The Tao of Vin Scully XII: Jeff Lasky

As a professional play-by-play man, what can you learn about your craft simply by listening to Vin Scully today?


== Jeff Lasky (linked here), the voice of the Single-A Lancaster Jethawks since 2006, as well as Montana State basketball and football:

“I’ve had some of my work critiqued by two Triple-A broadcasters in the last few weeks, and both pointed out immediately that they could hear the influence of Vin Scully in my work. It would be impossible to grow up listening to him and not be influenced. In my mind Vin is the best sports broadcaster I’ve ever heard and he excels in everything.

“His delivery is detailed and delivered eloquently but with a simplicity that makes it easy to listen to. You know exactly what is happening with the play. It’s amazing how many broadcasters fail to actually detail the play — Where is the ball? Does the fielder have a chance of making a play? Are we talking a routine play or something unusual? That fits for other sports, too. How many times are you listening to a game and a guy is taking a shot or throwing a pass and you didn’t even know the ball was in the front court or that they’d come to the line of scrimmage? It drives me nuts — and drives whoever I’m listening with nuts since I complain about it endlessly.

“So in terms of the pure basics of play-by-play, Vin Scully is impecable.

“What I am always amazed by and try to emulate in my own way is how he can engage the listener with his own personality without making the broadcast about him. It’s really hard to add personality and humor to a game without taking attention away from the game itself, but he has an amazing ability to do it. Part of that comes from his incredible knowledge, which is a combination of his years of experience and observation as well as the amount of work he does to prepare for each game. But his pacing and self effacing manner also fit baseball perfectly so that he can simply be part of the flow of the game and the broadcast.

“Another thing that I love about Vin in particular is that he doesn’t ‘dumb down’ the broadcast. He uses the English language beautifully. Our era seems to have lost some respect for education, especially language. Many broadcasters simply issue a steady stream of cliches — and ones that aren’t even appropriate at that. Many broadcasters also try to get too cute with pop culture references. I don’t mind it when it’s done really well — heck, on a recent broadcast I described a complaining coach as being ‘petulant like Veruca Salt in ‘Willy Wonka’ – but many come off too contrived and forced (perhaps the example above, although it wasn’t pre-conceived). Vin can quote Shakespeare or Sondheim, but make it fit naturally.

“What I’m still trying to learn from Vin is to make my fundamentals as excellent as possible while maximizing my ability to make a broadcast as enjoyable as possible. The challenge is trying to do that without just doing an impression of Vin Scully. Vin is so good at what he does that it has become a style immediately connected with him, which is why I will probably always have people tell me that I ‘sound like Vin.’

“It’s an incredible compliment and an amazingly daunting challenge all at the same time.”

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The Tao of Vin Scully XI: Chris Fisher

As a professional play-by-play man, what can you learn about your craft simply by listening to Vin Scully today?


== Chris Fisher (linked here), the first-year USC basketball broadcaster:

“Growing up in the Bay Area, my affiliation lies deep with the San Francisco Giants and have spent most of my life listening to Jon Miller and Duane Kuiper call games. When given the chance to hear Vin Scully though, it is always difficult to turn the channel because there is a high level of intrigue.

“First and foremost, he is the best reminder to be a student of your craft. That goes for the game itself, the people involved and broadcasting. Everyday there is something new to learn on almost every front, and every time he tells a story it should be a reminder for every young broadcaster to stay within themself.

“He has decades of experience and knowledge and I have five years so don’t try to replicate or be something I’m not or else I’m entirely inauthentic. Being a student and letting your passion carry you will help this process move organically and Vin is a tremendous example.

“From a broadcasting nuts and bolts perspective, it’s important to keep the call simple. There is an eloquent simplicity to what he says which allows him to relate to fans. Without a connection to the audience your voice might as well be mute. As a result, I’m constantly striving to find a median of consistency during the peaks and valleys of games while staying within means.

