off if you’re pulling for the other team” — I dunno. The only such guy who’s done that for me is Ken Harrelson. But I haven’t listened to very many “away” announcers.

      • Marc Schneider says:

        If you listened to the Nationals’ announcers-and I’m a Nats fan-I guarantee you would root for the other team. Bob Carpenter and FP Santangelo are the worst homers I’ve ever heard-including Hawk Harrelson.

        • Larry Schmitt says:

          That’s because you’re listening to their TV announcers. The radio announcers for the Nats, Charlie Slowes and Dave Jageler, are a treat.

  19. EnzoHernandez11 says:

    You’re right about Harrelson. Every time I hear him, I immediately start pulling for whichever team is playing the White Sox. Except the Dodgers, of course.

  20. Robert says:

    I have a hard time getting my mind around how long his career has been. Here in Toronto, we had an announcer named Tom Cheek who broadcast our first game ever in 1977 and then called 4306 consecutive games plus 41 post-seasons until he missed a game in 2004,and it felt like he had been here forever. It was hard to imagine another voice coming out of your radio. It was like baseball had been built around him. How much more so must it be with Scully. There will never be another like him in any sport at any time. I wish that I had been able to actually hear him, instead of just read about him. But, unfortunately, his voice didn’t make it north of the border. A long and happy retirement to him.

  21. Jenice Greb says:

    I confess that I’ve never heard Vin Scully, but I love what you wrote. Reminded me a lot of the obituary you wrote for Paul Splitorff. Thanks for them both.

  22. Len Blonder says:

    Joe…I am 70 years old and was 12 when the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles. Vin Scully has been an integral part of my life for 58 years. His voice every spring brought to life my favorite part of every year “Dodger baseball” I will never forget that fall day in 1959 when Vin announced “…Mantilla throws low and wild Hodges scores we go to Chicago…”

    Dodger baseball will go on but it will never be the same.

  23. Chipmaker says:

    I dearly hope Vin used the line about teaching Chaucer once upon a time.

  24. miles says:

    Pitch perfect.

  25. K Peters says:

    don’t think mad dog ever wore glasses on the hill. if that seems a nit-picky critique, that’s because it is. Great read once again!

  26. […] just read a wonderful remembrance of Scully’s work by NBC Sports’ Joe Posnanski and another by Keith […]

  27. dtslcd says:

    Another great post Joe – I’m not a Dodgers fan and only listened to Scully in spurts, but as a Tigers fan I know exactly how the old Dodgers fans feel. We had the same relationship here with Ernie Harwell, I’d still love to hear just one more inning from him

  28. shagster says:

    Nice. Will be in a car w back windows down driving a country road the night the final call. Dodgers – Giants. Playoff implications. Radio tuned.

    Thank you Vin. We all won.

  29. will says:

    Fantastic, Joe. That was one of your greatest. thank you.

  30. Steve Presant says:

    Wow. You should do this kind of thing for a living.

  31. Thank you, Joe. I’ll be reading you a lot more. An Angeleno, from the 1958 Dodgers thru Vin Scully, the Great Laker Teams of Elgin Baylor and Jerry West announced by Chick Hearn to the Los Angeles Times sportswriter, Jim Murray…Your writing ranks with their words. TK

  32. Thank you, Joe. I’ll be reading you a lot more. An Angeleno, from the 1958 Dodgers thru Vin Scully, the Great Laker Teams of Elgin Baylor and Jerry West announced by Chick Hearn to the Los Angeles Times sportswriter, Jim Murray…Your writing ranks with their words. TK

  33. Richard says:

    And of course, it was a seven-pitch at-bat. Anyone other than Vin Scully, and they would have popped up on the first pitch…..

  34. Chris H says:

    Ten years ago, I was driving across the country, and listening to way too much baseball, including Vin Scully every chance I got. I was blogging that trip, and one day in Montana I wrote the following. I hope you’ll forgive me for reposting it here:

    “…[I]n the summer of 2006, there’s still Vin Scully. He was in the background of my evenings for most of the three summers I spent in Los Angeles, and almost made a Dodgers fan out of me. And now in the age of satellite radio, I dial him up just about every chance I get, because someday the guy who was on the radio during Brooklyn’s World Series win is going to decide he doesn’t need to spend half the year going to ballgames anymore, and that’ll be that.

    “There are certain actors – Morgan Freeman is one; William B. Davis of The X-Files is another – whom I especially like because of the way they seem to sing their lines. It doesn’t matter whether anyone talks that way; it’s beautiful and interesting and, at its best, truer than realism. So Vin Scully. He rarely yells, not even with the Dodgers on a hot streak that up to today has them winning 17 of their last 18 games: just lifts his pitch a couple of tones, elongates his words, and sings the delight of 48,000 fans to you in a way that trusts you’ll get it without him hollering at you what you’re supposed to feel.

    “He’s like Freeman and Davis, but more, because he’s making it up as he goes along, reading the score in front of him and then improvising from there. He stitches pet phrases into the fabric of the action; tells an old story from the days at Ebbets Field and in the middle of it lands hard on the word “whacked!” like it’s his index finger dropping on A above middle C, as Jeff Kent laces a double down the line. He’s one of the great jazzmen of the last half-century, and I mean that literally.”

    Well, that’s that, almost. We will not see his like again.

  35. […] continue as the legendary Dodgers announcer heads into the final week of his 67-year career: Joe Posnanski; Jayson Stark; and at GQ, Keith Olbermann, on how Scully shouldn’t be regarded so saintly: […]

  36. Mike Schilling says:

    This is the 134rd year of the Dodgers. Scully is his 67th season with the Dodgers, which is half of their existence. That’s insane.

  37. Dan says:

    I’ve never really listened to Scully much. But I do like that picture of him with a Schafer beer and a carton of Lucky Strikes.

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