An Ode to Vin Scully

Hi everybody, and a very pleasant afternoon to you wherever you may be.

Late into Tuesday evening, a notification flashed across my screen that read: “Heartbroken. Our game has lost its voice.” Instinctively, I knew what Jon Morosi was referring to even before I clicked into the notification.

Vin Scully, the long-time broadcaster of the Los Angeles Dodgers, passed away at 94 years old.

With the announcement of his passing, the Dodgers recognized Scully as not only “voice of the Dodgers,” but “their conscience, their poet laureate, capturing their beauty and chronicling their glory from Jackie Robinson to Sandy Koufax, Kirk Gibson to Clayton Kershaw. …Vin Scully was the heartbeat of the Dodgers — and in so many ways, the heartbeat of all of Los Angeles.”

I don’t think it’d be a stretch to say that fans all across the country saw Scully as the voice and heartbeat of our sport. Even then, he’d come to transcend the game of baseball. Tennis icon and activist Billie Jean King, NBA Hall-of-Famer Magic Johnson, ESPN host Scott Van Pelt, and TV producer Michael Schur were just a few of the people outside our game who recognized the life and legacy of Scully.

In his 67 years behind the microphone, there wasn’t much to which Scully didn’t bear witness. Since his career with the Dodgers began in 1950, he wove the stories of 25 World Series, 21 no-hitters, 12 All-Star Games, and three perfect games. He’s as much a part of the 14 strikeouts Sandy Koufax hurled in his 1965 perfect game, the record-setting 715th home run that Henry “Hank” Aaron hit in 1974,  the “impossible” walk-off home run that Kirk Gibson sent over the right field wall in the 1988 World Series, or the 107 pitches it took Clayton Kershaw to complete his no-hitter in 2014.

In true Scully fashion, however, the number of strikeouts, home runs, or World Series he called were not what made him special. He once said, legend has it, that “Statistics are used much like a drunk uses a lamppost: for support, not illumination.”

The illumination came not only in the telling stories but also in knowing when to pause and let the reaction to the story do the telling. So, let me tell you a story. Then I’ll let you experience some of Scully’s most marvelous stories. I’d love to hear your reactions, too.

I’ve written a lot about how intertwined baseball and my wellbeing are. Every year for nearly 180 uninterrupted nights, there is always a game to turn on that will capture my attention. We all go through ebbs and flows, but I’ve found that the end of an exciting month of playoffs, and thus the baseball season, always leads me to a deep sadness. And although we’re coming off an exciting trade deadline and still have two months of the regular season to go, the recent news of Vin Scully’s passing took my breath away in the same way that a fresh offseason does.

When my depression acts up, the first thing I notice is how difficult the nights become. Back before Scully’s retirement in 2016, I was hiding how much I was struggling to make it through high school. By then I had learned how to manage the weighted blanket of my sadness during the day. It wasn’t pleasant, but it was manageable. When the late afternoon would give way to the night, however, the sadness would snowball into something that many nights felt unmanageable and often suffocating. Late at night and more often than not, however, there were Dodgers games I could put on.

During those tough nights, Scully’s storytelling was one of the few things that could get me out of my own head. The sound of his voice was a soothing presence that instantly eased my sadness. His stories gently pulled the weighted blanket off my head, allowing me to breathe easier and work my way through the night.

Those stories, sometimes about so much but at other times about nothing at all, were a much needed life raft for someone struggling to keep their head above water. His voice was my kind of lullaby, helping pull me to shore as I drifted off to sleep. And although those nights rolled around every 24 hours, so did Scully’s voice for six months of the year.

When signing off for the last time on October 2, 2016, his parting words to baseball fans have stuck with me:

“You and I have been friends for a long time, but I know in my heart that I’ve always needed you more than you’ve ever needed me. And I’ll miss our time together more than I can say. But you know what? There will be a new day and eventually a new year, and when the upcoming winter gives way to spring, rest assured once again, it will be time for Dodger baseball. So this is Vin Scully, wishing you a very pleasant good afternoon wherever you may be.”

Respectfully, Vin, I have to disagree. I needed those nights with your stories more than these words could ever convey. Although my days and nights are brighter now, there are still moments when I yearn to hear your voice as I drift off to sleep. These days, though, I do rest assured that new days full of baseball are on the horizon no matter how dark the nights may seem. So this is me thanking you for making sure I was never navigating those tough nights alone.

Now, I’ll pause and allow Vin Scully to do the talking. I hope you enjoy revisiting these stories as much as I did.


Feature image by Michael Packard (@CollectingPack on Twitter)

Nicole Cahill

Nicole Cahill is a freelance writer who focuses on mental health and sports. She recently founded a nonprofit that helps youth athletes living with mental health challenges. When she's not fighting stigma or exploring Baseball Savant visuals, you can find Nicole enjoying a cup of coffee and a good book. Portfolio: NicoleCahill.com.

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