“If you really examine and breakdown what Vin does — whether during exciting action plays or a 12-pitch sequence — his description is elementary to the point that anyone can understand what is taking place but also extremely articulate. Keep the game simple and don’t try to do too much.”

“You don’t have to listen to a game very long to know the game itself is most important — not the broadcaster or his opinion. This foundation is perhaps the most important element because the information that he conveys is always relevant to what is unfolding.”

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The Tao of Vin Scully X: Ralph Lawler

As a professional play-by-play man, what can you learn about your craft simply by listening to Vin Scully today?


== Ralph Lawler (linked here), in his 31st season with the Clippers:

“I can tell you, I am in virtual awe of Vin. They simply don’t make them like him anymore. He is one of the last of the great voices of the profession. Not only a great voice, but the ability to use it to help him tell and color a story.

“He’s had some great Dodger teams to describe and some that were not so great, but the quality of his work and his preparation and dedication to detail has never waivered. He also has an unreal memory and a unique ability to ‘Google’ his memory-bank for the right anecdote at just the perfect time.

“Baseball games are as unpredictable as games in any sport, but he always seems to have just the ideal story to tell to help listeners and viewers better appreciate and enjoy the game.

“Broadcasters young and old should listen to him wheverever possible. It’s like taking a graduate course in broadcasting. He offers just the absolutely correct blend of description, entertainment, drama, enthusiasm and Information. He is the master story-teller that our profession has ever seen or heard. He weaves his stories through the fabric of a game broadcast like no other announcer ever has. It is an absolute art.

“And he is an absolute treasure.”

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The Tao of Vin Scully IX: Chris Roberts

As a professional play-by-play man, what can you learn about your craft simply by listening to Vin Scully today?

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== Chris Roberts (linked here), UCLA radio football and basketball:

“The first thing that jumps off the page at me is his first three innings are on both radio and TV so the dialog is loaded with infomation because not everyone is watching. The approach to the game is that it’s the most important one ever. It doesn’t matter what time of the year, standings, won-loss record or whatever. The preparation is very evident. There is a story line on every player. He makes sure that nothing takes away from the moment while weaving it into the current event.

“What I’ve learned most from him is nobody, or any thing, is more important than what is happening at present. The score is so important, and he gives it often. The current situation is repeated too. Outs and inning and the count are crucial, just like down and distance and quarter in football, and in basketball with time left and who is leading and by what. He is always on top of it. That’s what I take away from him. The basics are so important and can never be repeated too much. He still does it when it is just TV, too, when some of the content is more consise.

“One other thing I take away from listening to him is be a professional. No matter how long, boring, one sided, or not much action, kick yourself in the tail and get after it. Nobody cares that you’re tired or had enough or fed up with bad play. Work and finish it like it is the seventh game in the World Series, tied with two outs bottom of the ninth, no matter what the situation.”

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The Tao of Vin Scully VIII: Nick Nickson

As a professional play-by-play man, what can you learn about your craft simply by listening to Vin Scully today?


== Nick Nickson (linked here), the Kings’ radio play-by-play man the last 21 years:

“I’ve only been able to listen to Vin during the last half of his career — since 1981, since I’m from back East. But one of the traits I’ve admired about his broadcasts is that his timing is impeccable. He’s able to balance his incomparable storytelling with his call of the game or event and not have one interfere with the other.

“Based on my 35 years in broadcasting, having the ability to do this doesn’t come easily. When you’re young and inexperienced, your focus is on the game itself and making sure you cover all the bases regarding the game. After you reach a comfort level in your career perhaps you start to branch out and add other elements that make the game even more enjoyable to the listener. My advice in this regard to aspiring broadcasters would be to try to strive and accomplish this balance. Listening to Vin gives one a wonderful template to draw from.

“What also stands out has been his ability to portray his enthusiam and passion for what he does after all the years he’s been in the booth. Perhaps his abilty to alter the way he’s done the games — maybe even increasing his storytelling — has kept him fresh and energized.”

