One word came to mind Tuesday night as Mark Langill adjusted to the reality that Dodgers icon broadcaster Vin Scully – many labeling him the best ever at his craft – had died at his Hidden Hills home, just outside Calabasas.
“Gratitude,” said Langill, a longtime South Pasadena resident, known professionally as the Dodgers official historian today. “I grew up hanging on to his every word on television and radio. That didn’t change when he later became a colleague and friend.”
Scully, seemingly everyone’s friend, was good-natured and loved on and off the air, starting in Brooklyn and later when the team moved out west, ultimately becoming the longest-tenured broadcaster with one club in pro sports history, entertaining Dodger fans for 67 years. He was 94.
“The broadcasting tools he mastered in his 20’s made him an icon for the next half century,” explained Langill when asked why Scully was so well liked. “Yet he went out of his way to bring others along for the ride, whether through his human-interest stories during the course of a ballgame or through his genuine joy shown towards those he met on a daily basis.”
His ease behind the mic made the listener feel so comforting, “just you and Vinny, using that soothing insightful voice to say: “Hi everyone, and a very pleasant good evening to you wherever you may be.”
Following Tuesday night’s game in San Francisco, the Giants paid tribute with a message and picture of Scully on its scoreboard. The team’s Public Address Announcer Renel Brooks-Moon told the crowd in part, “Rest in Peace, sir. Thank you for all that you gave to this great game of baseball that we all love. You’ll be deeply missed,” as fans rose to their feet to applaud in unison.
Langill is among those who knew Scully better than most, meeting him personally for the first time on August 18, 1983. As a recent graduate of South Pasadena High School and intern at Pasadena Star-News, “I was supposed to tag along with Dodger beat reporter Matt McHale and watch the game from the press box for a ‘behind the scenes’ covering of a ballgame,” he recalled. “Five minutes before the first pitch, a light rain delayed the game. The Dodgers-Mets matchup wasn’t canceled until 10 p.m., but in those three hours, I met everyone in the press box – the writers, broadcasters and front office staff.”
And, of course, being the team’s history buff, he pointed out, “In the 60-year history of Dodger Stadium, that remains the only August rainout.”
It’s likely Langill will forever hang onto the memories of spending time with the red-haired, blue-eyed, kind and considerate Scully, who as a child would listen to games, hearing the roar of the crowd, thinking he’d like to call the action one day. He got the opportunity working baseball, football and basketball broadcasts over a two-year span for Fordham University and it wasn’t too long before he was hired by a CBS affiliate in Washington, D.C. Soon he was in the booth with Red Barber, a Hall of Famer, and Connie Desmond doing Brooklyn Dodgers games, and at age 25 became the youngest person to ever call a World Series, a milestone which still holds up today. Scully moved to Los Angeles with the team in 1958 and continued to make his mark until his retirement in 2016.
“It was always a joy to speak with him either in person or over the phone,” remembers Langill. “I interviewed him on several occasions on stage, including a Bakersfield medical charity event that drew more than 1,200 people. There’s no more surreal feeling to be the one interviewing your hero on stage, especially when there’s a recording of me at 8 years old pretending to broadcast the 1974 World Series, complete with ads for Olympia Beer.”
Scully’s talents far exceeded baseball. His voice was part of NFL games, including Dwight Clark’s “The Catch” against the Dallas Cowboys in 1981, the PGA Tour as well as national baseball broadcasts, including 25 World Series games.
Asked if Scully was the greatest baseball broadcaster of all time, insightful, just like the legendary announcer himself, Langill said, “Any longtime broadcaster such as Red Barber (Dodgers), Mel Allen (Yankees), Russ Hodges (Giants) and Ernie Harwell (Tigers) will get votes from their respective fan base because that vocation can be so personal to a fan base. Scully never worried about awards or popularity contests. His goal was always striving and preparing for his next broadcast.”
Just being in his presence, Langill learned by Scully’s good example: “Stick to your principles and never rest on your laurels,” he said. “And always bring a coat to Boston’s Fenway Park in case you’re assigned to cover a college football game on the press box roof like he did as a radio reporter in November 1949.”
The voice of the Dodgers also lived by four B’s:
• Be There.
• Be Early.
• Be Seen.
• Be Gone.
While Scully’s voice will be etched into Dodger fans memories forever, it’s the man’s sense of humor, sprinkled with a touch of sarcasm, that Langill might take away most.
“One time I told Vin, ‘I could’ve been a doctor or a lawyer, but I hung on your every word as a kid. Now look at me …’ He’d laugh and say, ‘I’m so sorry!’ ”