The Tao of Scully con’t: His stamp of approval

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Following up on the response to a column we did in January (linked here) — enlist broadcasters from across the board to tell us what they can learn about the craft of play-by-play by listening to Vin Scully do a game today at the age of 83 — we’ve had more responses that we wanted to include as the Dodgers start the 2011 season, with Vin doing the first and last three innings on KABC-AM (790) for Thursday’s opener against the Giants from Dodger Stadium that’ll be on ESPN:

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== Dick Enberg, Emmy winning voice of all major sports for CBS, NBC and ESPN for the last 50-plus years, a former play-by-play for the California Angels and UCLA basketball, the one-time assistant baseball coach at San Fernando Valley State College (now Cal State Northridge), and current voice of the San Diego Padres:

“Returning to the game last season and being able to observe Vin in action, I was totally impressed with the fact that he is one of the first to the ballpark. He is outstanding at 83, because he works at it.

“He anticipates and is prepped to make the right call because he invests time in thorough preparation. His greatness isn’t an accident. One would think that a man of his enormous talent could walk into the booth, grab a scorecard, the media notes, and do the broadcast. And Vin could…and we wouldn’t know the difference. But HE would.

“His professional pride and drive for excellence is born out of relishing his homework.
Simple stuff, but applicable to anyone, young or old, in our profession. I have learned the same lesson.

“Get there early and know as much about that single game as you can. That combined with talent and experience can help author a winning performance.”

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== Mike Breen, the ABC voice of the NBA and, like Scully, a Fordham University graduate:

“After all these years — what has it been, 60-plus? — every single game is done with such energy so no matter when the game is played, if the Dodgers are in a playoff race or it’s spring training, there’s still the feeling that there’s no other place he’d rather be than in that booth. To me, that’s the greatest compliment you can give. You want people who are watching and listening to know: I’m in the best place there can possibly be. Anyone who’s done this (play-by-play) knows they have other things going on in their lives, things that are on their mind outside the booth. But to come in with that same attitude night after night, that’s a thing that’s very underrated. It’s a very hard thing to do.

“Also, here’s a man with one of the most wonderful voices on the planet, let alone in broadcasting, but he makes silence a big part of who he is. If he didn’t stop talking, no one would complain. But silence is a major part of his style. There was a game I was watching him do, when it was decided on the final at-bat. He didn’t say a word the whole at-bat until it was strike three and the game was over. That was the most magnificent silence you could have, with the tension building, and the crowd into it. And he doesn’t say a word. It was absolutely brilliant. When you get a chance to listen to him, it’s just amazing what silence can do to enhance the moment. In an NBA game, you can maybe do it when there’s a big shot, instead of trying to scream over the play. That’s as important as anything.

“The other thing you can learn is that you can’t do it like him. As much as you want to copy and learn, God gave him a talent that He didn’t give to anyone else. As much as we may try to be like him, it’s impossible.”

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== Bob Papa, voice of the NFL’s New York Giants and the lead play-by-play for the NFL Network who has also done boxing for HBO, does an NFL daily radio show and hosts the Masters for Sirius-XM Radio (and is also a Fordham alum):

“One of the great joys of being on the road is coming to the West Coast, flipping on the TV and if there’s a Dodger game, there’s the warm and comforting voice of Vin Scully.

“Everytime I hear him, I go through a checklist of reminders as a broadcaster: Preparation, letting the game breathe, be understated, let the fans enjoy the competition. They’re not tuning in to hear me scream.

“And with him as a Fordham man, there’s that connection we have, so whenever there’s a chance just to be around him, he adds so much style. Not just with baseball. Remember when he called golf for NBC? Or the NFL on CBS? There was a certain dignity about the event, no matter what the stakes. That resonated with me. He always has the same even keel and temperament. In a way, he really is the voice of sanity.”

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== Bill Macdonald (linked here), a Prime Ticket/FSW employee since the start of the network 25 years ago, calling USC and UCLA football and basketball, the Arena League Avengers, and a fill-in on Lakers TV and radio:

“Growing up in Southern California, like many others, Vin was one of the voices of my childhood along with Chick and Dick Enberg. And consequently was one of the reasons I fell in love with not only sports but sportscasting.

“His command of the English language is remarkable and the eloquence and class with which he delivers those words mixed in with just the right amount of excitement and drama for a sporting event is unmatched.

