Vin Scully was the radio and television play-by-play announcer for the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers for 67 years. For baseball fans, he was a living legend.
Paired with former major leaguer Joe Garagiola for nationally televised games on NBC, they were two of the best in the business. Scully died this week at the age of 94.
The Los Angeles Times said of Scully, “The way Vin Scully called a baseball game, it felt like bumping into an old friend. There were stories to tell and memories to share, his soothing banter as familiar as green grass and warm breezes on a sunny afternoon.”
He welcomed fans to the broadcast the same way each time, “Hi, everybody, and a very pleasant good afternoon to you wherever you may be.” His gentle spirit and easy-going attitude made viewers feel like they were watching the game inside the park with a good friend.
As a future college baseball player, one of my favorite memories was in 1988 when Scully and Garagiola called the World Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Oakland Athletics. A master storyteller, Scully called the game perfectly. His blend of creative narrative and baseball knowledge helped create one of the most exciting World Series ever.
The first game of the series was going into the ninth inning with the Athletics winning 4-3. The A’s had one of the best relievers in the league, Dennis Eckersley, on the mound to close out the game.
The Dodgers had a man on first with two outs when Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda decided to make a gamble by putting Kirk Gibson into the game as a pinch-hitter.
Gibson, one of the Dodgers’ best players, did not start the game due to a hamstring injury. He hobbled to home plate as the crowd rose to its feet, offering encouragement.
As Gibson shook his leg, trying to loosen it up, Scully described him as looking “like a horse trying to get rid of a troublesome fly.” Facing a 3-2 count, Gibson hobbled into the batter’s box, sending Eckersley’s fastball over the right field fence, giving the Dodgers the win.
The crowd erupted as Scully proclaimed to television viewers, “High flyball into right field. She is gone!”
Then, Scully delivered his best line of the night. He said nothing, letting the roar of the crowd take over the broadcast for more than a minute, as baseball fans around the world took in the special moment.
After the long pause, he commented, “In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened.”
As I gave thanks for the life and career of Vin Scully this week, I was reminded of how much I appreciated the grace and kindness emanating from his call of a game.
His use of creative narrative elevated even the most boring of games. His wittiness made you laugh at precisely the right time. And his knowledge of the game and its history left viewers memorized. Scully was, indeed, one of baseball’s greatest prophets.
If Scully was a baseball prophet, then I want to take a moment to thank all the pastoral prophets that step behind pulpits each week.
For the last several years, being a pastoral prophet has been difficult. From a pandemic to politics, pastoral prophets have been faithful in providing their congregations with honesty and clarity.
They have taken their lumps, often facing criticism for simply quoting Jesus or asking for kindness and patience in tense situations. When quiet, they are accused of not providing leadership. When vocal, they are said to be controlling.
Many pastors have left the church because of what they have endured (and who can blame them?), but more have stayed behind.
For all of you, I want to offer the introductory words of Paul to the church in Thessalonica, “I always give thanks to God for all of you, making mention of you in my prayers” (1 Thess. 1:2).
Pastors, you are loved and appreciated. Please forgive us when we fail to tell you.
This week, I am thankful for the life of Vin Scully and for every pastoral prophet who has ever delivered God’s word to others.
CEO of Good Faith Media.