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The Tao of Vin Scully VII: Bob Miller

As a professional play-by-play man, what can you learn about your craft simply by listening to Vin Scully today?


== Kings Hall of Fame broadcaster Bob Miller (linked here), who often tutors younger broadcasters at sportscaster camps, picks up the series from here with his answer:

“I think first of all, Vin and other announcers can teach young play by play announcers the value of preparation. I think it’s the most important word anyone can hear regardless of their profession. If you don’t take time to prepare, that’s when you start to lose your job.

“If you listen to Vin you can hear the value of story telling. Baseball especially lends itself to weaving stories because of the time you have in that sport. That time is usually not available in faster moving sports where it’s difficult to find time to complete a story. These stories come again from preparation and from getting to know the playing personnel. I think all listeners or viewers love human interest stories, or anecdotes about their favorite players, not just statistics.

“Accuracy is another trait a young announcer can pick up from Vin. Accuracy in who is involved in the play, and especially on radio, the words that ‘paint the picture’ and make the game come alive in your mind. No one uses the English language to do this better than Vin. That’s another area to be aware of, using proper English, and listening to the way certain announcers describe certain plays. Vin uses a vast knowlege of literature to punctuate his stoires. To me, this shows the value of a well-rounded education, not just sports knowlege and statistics about certain players.

“I always tell young, upcoming, announcers to listen carefully to the way the announcer describes certain plays. Not that you want to copy anyone’s signature calls, but just in the way certain phrases and descriptive words are used.

“Also, know when to be conversational, which Vin does very well, and another area which lends itself to baseball, and then know when to get excited and have the listener on the edge of his seat. There is a certain ebb and flow to a broadcast because you can’t be screaming at the top of your lungs all night long because when something really exciting happens you have no where to go.

“One final thought, and again Vin does this well — Let the audience breathe. Let the sounds and atmosphere of the game come through to the listener. This sometimes is almost as important as the play by play because the sounds of the ballpark or arena make the listener feel as if he is in the crowd. After an exciting play, stop talking, and let the listener hear the roar of the crowd.”

== Previous answers to the question as posted on the blog:
= Jim Nantz (linked here)
= Ross Porter (linked here)
= Ken Levine (linked here)
= Matt Vasgersian (linked here)
= Victor Rojas (linked here)
= Charley Steiner (linked here)

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The Tao of Vin Scully VI: Charley Steiner

As a professional play-by-play man, what can you learn about your craft simply by listening to Vin Scully today?


== Charley Steiner (linked here), the Dodgers’ radio play-by-play man since 2005:

“Be exceptionally well read. He reads every section of the newspaper, especially all the little things that are often overlooked that he somehow can make a reference to at the appropriate time because he’s in a conversational medium, with all these points of references you never know where they’ll fit. He then has the ability to pick out items that range from today’s news to ancient history.

“Any athlete will also tell you that they have the ability to slow the game down. Baseball is at his pace. He may be a beat behind a play, but that’s by design — whether it’s an eighth of a second of a half second or a full second. That’s probably the biggest lesson I learned (in 2009) in a game in San Diego (when he thought the Padres had lost a game to the Dodgers when a runner was thrown out at third but they actually tied it and forced extra innings because a runner scored ahead of the play). It’s better to back off a second and be right than be in front of it and be wrong. There’s no safety net in those situations.

“I’ve had the opportunity during the Dodgers’ recent runs in the playoffs to be in the booth with him (on radio) and actually watch him work, and I still marvel at his work ethic. How many people do you know in any line of work who’ve been at it for 60-plus years? I don’t know any. And he’s done it in a very public setting better than anyone ever has. No one can make that claim.

“Having seen so much, he also can put things into context, and know when to raise his voice to the event taking place on the field.

“At the end of the day, it comes down the fact there isn’t much he hasn’t seen, he keeps the listener engaged, and he has impeccable timing. In the course of three-and-half hours, 98 of it is describing baseball, and the other things floating in his head, he manages to use it at the right moment. Then, you throw in the voice, and that makes him Babe Ruth.”

