The incomprehensible day that Vin Scully fans have long feared was coming might well arrive a year from now.
Scully, who turns 86 in November, hinted in an interview with KPCC-FM that he is eyeing the 2014 season for his farewell from a Los Angeles (and before that, Brooklyn) Dodgers announcing job he has held since — it’s still incredible to believe — 1950.
It might be that he doesn’t follow through on that plan — he has taken things year to year for some time now (announcing his 2014 return in August) and has always found the role of working Dodger games that are close to Los Angeles preferable to the rocking-chair life. He might downplay what he said at any moment. But this is as close to a retirement warning as he has ever really come.
“Right, I’m pretty well sure – and I don’t want to go back and forth with it – but I’m looking to next year and figuring that should be about it,” Scully told KPCC.
With the Dodgers opening the National League Division Series on Thursday in Atlanta, Scully is making a rare journey to the east, but only to broadcast for the Dodgers on radio (KLAC-AM). Despite annual calls to get him on a national postseason broadcast, Scully has given zero indication of any desire to take the mic from any Turner or Fox announcers. So don’t expect any October swan songs on national television, at least during the games themselves.
In fact, with the Dodgers moving to their own television network in 2014 via their multi-billion deal with Time Warner Cable, Scully has likely already broadcast his last over-the-air televised game. His commitment to the launch of the new network next year obviously had to have come as a massive relief to the parties involved, but the reality of going without Scully might be coming sooner than they like.
While no Jackie Robinson, Sandy Koufax or (to use a modern example) Clayton Kershaw, there’s a reason that Scully was once voted by fans the most popular Dodger of all time. He is not only the class of the franchise, he’s the connective tissue. He is, despite whatever chaos encircles the team, what keeps it special.
He also, despite his occasional mistakes with names, remains absolutely the preeminent voice in baseball — an unparalleled entertainer. It is not mere nostalgia that propels his current popularity, it’s the fact that he remains, halfway through his seventh decade at the call and his ninth in this mortal coil (to paraphrase one of his favorites, Shakespeare), the Koufax of his profession.
We’re reminded of the folly of trying to peg a replacement. Al Michaels was once considered a potential heir — in the 1970s. Scully, of course, was not a big name when he arrived with the Dodgers he was a 22-year-old who was No. 3 on the broadcast team behind Red Barber and Connie Desmond. It was Barber who recognized the potential in Scully, and I’m not sure anyone else but Scully could divine a successor of this caliber … even if such a person exists.
Los Angeles fans have had to move on without Chick Hearn doing Lakers basketball games, and someday will have to do the same without Bob Miller broadcasting Kings hockey games (not to mention Scully’s colleague, Jaime Jarrin, retiring from the Spanish-language Dodger broadcasts at some point). There is no replacing Scully. While it’s hard to say how much that will diminish the fanbase (Scully would be the first to dismiss the notion, just as he has rebelled against the idea of a street named in his honor), the nature of a Dodger broadcast will be changed forever. As after Johnny Carson or Walter Cronkite, TV will never be the same.
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