Prior to Vin Scully’s death on Tuesday at 94, I’d several times written that the state of sports broadcasting in the unsteady hands of those who do the hiring today would relegate Scully to a long shot to be hired to call any team’s games.
Scully didn’t meet the current standards. He avoided gimmicks, hype, signature calls, forced belly laughs, endless stats and hollering over nothing.
He also could distinguish between radio and TV assignments, thus he famously knew when to speak and when to allow the pictures to be worth all the words.
That’s why Scully may be the only voice of any sport to be cherished for what he didn’t say.
And he much preferred to work alone. Just you and Vin at a baseball game. West Coast baseball fans often called it “a bond.”
Poor Johnny Bench was assigned to call four World Series with Scully on CBS Radio, 1990-93. Nothing personal, but Scully felt Bench’s presence to be just “big-name” superfluous, thus they produced the between-pitches sounds of awkward.
It was baffling to hear Michael Kay, during YES’s Mariners-Yankees on Wednesday, recall Scully, a fellow Fordham and school radio station WFUV alum, as the best. Prior to Scully’s passing, it was equally odd to read that John Sterling idolized Scully.
Kay and Sterling have been career-reliant on word gimmickry and “signature calls,” sustaining them even as they’ve grown repetitive, old, tired and a counterproductive exercise in foolish and stubborn self-deference.
In Sterling’s case, his long career has been slathered in self-smitten signature calls so often dead wrong they’ve become lampooned as unintended farce.
So why would Kay and Sterling choose to be antithetical to Scully, if they most admired his style?
A gracious man — on Dodgers stationery, he’d hand-write a thank you for every admiration he read here — I was once privileged, or just an invited eavesdropper, to hear Scully at his angriest, as he couldn’t have possibly been angrier.
This was after Detroit won the fifth and last game of the 1984 Tigers-Padres World Series, the last Series to include a day game. Shucks, nearly 40 years ago.
Scully, who called the Series for NBC, was asked to call after that game in Detroit.
As we began speaking, Scully noticed that a riot had erupted below him, just outside Tiger Stadium. He then gave me, the sole person in his audience, the play-by-play: fires being set, a taxi overturned and burned, destructive mobs on the march — all gathered and inspired by the last out of the Series.
Scully seethed, livid at the senselessness of it all, disgusted that baseball would serve as fools’ fuel. He didn’t cuss, but yikes, was he angry.
He was also an unapologetic patriot. At a 2017 symposium, he was asked how he felt about NFL national anthem knee-takers. He said he was disgusted by them, said he’d never watch another NFL game. He had the audacity to protest the protesters.
He was soon ridiculed and dismissed as an “Old Retired White Man” on a popular but reckless, often dishonest and vulgar sports website featuring cheap-shot artists who made bad guesses to mischaracterize and defame. That’s how to succeed in modern media business without really trying.
And Scully wasn’t shy to note that the country was in illogical decline.
Still, New Yorkers in Scully’s post-Brooklyn years among the 67 — sixty-seven! — he spent calling Dodgers games, still point to his Game 6 call of the unfathomable Red Sox-Mets World Series. The call?
After a perfect delivery of the play-by-play, there was none.
Only a sustained, glorious silence. He allowed NBC cameras to capture the extraordinary. Scully didn’t try to apply his historical stamp. He was so in-tune and on-time with every game he called that here he’s best remembered and revered for saying nothing!
He didn’t waste his wind trying to sell cheap thrills to audiences that knew better. Few current TV and radio executives would find that acceptable. Vin Scully would be disqualified.
Watson ban slap in face to decency
The Deshaun Watson case again raises the question as to why nothing can be what it is. It must come replete with political, racial, gender, financial and public relations considerations and intrigues. Matters of wrong versus right become matters of who and how much.
Sue Robinson, the judge assigned to recommend Watson’s punishment after he settled lawsuits with 23 women who accused him of sexual misconduct including assault — and after he signed a guaranteed $230 million deal to play QB for the Browns while the charges had not been adjudicated — determined that a six-game NFL suspension should do the trick.
Question for Her Honor: Had she settled even two or three cases of sexual misconduct filed against her, would she still have a bench to be suspended from? No, she’d be out, gone, disgraced — like most working folks who don’t play QB in the NFL.
The latest, most curious thing about this saga is that the NFLPA, which defends all rotten behavior by NFL players — even if their victims are other NFLPA members — seemed to know exactly what was coming against Watson. And that it would not be much.
So it issued a preemptive legal threat to the NFL just before Robinson’s anemic ruling became public:
“A former Federal Judge — appointed jointly by the NFLPA and NFL — held a full and fair hearing, has read thousands of pages of investigative comments and reviewed arguments from both sides impartially.
“Every player, owner, business partner and stakeholder deserves to know that out process is legitimate and will not be tarnished based on the whims of the League office.
“This is why, regardless of her decision, Deshaun and the NFLPA will stand by her ruling and we call on the NFL to do the same.”
Seems a case of betting the horse race after it was over.
Of course, the NFL, as a matter of public relations and commercial pressures — follow the money! — couldn’t possibly abide by such a farcical ruling, thus they appealed.
Roger Goodell, who panders rather than leads, should now hit Watson with what reflects 23 settled sexual malfeasance cases: an open-ended lifetime suspension subject to annual review. Then let the NFLPA take it to court.
While in court, an NFL lawyer could ask the NFLPA what it considers a fair punishment for a man who made financial settlements with 23 women who had accused him of sexual misconduct and/or assault.
And if the NFLPA’s answer is, “A six-game suspension,” the judge might threaten a contempt-of-court charge for such an absurd, disingenuous answer.
Historic swing only on stream?
Reader Dan Manley sees a bad moon a-risin’:
It’s Friday night, Sept. 23, Yankees home against the Red Sox. Or it’s Friday night, Sept. 30, Yanks at home versus the Orioles.
And there’s Aaron Judge, in either or both games, stepping to the plate with a shot to equal or break Roger Maris’ single-season Yankees record for home runs.
Ah, but Friday nights on Rob Manfred’s and the Yankees’ greedy watch, have exclusively been sold to streaming operations, Red Sox-Yanks to Apple TV+, O’s-Yanks to Amazon Prime Video.
“Certainly,” asks Manley, “Manfred wouldn’t minimize the viewership of Judge’s potential swings into the history book? Would he? Could he?”