LOS ANGELES — As an 8-year-old in the Bronx, Vin Scully would grab a pillow, put it under his family’s four-legged radio and lay his head directly under the speaker to hear whatever college football game was on the air in 1936.
With a snack of saltine crackers and a glass of milk nearby, the red-haired boy was transfixed by the crowd’s roar that raised goosebumps. He thought about how much he’d like to be at the game. As time went on, he thought he’d like to call the action himself.
His youthful aspirations came true at 22 when he was hired by a CBS radio affiliate in Washington, D.C. The following year, he joined Red Barber and Connie Desmond in the Brooklyn Dodgers’ radio and television booths. In 1953, at age 25, Scully became the youngest person to broadcast a World Series game, a mark that still stands.
Now 88, Scully is heading into his final week behind the mic at Dodger Stadium before concluding his career on Oct. 2 in San Francisco, where the Dodgers end the regular season against the rival Giants. His 67 years with the Dodgers make Scully the longest-tenured broadcaster with a single team in professional sports.
“I will miss it,” he said Monday. “I know that dramatically.”
Scully discovered his lifelong love of baseball walking home from grade school. He passed a Chinese laundromat and saw the score from Game 2 of the 1936 World Series: Yankees 18, Giants 4.
“My first reaction was, ‘Poor Giants,'” he recalled, noting he lived near the team’s home at the Polo Grounds and attended many games for free after school. “That’s when I fell in love with baseball and became a true fan.”
Fittingly, his last game will be 80 years to the day he saw that score in the window.
“It seems like the plan was laid out for me and all I had to do was follow the instructions,” Scully said.
Has he ever.
Though the years, Scully has entranced generations of baseball fans with his dulcet tones as he spins stories about the game and its players while working alone on the air. He still relishes the crowd’s cheers, a sound he says is “like water out of a showerhead.”
Scully credits the birth of the transistor radio as “the greatest single break” of his career. In 1958, he accompanied the Dodgers when the franchise relocated to Los Angeles. Fans had trouble recognizing the lesser players during the team’s first four years in the vast Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
“They were 70 or so odd rows away from the action,” he said. “They brought the radio to find out about all the other players and to see what they were trying to see down on the field.”
That habit carried over when the team moved to Dodger Stadium. Fans at the games held radios to their ears and those not present listened from home or the car, allowing Scully to connect generations of families with his words.
“God has been so good to me to allow me to do what I’m doing,” said Scully, a devout Catholic who attends Mass on Sundays before heading to the ballpark. “A childhood dream that came to pass and then giving me 67 years to enjoy every minute of it. That’s a pretty large thanksgiving day for me.”
The Dodgers plan to honor their second-longest tenured employee (behind former manager Tom Lasorda) starting Tuesday night with a Scully bobblehead giveaway.
Friday is an appreciation day for Scully with a pregame ceremony featuring speakers from his career and a postgame fireworks show set to the top calls of his career.
The first 50,000 fans at Saturday’s game against Colorado will receive a limited edition solid bronze coin. On the front is an image of Scully with his signature greeting of “It’s time for Dodger baseball.”
In San Francisco, the Giants will honor Scully at his final game. Two Bay Area TV stations will carry an inning of his broadcast as stations in other cities have done this season.
All the hoopla is “a little embarrassing” to Scully, who reluctantly allowed the Dodgers to rename the street leading to the stadium’s main gate in his honor in April.
“I’ve never wanted to get out in front of the game,” he said.
Scully was adamant about not having an extended farewell. To his surprise and delight, players and managers have come to him. Throughout the season, they’ve made the long trek from the visiting clubhouse in right field to his fifth-floor broadcast booth in the press box named for him, bringing gifts.
“He is just a different human being,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon recently said. “That’s like the window to the world up there, just sitting in his booth. He is really kind and gracious. You have to be all of that to survive that many years and you have to be good.”
At the start of each series, the umpires turn to face Scully’s booth and tip their caps to him.
“I’m deeply touched and overwhelmed with gratitude,” he said.
For the last time at home on Sunday, Scully will open his broadcast with the same reassuring greeting: “Hi everybody, and a very pleasant good afternoon to you wherever you may be.”
“I don’t think I’m going to stress anything about me,” he said. “I will concentrate on Denver as if they’re challenging the Dodgers for first place. I think I’ll be OK.”
When he walks away next month, Scully will go home to his wife, Sandi, and delight in the company of his 16 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. He’ll still watch some baseball because a couple of his grandsons play.
“I’ll try very hard to just stay back and be the very normal guy that I am,” he said. “I just want to be remembered as a good man, an honest man, and one who lived up to his own beliefs.”