Vin Scully memories from the media: Geoff Witcher

vin-scully-and-geoff-witcherThey have been Vin Scully’s colleagues in the media. As while the Dodgers’ Hall of Fame broadcaster has already called his last game, more want to share their interactions and stories. So we happily and graciously continue:

Geoff Witcher is on the exclusive list of broadcasters who have called Dodgers game in the L.A. market, handling play-by-play for the ON-TV channel back in the 1980s, as well as hosting “DodgerTalk” on KABC. Witcher and Scully even appeared in the same movie, “For Love of the Game”: As Scully was doing the TV call, Witcher’s voice was used as the Detroit Tigers’ radio broadcaster.
The Cal State Northridge grad has been heard lately as a sports anchor on KNX-AM (1070) after a run at KFWB-AM (980), and continues a career with voice-over work, commercials and TV spots. He shares these stories about his career as it relates to Scully:

“My story is very similar to other broadcasters that have such fond memories of Vin Scully over the years. I was born and reared here in Los Angeles, so as a young boy who liked sports I listened to Bob Kelly call the play-by-play of the Rams on radio.  And then when the Dodgers moved from Brooklyn to play in Los Angeles in 1958, I was in seventh heaven.

“I knew I wanted to be a sportscaster when I was around 10 years old. Vin Scully was one of my inspirations.  It’s a given that every baseball announcer has to have a home run call, and like all of Los Angeles, I fell in love with Scully’s calls …
“Snider swings and belts it to deep right field…Clemente going back…awaaay back…to the track…to the wall….sheeee is gone!!

“I still get goosebumps to this day when I hear Vin call a home run. I had the pleasure of interviewing Vin a couple of days after Vin Scully Appreciation Weekend at Dodger Stadium, and one of the questions I asked him was where he came up with his home run call.  He told me it just happened and explained that most of the time the outfielder will tell you whether it’s a home run or not.

“I’m not the first sports broadcaster to say Vin Scully can tell a story in between pitches and plays with a continuity that no other play-by-play announcer has ever matched.  Most people point to his story telling as what sets him apart from other baseball play-by-play announcers.  I agree with that, but I also think he has an innate way of using the perfect word or phrase to give the listeners a word picture of what’s happening on the field.  No one does it like him or ever will in my opinion.  He’s like a poet in the broadcast booth.  But he’ll be the first to tell you that preparation is the most important job for any play-by-play announcer, especially baseball because you have so much to fill in between pitches and plays.  Vin prepared for his final Dodgers broadcast as if it was his first.

witchergeoff“I have had the privilege to know Vin since 1969 when I was a young cub reporter working for the Dodgers radio-TV wire. When I was hired to call the play-by-play of the Dodgers Triple-A farm club in Albuquerque in 1974 Vin was the first person I sought out that Spring Training at Dodgertown in Vero Beach, Florida.  I asked him if he had any advice for me and I’ll never forget what he said: ‘Geoff, I’ll tell you the same thing Red Barber told me.  Just be yourself, don’t try and copy anybody else.  You bring to the microphone what no one else can.’

” ‘You.’ It’s the best advice I could have been given by the man I consider  to be the greatest baseball announcer in the history of the game.  I now give that same advice to young aspiring broadcasters today.

“When I was in high school, my best buddy and I would go to Dodger games and sit  in the left field pavilion.  I would point to Vin in the Dodgers broadcast booth and say: ‘Someday I’m going to be up there where Scully is.’  And incredibly, my dream came true when on April 1, 1977 I did the play-by-play of a Dodgers-Angels game for ON TV, a national subscription over the air station.  Former Dodgers first baseman Wes Parker was my analyst.  I also did the play-by-play of the Lakers and some college sports during my time with ON-TV while I was also doing pre and post game Dodgertalk for the No. 1 radio station in Los Angeles at the time, KABC-790.

