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His Dodgers In The Playoffs, A Legendary Announcer Keeps On

Oct 7, 2013
Originally published on October 7, 2013 6:50 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

For the first time in four years, the Los Angeles Dodgers are in the playoffs. They have plenty of stars on the field, but the most famous and beloved member of the organization is in the radio booth. Eighty-five-year-old Vin Scully has been broadcasting games for 64 years. Ben Bergman of member station KPCC got a rare interview with Scully, who says he'll keep going for at least another year.

VIN SCULLY: It's time for Dodger baseball.

BEN BERGMAN, BYLINE: Vin Scully tells people he is the most thankful person you will ever meet. He calls himself a walking Thanksgiving dinner.

SCULLY: I'm so happy to be here. I know it sounds, you know, goofy, and I'm probably a little goofy.

BERGMAN: We met in the small dining room of the press box named after him. It's where Scully eats with the other broadcasters before the game.

SCULLY: If you say, are you different on the air and not on the air, the answer is no. I'm just me.

BERGMAN: Press boxes can be cynical places, even when the team is winning. But then there is Scully, who takes great pleasure in every detail: the sunset over the stadium, cute babies in the stands, or the defense of the team's rookie sensation.

SCULLY: Puig on the run. A diving catch.

BERGMAN: Scully is the only major broadcaster who works solo. Instead of talking to a color commentator, he talks right to his listeners. A few weeks ago, he apologized for going on a lengthy tangent about Friday the 13th.

SCULLY: I'm not trying to get smart. I just looked it up, figuring a lot of you folks might find it a little interesting. Like you, I'd be lost without Google.

BERGMAN: Scully never uses catchphrases. His style is one of a kind. And a big reason for that is because, with only rare exceptions, he's never listened to anyone else call a game. That's because of a lesson his mentor taught him.

SCULLY: Red Barber said to me, to this young, 22-year-old, wide-eyed kid: You bring something into the booth that no one else brings in. I was shocked. I looked at him and said, what do I bring in? And he said: yourself. And he said, if you listen to other broadcasters, either by design or without even thinking about it, you'll begin to adopt to some of their intonations, some of their expressions and phrases. And I thought, I'd be watering my wine.

DICK ENBERG: We never thought we could be better than Scully. That would be foolishness.

BERGMAN: Dick Enberg had the misfortune of working across town from Scully after becoming the Angels announcer in 1969. He remembers going to Dodgers games when so many fans brought radios just so they wouldn't miss his competitor.

ENBERG: When there were quiet moments, you could hear the voice of Scully reverberating around the stadium.

BERGMAN: Sports Illustrated once said Scully was as much a part of LA as the freeways and the smog. As their most popular star - maybe the most popular person in the city - the Dodgers try to promote Scully as much as he'll let them, which isn't very much. Team historian Mark Langill says it took 12 years to convince him to let the team host a Vin Scully bobblehead night.

MARK LANGILL: Whenever you have surveys or anything like that, he's always at the top of the list. And every year, hey, can we? No, thank you. Hey, can we? No, thank you.

BERGMAN: Scully only agreed after his 16 grandchildren begged him. He hates the notion that he's more popular than the players.

SCULLY: My career is one of talking about the accomplishments of others. I haven't accomplished anything. I do the best I can. And some days are OK. Some days I get in the car and think, you stink.

BERGMAN: For the last few years, Scully has signed only one-year contracts.

SCULLY: I don't believe it. A grand slam home run.

BERGMAN: Energized by a summer winning streak he called the most impressive he'd ever seen, he decided once again in August he wasn't ready to say goodbye yet.

SCULLY: I don't say it's like dying, but it's really turning off an engine that has been running. I guess I've been working since I was about 11, and I've never stopped. It'll be difficult but, you know, I eventually will do it for sure. And right now, I'm looking to next year and figuring that should be about it.

BERGMAN: For these playoffs, Scully isn't on TV as he normally is, just radio. He says he prefers it that way, calling the game the same way he has since he started in Brooklyn 64 seasons ago. For NPR News, I'm Ben Bergman in Los Angeles.

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