This story begins in 1949, Harry S. Truman was President of the United States. Following World War II, post-war posterity was beginning to take hold. However, the Cold War was developing between the United States and the Soviet Union and with it, the race to the moon. Meanwhile, 22-year-old Vincent Edward Scully began his illustrious broadcasting career.
Vin has worked the booth for 67 years, starting in Brooklyn at Ebbets Field then moving on to Los Angeles – first at the LA Coliseum and then Dodger Stadium. All the while, the world would change around him. However, Vin himself, remained the one constant.
Perhaps that’s the true reason he means so much, to so many. He’s been our guide through the ever-changing decades. From the early years when baseball fans gathered around radios or black and white TV’s, to modern times where we watch games on phones and computers. Vin Scully and baseball allow us a few hours of escape. And for this writer, as the current political discord gets louder and more vitriolic, listening to Vin call games, tell stories and coo at babies is the perfect escape. I’m sure many people felt this way about Vin throughout his sixty-seven year career.
— Jody Wahl (@JodyWHL) August 23, 2016
Sixty-seven years – it’s that mind-blowing number that took me down this path. To not write a biography of Vin’s career, that’s been done before and most assuredly better than I could do it. Rather, just a walk through a timeline of historical moments – on the field and off – throughout his 67 years.
It’s a wonderful feeling to be a bridge to the past and to unite generations. The sport of baseball does that, and I am just a part of it. ~Vin Scully
Just a part of it, indeed, Mr. Scully. But, you may never fully grasp what a huge part of it you were for us. I’ve heard you quoted a million times saying, “I don’t want to get out in front of the game“. In your humble way you want the game to be the star. Although, for many of us, you were neither in front of nor behind the game, but beside it. A beautiful tandem. We struggle to imagine one without the other.
So, with that in mind, I hope you’ll join me for Part One of this three-part series as we walk through a timeline of Vin Scully’s early years (1949-1969) and the history that swirled around him as he went to work each new year.
Especially noteworthy during these first two decades are a change of venue from Brooklyn to Los Angeles, Four World Series wins for the Dodgers, and Four consecutive years of no-hitters by the amazing Sandy Koufax. As Vin would say, “Wow!”
World Series Titles 1955 1959 1963 1965
NL Pennants 1952 1953 1955 1956 1959 1963 1965 1966
Burt Shotton (1948-1950)
Chuck Dressen (1951-1953)
Walter Alston (1954-1976)
1949 – Vin Scully began his broadcasting career as a replacement announcer on CBS.
1950 – Vin Scully starts his career with the Brooklyn Dodgers alongside veteran broadcasters – Red Barber and Connie Desmond.
1951 – Introduction of the color TV. “I Love Lucy” premieres. The first edition of “Catcher in the Rye” is published.
Vin’s account of “the shot heard around the world” as told to GQ Magazine (2011):
October 3, 1951 – “The Shot Heard Around the World” – Bobby Thomson’s walk-off home run would end the Dodger’s season and send the Giants to the World Series. Red Barber always told Vin, his young protege, “Never get close to the players, because it psychologically might alter your judgment. You don’t want to criticize a good friend and then it makes your description less clear and honest.” But, as Vin recounts he was close friends with the player, Ralph Branca, who gave up the home run.
”Of all the fellas on the team—and I was virtually as young as most of them—Ralph Branca was my closest friend. His wife-to-be was Ann Mulvey, and a couple of times I dated her roommate, and the four of us would just go out to dinner, that kind of thing. So I remember watching the home run, seeing Ralph, that big body just slump over and walk off. I knew where Ann was sitting, and I remember seeing her with a handkerchief up over her face. It was very hard. I remember going into the clubhouse.
In the old Polo Grounds, you were in the press box behind home and the clubhouse was in centerfield; that’s about 480 feet or so, and you walked on the field all the way across, and then you went up a flight of stairs—one to the Giant’s side and one to the visitors. When I went up to ours, Ralph was spread-eagle on the stairs with his face down—there’s a classic picture of that—and I looked, horrified, and I kind of tiptoed around him and went over into the trainer’s room.”
1952 – Dwight D. Eisenhower nominated 34th President. At age 25, Princess Elizabeth becomes Queen. Ted Williams is recalled to active military duty. Jackie Robinson becomes the first black executive at a major TV station (WNBC NY).
1953 – The Dodgers won a club record 105 games with the well-known “Boys of Summer”, including Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, Roy Campanella, Gil Hodges, Carl Furillo, Don Newcombe, Carl Erskine, Jim Gilliam, Duke Snider, Preacher Roe and Clem Labine.
