Scully, the Yankees, and the U-turn not taken nearly 50 years ago

Vin Scully prepares to interview the Dodgers' Sandy Koufax after winning Game 4 of the World Series against the Yankees in 1963 at Dodger  Stadium. (Credit: Walter Iooss Jr./Sports Illustrated/Getty Images)

Vin Scully prepares to interview the Dodgers’ Sandy Koufax after winning Game 4 of the World Series against the Yankees in 1963 at Dodger Stadium.
(Credit: Walter Iooss Jr./Sports Illustrated/Getty Images)

Vin Scully passed on traveling to New York last month to do the Dodgers-Yankees two-game series at Yankee Stadium – he took to Twitter instead in a most delightful way.

While his plans include to be on hand as scheduled for KCAL Channel 9 (tonight) and Prime Ticket (Wednesday) when the teams go after each other again at Dodger Stadium, you may have heard he also once passed on becoming the Yankees’ broadcaster some nearly 50 years ago.

There are several versions of the story out there – the latest, Scully talked to the Wall Street Journal’s Brian Costa in June – with the genesis of it going back to 1964, when the Yankees were looking to replace the famed Mel Allen.

Jim Beal, an executive at an advertising agency that worked with the Yankees, asked Scully to lunch when he was in New York for a Dodgers-Mets series. Beal put it out there – would he be interested if there was an opening?

“It was a very thinly veiled offer,” Scully recently told the WSJ.

At that time, the Dodgers had just won two World Series titles in the last five years – and during the Fall Classic of ’63, Scully and Allen alternated play-by-play duties on national TV. A Sports Illustrated story in ’64 said about him at the time: “Scully has become as much a part of the Los Angeles scene as the freeways and the smog.”

We already know what Scully decided, but let him tell us anyway.

“I said, ‘I don’t think so, Jim, because the Dodgers have been so good to me,” Scully said in the WSJ. “And I feel I’m so much a part of the family. I don’t think I could ever leave.’”

Another version of this story was relayed in 2009 by Keith Olbermann for MLB.com, which recalled that when the Yankees did let Allen go in ’64, “I got a phone call from the man who they had brought in to run their broadcasting operation, Craig Smith,” Scully said. “He had been in charge of the World Series broadcasts forever, so I’d known him about ten years by then. And he asked me if I’d like to come home to New York and become the lead announcer. He offered a very handsome salary, and a long contract.

“Well, I was amazed, as you can imagine. I’d found a wonderful home here in Los Angeles, but remember, this was only seven years after the Dodgers left Brooklyn. I was still a New Yorker through and through. Plus, here was a chance to work again with Red Barber. And recall, too, that this was just before the Yankee dynasty collapsed. As much as Mr. O’Malley had done here and in Brooklyn, the Yankees were still the marquee name in sports. If it had been 1958 or 1959, when I still missed New York so, I would’ve said yes before he hung up the phone.

“So, I thought long and hard about that one. But I had a young family, and I think we had all just truly adjusted to living here – takes just about seven years, I think – and in the end I turned it down.”

Olbermann said he asked about how baseball may have changed had Scully decided to go back to New York.

“Oh, to tell the truth, I don’t think it’d made that much difference,” he said. “It’s not very important.”

Addendum 1: Reader Michael Green passes on this information on Tuesday AM:
“Late in 1964, the executive the Yankees hired to be in charge of their broadcasting was not Craig Smith, the longtime Gillette executive, but Perry Smith, who had been a producer at NBC Sports and, after his Yankees tenure, became a producer for CBS Sports.  In fact … late in Vin’s time of doing NFL football for CBS, I think Perry Smith produced some of his telecasts.
“My recollection of Perry Smith comes from Vin’s mentor.  Red Barber talked in his autobiography about how he had had a fight with Ballantine, the main Yankee sponsor; the company asked him to take a pay cut to enable them to help pay to hire a fourth announcer, Jerry Coleman, and Red planned to try to leave the Yankees.  Dan Topping and Ralph Houk told him they were firing Mel Allen and wanted him to step up to be the lead announcer.  Red became excited, he said, about being in charge as he had been in Brooklyn and then one day got a call that Smith had been hired to run the broadcasts and hire and assign the announcers.  The Yankees then hired Joe Garagiola to be Allen’s successor.  Considering who Vin did the NBC Game of the Week with, talk about a small world!”

Addendum 2: Olbermann responds with a tweet:
That correction is right. Vin said “Perry” – My error RT

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  • Ray Sossamon

    My God–Vin Scully a Yankee? Thats almost sacreligious—there was still 1977=1978 and 1981–Is any one as happy as I am that this never happened–I never knew about this either and I have been a fan since 1959==at 9 years old–hurray for the internet!