Opinion: Fond recollections of the G.O.A.T.

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Want to know who the G.O.A.T. is (The Greatest of All Time) for any particular endeavor? If you google G.O.A.T. for baseball announcers, Vin Scully is almost always No. 1.

Scully passed away recently at the age of 94. He called Dodgers games for 67 years, both in Brooklyn and LA. Scully was also a poet and a painter. On the radio, he created vivid pictures of what was happening on the field, but in the TV booth, he helped the viewer understand the game, and when great moments happened in baseball, like Henry Aaron’s homerun to break Babe Ruth’s record—he let the cheers of the crowd tell the story. After Aaron hit that historic blast, Scully retreated to the restroom to heed nature’s call. He knew the next two minutes of the game did not require “his” call. When he returned to the mic, that’s when you heard his poetry.

Carl Erskine, Hoosier native and former Major League Baseball pitcher, is the only living Dodgers link to the Jackie Robinson age of baseball, covering the late ’40s and ’50s (with one exception: Robinson’s widow, Rachel, just celebrated her 100th birthday). I spoke to Carl the other day in Anderson, where he and his wife, Betty, will celebrate their 75th anniversary in October.

Carl explained to me what made Scully great.

“You always felt he was talking directly to you,” Carl said. “You don’t get that feeling today with many broadcasters. The voice of the announcer is part of people’s lives. “

Former Indianapolis Colts sportscaster Bob Lamey revered the broadcaster, as well.  He agreed with Carl’s sentiment that you always felt you knew Scully, that he was part of your family … even more so than the players were. According to Lamey, one of Scully’s greatest skills was to adjust his style to the broadcasting situation. Scully had a different presentation for day versus night games. During summer afternoon contests, when there were a lot of families in attendance, he might give a little extra explanation for something like a squeeze play. But at night, he was talking to true fans, not just folks looking for a pleasant afternoon’s entertainment.

“They knew what a squeeze bunt was,” Lamey mused. “No explanation needed.”

“I never once heard Vince Scully talk about himself,” Lamey said.  “It was always about the game and the fans and the players, and even if you were not a Dodgers fan, he made the game fun. There will never be another one like him.”

As a kid, I kept a transistor radio under my pillow, falling asleep to Vin’s voice, while he described a Jackie Robinson steal or a Carl Erskine overhand curveball. Now, you may not agree that Vin Scully was the G.O.A.T., but this week it has been my honor to go to bat for him.

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