“Vin Scully is the most humble man I have ever known.  For all the numerous awards he’s won and the endless accolades he’s received in his lifetime he’s always kept both feet planted firmly on the ground. I think his wonderful mother had a lot to do with that.  I have always felt it would be humanly impossible for Vin to comprehend how beloved he is by millions of Dodger fans here in Los Angeles, back in New York, and throughout the country.  I felt so good when he told me during our interview that at the pre-game ceremonies honoring him Friday night September 30th. He had never heard a crowd louder than that night at Dodger Stadium and that he actually felt the fans love for him.  And to that I say….no one deserved it more! What kind of man is Vin Scully?

“In 1994, we had a terrible earthquake in Northridge in January.  Vin’s son Michael was killed in a helicopter crash while checking an area for earthquake damage.  I was going to apply for some Major League Baseball play-by-play opportunities at the time and had asked Vin if I could use him as a reference.  After his son’s death I certainly was not expecting  to hear from him.  One afternoon at home I got a call from telling me…yes I could use him as a reference. Just a small glimpse into the man that I have respected and admired for over 40 years.

“One of the best broadcasts of my career also involved Scully.  It was 1977 while I was at KABC radio. I had always wondered why I had never heard any in-depth interviews with Vin Scully.  After all he was at the top of his profession.  A former colleague of mine and a well known sportswriter and broadcaster here in Los Angeles, Bud Furillo, had told me he tried to get him to come on Dodgertalk, but Vin felt it would be too much of him after the fans had heard him for the previous three hours. I even asked the Dodgers about getting him to come on the air with me and they more or less told me: Good luck, Geoff, it’s not going  to happen. Then I decided to do an hour long special edition Dodgertalk with no phone calls, just a show with Vin Scully.

“I got up the nerve to ask him and figured the worst that could happen was he’d tell me no. I explained what I wanted to do…and he surprised me and said yes.  It was during the time when he called every inning of Dodger games on radio except the  third and seventh innings, which were handled by Jerry Doggett. So Vin would join me during those two innings to answer my questions on tape.

“We did that for a couple of nights. Then I added some of the greatest play-by-play snippets from his career. It took me weeks to complete and it turned out better than I could have ever expected.  The night it aired, the Dodgers got rained out and Vin told me later that he and his lovely wife Sandi had listened to it at home.

Geoff Witcher speaks on behalf of the KNX anchor team after receiving an award at the 2015 Southern California Sports Broadcasters annual ceremony. (LARadio.com)

Geoff Witcher speaks on behalf of the KNX anchor team after receiving an award at the 2015 Southern California Sports Broadcasters annual ceremony. (LARadio.com)

“I have to pinch myself sometimes to realize that as a kid growing up here in Los Angeles I listened to some of the greatest sportscasters in history. Vin Scully, Chick Hearn, Dick Enberg and Bob Miller.  And not only did they become colleagues, but they also became friends. I still haven’t gotten used to not hearing the late great Chick Hearn calling Lakers games.  Chick was a dear friend.

“I don’t mean to be overly dramatic, but we’ve all been blessed to have Vin Scully, a Los Angeles treasure, in our lives. There will never be another Vin Scully and Dodger broadcasts will never be the same.  In this reporter’s opinion, Vin is not only the best baseball announcer who has ever lived, but the greatest broadcaster in history.  A Hall of Fame baseball  announcer, but even more importantly, Vin Scully is a Hall of Fame person.  And it’s an extreme privilege to know him.”

= Previous Scully media memory stories:
= Ross Porter, Charley Steiner and Dick Enberg
= Joe Davis and a second entry later.
= Fred Claire
= Derrick Hall
= Josh Rawitch
= Joe Jareck
= Mark Langill
= Toby Zwikel
= Steve Brener
= John Olguin
= Brent Shyer
= Jon Weisman
= David Vassegh
= Jon SooHoo
= Matt Vasgersian
= Ken Korash
= Tim Mead
= Ryan Lefebvre
= Brian Wheeler
= Josh Suchon
= Also: Ken Levine from is blog, Part 1 and Part 2.

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