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Vin Scully, legendary Dodgers broadcaster, has died at 94

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

All right. Today, baseball fans are remembering sportscaster Vin Scully. Scully, who died yesterday at the age of 94, got to call some of the game's greatest plays.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

VIN SCULLY: Little roller up along first - behind the bag. It gets through Buckner. Here comes Knight. And the Mets win it.

CHANG: Occasionally, he worked for national TV networks, but in Southern California, he was the voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers. He called Dodger games for 67 years, and for people here in LA, you heard Vin Scully on your radio.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SCULLY: Thank you, Jerry. Hi, everybody, and a very pleasant good evening to you, wherever you may be. The Dodgers and the Chicago Cubs, trying to find out what it's all about.

CHANG: Bill Shaikin has been listening to Vin Scully on the radio for many, many years. He covers baseball and sports business for the Los Angeles Times, and he joins us now. Welcome.

BILL SHAIKIN: Thank you.

CHANG: So just a couple weeks ago, you happened to write a long piece about Vin Scully and Dodger fans, and you called going to Dodger games back then as, quote, "the greatest communal experience in Southern California sports history." And I have to tell you, I feel so sad that I will never have known this personally with Vin Scully because I just moved to LA in 2020. But can you just describe for us what you meant by that?

SHAIKIN: When the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles in 1958, they didn't know everybody that played. Also, while the Dodgers were waiting for their stadium to be constructed, they played in a football stadium at the LA Coliseum. So whether you went to the games and sat far, far away or you just listened to the games, Vin was the guy that taught everybody baseball in Los Angeles. And at the time the Dodgers had moved West, the transistor radio was coming into mainstream use. So when you went to Dodger games, whether at the Coliseum or later at Dodger Stadium, everybody was holding something in their hand. It wasn't a cell phone because we didn't have those then.

CHANG: (Laughter).

SHAIKIN: It was a transistor radio, and it didn't have a million functions. All you could do was listen to the radio, and everybody listened to Vin teach them baseball.

CHANG: And did you have one of those teeny-weeny transistor radios up to your ear?

SHAIKIN: I did. Kids in Southern California had the radio up to their ear at the game, and they had a transistor radio, as I did, in their pocket in class with the little cord coming out so they could listen to the game in their ear while they were supposed to be paying attention in math class.

CHANG: I want to talk a little bit about his style as a broadcaster because, you know, yeah, he was the voice of the Dodgers, but he was also known for, like, you know, friendly play-calling. Like, he brought all kinds of fans in. Can you talk about that?

SHAIKIN: If you listen to games today, you hear a lot about statistics. But Vin would not have a lot of patience, if you will, for exit velocities and home run distances because he wanted to share a story with you. He had other things to talk about. There used to be a second baseman named Dan Uggla. You wouldn't hear Vin say, Dan Uggla hit a ball 107 miles an hour off the bat. But what you would always hear is, did you know that Uggla is Swedish for owl?

CHANG: (Laughter) I did not know, and that's a very cool fact. Well, since everyone is sharing their favorite Vin Scully story today, what's yours?

SHAIKIN: I think the one that you come back to, especially living here in Southern California, is this call of Kirk Gibson's home run in the 1988 World Series. What really makes it special and I think exemplifies Scully's manner is when something dramatic happens, your natural tendency is to try to explain what's happening and add drama and sometimes go over the top. And if you listen to Vin Scully calling Kirk Gibson's home run - and you should call it up on YouTube if you haven't - this is what you hear.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SCULLY: High fly ball into right field. She is gone.

(CHEERING)

SHAIKIN: And then you hear the crowd. You don't hear for more than 30 seconds anything except the crowd because Vin doesn't need to amplify the moment. He's letting the crowd tell you what's going on at the ballpark.

CHANG: Bill Shaikin, sportswriter from the LA Times, remembering the late and great baseball announcer Vin Scully. Thank you so, so much.

SHAIKIN: Thank you so much. It's always a pleasure to talk about Vin. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ailsa Chang is an award-winning journalist who hosts All Things Considered along with Ari Shapiro, Audie Cornish, and Mary Louise Kelly. She landed in public radio after practicing law for a few years.