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The Tao of Vin Scully V: Victor Rojas

As a professional play-by-play man, what can you learn about your craft simply by listening to Vin Scully today?

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== Victor Rojas (linked here), who just finished his first year of play-by-play for the Angels on Fox Sports West:

“There are a couple of things that have always stood out to me and that I’ve learned to appreciate in my short time broadcasting. The first being the fact he lets the game breathe. He doesn’t feel the need to fill every second of a broadcast with words. The old adage is less is more. .. and he’s certainly the epitome of that and as a listener/viewer, I appreciate it immensely.

“The second is his pacing. There’s something very artistic about the tempo he carries throughout a broadcast. It is a trait that you either have or spend a career trying to emulate.”

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The Tao of Vin Scully IV: Matt Vasgersian

As a professional play-by-play man, what can you learn about your craft simply by listening to Vin Scully today?


== Matt Vasgersian (linked here), play-by-play man for the MLB Network after a run with the San Diego Padres (2002-08) and Milwaukee Brewers (1997-01):

“That’s actually a topic I’ve though of in the very terms you describe a number of times. Those of us in the business acknowledge Vinny to be great, but why? Which of the many things he does so well impress on me?

“The first thing that sticks out is that Vinny is never caught saying or doing anything that he would be OK with going out on the air. No grumbling, no attempted humor between the truck that could be misconstrued by someone .. no compromising moments. Why? Because he’s never off guard.

“And while I know he has his moments where he doesn’t love the travel, the direction of the team or the shenanigans of an overpaid, disinterested right fielder … he never even comes close to letting his viewers know.

“There is a reason he’s so trusted too — because he shoots straight all the time. Vin has the ability to never candy-coat one way or raise an indignant fist the other way, yet still convey his sense of who is playing the game the right way and what we the viewer should think is important.

“And from a personal standpoint: In an industry of blowhards who are convinced that their celebrity is on par with those in uniform, Vin Scully, the biggest celebrity of all, continues to serve as the common man who is just happy to be at the ballpark that night. There is a huge lesson there for all of us.”

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The Tao of Vin Scully III: Ross Porter

As a professional play-by-play man, what can you learn about your craft simply by listening to Vin Scully today?


== Ross Porter (linked here), former Dodgers play-by-play man for 28 seasons (1977-2004):

“No. 1: Be objective and not partisan. An announcer’s credibility is highly important. The audience needs to believe what is being reported is accurate and not biased. The broadcaster may be paid by the team he is covering, and can want that team to win, but should not use the word “we” in his play-by-play.

“No. 2. Take advantage of crowd noise and don’t overtalk. When Henry Aaron hit home run 715 in Atlanta, Vin described the homer, then removed his earphones, rose from his seat, walked to the back of the broadcast booth, took a drink of water, and then returned to the microphone.

“No. 3: ‘Less is more’ has always been one of his mottos. That includes doing numerous interviews or commercials.

“No. 4: Don’t listen to other play-by-play announcers. Be yourself on the air and don’t risk imitating others by using the same phrases.

“No. 5: A preference for one voice at a time on the air. Red Barber had the philosophy that the play-by-play broadcaster should be talking only to his audience, not conducting a conversation with a ‘color’ man in the booth. Are the Dodgers the only team like that?

“No. 6: Barber also taught Vin the importance of doing your homework. Part of that involved being at the ballpark early to talk with managers and players. That approach has changed over the years. The ability to find interesting information on the internet, through media notes and guides provided by the public relations departments of the teams, and sources like STATS, Inc., has become equally important.

“No. 7: The play-by-play announcer is on the air to describe what is happening on the field. He’s not there to report second-hand information which may have been relayed to him by other sources. An example was an altercation between Don Sutton and Steve Garvey in the Dodger clubhouse at Shea Stadium in 1978. None of the announcers saw it so what were they to say?”

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