Vin Scully, age 25, becomes the youngest person to call a World Series.
September 30, 1953 – “There was a labor disagreement: Red felt that he had done a lot of World Series games and they were still paying—believe it or not—just $200 a game. So Red appealed, and they said, ’No that’s what you’re gonna get.’ So he said, ’I’m not gonna do it.’ Well out of the blue I got a phone call saying, ’We want you to do the World Series.’ I thought, ’Well, whoa whoa whoa.’ So I call Red and I said, ’Look, I’ve been doing this four years, I don’t wanna do a World Series over your labor negotiation.’ He said, ’Vinny, what’s going on with me, it’s not gonna change, and if you don’t do it, they’ll get somebody else to do it. So I’m giving you my blessing. Do it.’
1954 – Marilyn Monroe marries baseball player, Joe DiMaggio. Release of Elvis Presley’s first single, “That’s All Right”. Milwaukee Braves’ Hank Aaron’s 1st game.
1955 – Vietnam war begins. Disneyland opens. Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat on a bus to a white passenger. Jim Henson builds the first version of Kermit the Frog.
The Brooklyn Dodgers Win the World Series!
1956 – American actress Grace Kelly marries Prince Rainier III of Monaco. Elvis Presley hit the US music charts for the first time with, “Heartbreak Hotel”. Jerry Doggett joined Vin Scully in the broadcast booth.
1957 – Dodgers’ Jackie Robinson announced his retirement rather than be traded to the NY Giants. The Brooklyn Dodgers announced plans to move to Los Angeles
1958 – Ted Williams signs with the Red Sox for $135,000, making him the highest paid player at the time. Elvis Presley joined the army. The Dodgers officially become the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Dodgers’ play their first game in Los Angeles at the Coliseum.
1959 – Hawaii gains statehood. Yankee catcher Yogi Berra ends his errorless streak at 148 games. LA Dodgers set World Series attendance record at 92,394.
The LA Dodgers Win the World Series!
1960 – Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” debuts. Jimi Hendrix plays his first gig. Baseball uniforms begin displaying player’s names on their backs. Ted Williams hits his final home run #521 (off Jack Fisher)
1961 – John F. Kennedy nominated 35th President. Berlin Wall is built. Walt Disney’s “101 Dalmatians” is released. General Douglas MacArthur declines offer to become baseball commissioner.
1962 – The Dodgers moved from the LA Coliseum to Dodgers Stadium. The Dodgers set a Los Angeles season record of 102 wins.
Sandy Koufax pitches his first no-hitter in LA
1963 – Lyndon B. Johnson became the 36th President after the assassination of JFK. Major League Rules Committee votes to expand strike zone. Alcatraz prison in San Francisco Bay closed. Pete Rose triples for his 1st major league base hit. Civil Rights activism moves to the forefront. Sandy Koufax pitches his second no-hitter.
The LA Dodgers Win the World Series!
1964 – Muhammad Ali becomes World Heavyweight Champion. Nelson Mandela, sentenced to life in prison in South Africa. Sandy Koufax pitches his third no-hitter.
1965 – US orders first combat troops to Vietnam. Willie Mays sets NL record for HRs in a month with 17. Sandy Koufax pitches his fourth no-hitter, a perfect game.
The LA Dodgers Win the World Series!
(Vin Scully interviews Sandy Koufax at the end of this clip)
1966 – Star Trek T.V. Series first airs. Willie Mays hit his 512th HR. NY Mets pass up Reggie Jackson to draft Steve Chilcott. Sandy Koufax becomes first 3-time Cy Young Award winner.
1967 – First Super Bowl – GB Packers beat the KC Chiefs. Dodgers 1st rain out in Los Angeles (after 737 consecutive games). Walt Disney’s “Jungle Book” is released.
1968 – The assassination of US civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis, Tennessee. NL grants San Diego Padres a franchise. Philadelphia 76’ers trade Wilt Chamberlain to the Los Angeles Lakers.
1969 – Richard Nixon nominated 37th President. Neil Armstrong becomes the First Man on the moon.
-My Friend, Ron Cervenka (@ThinkBlue_LA) wrote a wonderful piece on Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon and The Night Vin Scully Was Overshadowed (Follow link)
Thank you for joining me on this little walk through Vin’s early years. Next Sunday we’ll visit the 1970’s thru 1993. Two more World Series wins, Sally Ride becomes the first woman in space and Tommy Lasorda becomes Skipper of the Dodgers are just a few highlights. See you then!