Friday, April 29, 2016

The Final Year of Vin Scully Broadcasts

I've been watching quite a few Los Angeles Dodgers games this year. Not for the team itself, but for their broadcaster.
Vin Scully has been broadcasting various sports for almost 70 of his 88 years. That's not just longer than I've been alive - my parents weren't even born when he started. He's been with the Dodgers since 1950. I don't have any particular feelings one way or another about the Dodgers (outside of my Midwesterner mild dislike for anything from New York or Los Angeles), but I'll watch their home broadcasts just for a chance to hear Scully call the games.

I enjoy the older broadcasting style for baseball games, with just one announcer and minimal "sideshow" segments (by which I mean anything not about the game at hand: interviews, scoreboard updates, etc). Almost no one other than Scully does the single announcer format any more. Most television broadcasts (and some radio) have taken to including those sideshow segments, but not Dodger games that Scully is working.

Listening to Vin Scully call a baseball game almost always includes a bit of a history lesson. Baseball is a slow game with plenty of time to tell stories, and there's no one else in broadcasting with more stories. The viewer might hear how a particular play reminds him of something Jackie Robinson or Don Drysdale did many decades ago, or an anecdote from the days before pre-recorded commercial breaks when a beer cooler ice on a hot summer day melted and spilled all over the unfortunate announcer on the air. I'm often doing other things at the same time as I'm watching the game, but a Vin Scully story usually grabs my full attention for a few minutes.

It's amazing to me how well truly gifted sports announcers fill the hours of a game with constant commentary. Listening to Vin Scully call a game isn't just a chance to hear stories from long ago, or descriptions of the current game. He has background on every player, comments on every play, something to add for any situation. Sure, other announcers do the same things, but few (if any) in the business today are a smooth as Scully. Just about every other broadcast uses two-man teams, and even so many of them have more dead air in a typical game than Scully's solo work.

Vin Scully has said he'll retire at the end of this baseball season. I can certainly understand why, at almost 90 years old. Nonetheless, I can't help being sad to see him go. It'll be the end of an era, and his work will be missed. Meanwhile, I'll take every opportunity this year to turn on a home Dodgers game for his last year on the air.

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