Full Circle: The Magic Voice
How the sound of one man made life better

A part of my childhood has died.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve always been a Phillies fan. As a kid who was a lefty, I pretended to be Richie Ashburn, a man I became friendly with later in life. And I cried when Harry Kalas died. Harry was one of the great broadcasters in baseball history.

But the very best was the late Vin Scully. I’ve been listening to him since I was 5 years old and we traveled to Brooklyn on Sundays. Half of my family lived there, on St. John’s Place. You could smell the beauty of the Botanical Gardens from their front stoop.

My father had grown up a Dodgers fan. He took every opportunity to listen to the games on the radio. The magic voice on the other end was Vin Scully. For 67 years, Scully wasn’t just an announcer. He was a poet. A man of few words who made them all count.

I would often come home and turn on a Phillies game with the sound down and pretend I was Scully.

Years later, Scully’s style, on both the Dodgers games and the national games on NBC, would be a big influence on my writing. Simple declarative sentences. Just tell a story as if you’re talking to someone face to face.

That’s what Vin Scully did. Here’s a taste:

“Football is to baseball as blackjack is to bridge. One is the quick jolt. The other the deliberate, slow-paced game of skill, but never was a sport more ideally suited to television than baseball. It’s all there in front of you. It’s theater, really. The star is the spotlight on the mound, the supporting cast fanned out around him, the mathematical precision of the game moving with the kind of inevitability of Greek tragedy. With the Greek chorus in the bleachers.”

“Bob Gibson pitches as though he’s double-parked.”

“Tom Glavine is like a tailor. A little off here, a little off there, and you’re done. Take a seat.”

“How good was Stan Musial? He was good enough to take your breath away.”

“One ball and no strikes, Hank Aaron waiting, the outfield deep and straightaway. Fastball is a high drive into deep left-center field, Buckner goes back, to the fence, it is gone. Career home run number 715. What a marvelous moment for baseball, what a marvelous moment for Atlanta and the state of Georgia, what a marvelous moment for the country and the world. A Black man is getting a standing ovation in the deep South.”

“Statistics are used much like a drunk uses a lamppost: for support, not illumination.”

“All year long they looked to Kirk Gibson to light the fire, and all year long he answered the demands. High fly ball into right field. She is gone! [Pause for 60 seconds] In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened.”

“Andre Dawson has a bruised knee and is listed as day-to-day. But then, aren’t we all?

From the legendary Sandy Koufax: “It may sound corny, but I enjoyed listening to Vin call a game almost more than playing in them. He’s been a special broadcaster for a lot of years and he’s been wonderful to listen to for a lot of years. He definitely is the all-century broadcaster.”

And from my Aunt Anna: “Vin Scully has a voice that is pure silk. I love to listen to him at night. His voice is so smooth and so comforting, it makes you forget you had a bad day.”

We were a baseball family. Were Vin Scully and the Dodgers important to us? Here’s a clue. When my grandmother died, my grandfather and my Aunt Anna moved to Ebbets Field Apartments, the project built in the ruins of the famed Dodger stadium.

“Do you know where you are?” my Aunt Anna asked me on my first visit. She took my arm and moved me 10 feet left to the dining room. “There,” she said, “now you’re standing on home plate.”

Read more “Full Circle” from Maury Z. Levy

October 2022
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