“After all these years the passion and excitement he has for the job, for baseball, and most of all for the fans is inspiring.

“Baseball has a much different rhythm than other sports, and not only does Vin have probably more material to choose from when providing information or storytelling, but it’s the way he seamlessly integrates and weaves those stories and anecdotes throughout the course of his play by play which is the perfect model for a broadcaster.

“Plus, the time and patience he has for all who want to stop and say hello to him, wish him well, take a picture, relay a story … it’s wonderful to see as he is gracious with and to everyone. It’s been great just getting to know him a bit over the years on a personal level and be able to hang out with him at the ballpark as just one of the fellas. That’s a Vin Scully that can be a lot of fun.”

== Randy Rosenbloom, the Valley-based sports director at LA 36, the radio voice of Fresno State basketball, and a three-time Olympic broadcaster for NBC on volleyball and rowing from 1992-2004, in addition to calling college football, college basketball and Wimbledon:

“I’ve been listening to Vin Scully since the 1959 World Series when the Dodgers defeated the Chicago White Sox. For over a half century he has made a great impression on me and his fan base.

“Everyone knows that he is the master of his craft painting a picture as a play-by-play announcer. But what makes him rise above the rest? Without question, it his great ability to talk to you on a very personal level. He is unparalleled at having a conversation with you, and you thinking it’s just you and him.

“You always hear broadcasters say they want to talk to you like it’s two guys in the bar. Well, Vinnie does that except he does it with a sensational vocabulary and a terrific voice.

“I’ll give you two examples of him telling a story. In both instances he is clever if not brilliant and more importantly he is speaking right to you. In 1991, Andre Dawson steps to the plate and Vinnie says he has a bruised knee and is listed ‘as day to day … but aren’t we all?’ It’s the ‘we’ that ties the story and the listening public together.

“In 1989, Vinnie says, ‘How good was Stan Musial? He was good enough to take your breath away.’ Again he brings you in by including ‘your’ breath.

“It is a lost art being in the media and being your listeners or viewers best friend. Vin Scully has never lost sight of that and because of that precise point he has millions of listeners who don’t just hear him but feel like he is one of their closest buddies.”

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== Chris “Geeter” McGee, a sideline reporter at FSW who has developed into dong play-by-play on college basketball and high school sports:

“Vin Scully has positively influenced so many of us in the play by play world. Being from Southern California, I, like so many others, grew up on Vin, and tried to imitate him while playing and watching sports when I was a kid.

“There are a couple of things that stick out when I think of Vin. His ability to punctuate a dramatic moment in a subtle way is remarkable. When Nomar (Garciaparra) hit the home run to win the game in extra innings after the Dodgers had hit four in a row to tie in the bottom of the ninth a few years ago, he let the crowd noise engage the audience without a word spoken and then as he rounded second base Vin simply said: ‘And the Dodgers are now in first place.’

“Of course, his most famous one, in my opinion, was after Kirk Gibson’s home run won Game 1 of the ’88 World Series. The ball flies into the stands and Vin makes the call: ‘She is gone’ … He waits silently until just the right moment during the Gibson trot around the bases and says: ‘In the year of the improbable, the impossible has happened.’

“I also think nobody tells a story better than Vin. His pace, his timing, and the ability to make you care about the person are second to none. Vin as the ultimate gift of history and knowledge on his side. He has lived all these moments and stories and can make us, the listener, feel like we were there with him.”

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== Sam Farber, play-by-play man for the Single-A Inland Empire 66ers:

“Vin Scully’s ability to weave a player’s backstory into the play-by-play is legendary. Personal facts buried so deep in a player’s biography that a dedicated investigative reporter would have trouble finding them sound as if they’re always on the tip of Vin Scully’s tongue. That’s not just for the superstars, that’s for the mid-season call ups and journeyman additions as well.

“Vin Scully has inspired a love of the game in generations of baseball fans, but for me as a broadcaster he shows that it takes more than a good voice to be a great broadcaster. To acquire those hidden gems that help make a random new addition to the Dodgers important to the fans, Vin Scully has to plain outwork his peers to discover the info no one else takes the time to find. He’s been doing that for decades and he inspires me to do the same.”

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  • Slippery Pete

    That video that automatically plays every time I visit the site is really freaking annoying.