It was Venice Beach, Pink Hot Dog stand and Hollywood Bowl all in one place. Los Angeles, The Voice of Summer, was the Dodgers’ award winning poet—Brooklyn and Los Angeles—for 67 seasons.
We knew Finn Scully wouldn’t last forever. It seemed as if it might be. Even after he retired, years after his last broadcast in 2016, his presence has remained ubiquitous and ethereal, like ocean and air.
“There are two words to describe Finn: Babe Ruth,” said Charlie Steiner, the Dodgers’ radio-playing man since 2005 after moving west from the Yankees booth (2002-2004). “Better than he ever did. Babe Ruth will always be identified as a baseball player. Finn will always be remembered as the voice of baseball.”
The wild ride that was Tuesday’s major-league trading deadline gave way suddenly and sharply to heaviness in the lull of that night, when the Dodgers announced Scully’s death at 94. The life cycle of baseball, distilled into one day: new beginnings and sad endings. Scully has been in poor health in recent months, and those who knew him well were preparing for the phone call. But when it did, it was still a punch in the gut.
“It doesn’t make it any easier, because we lost a friend,” said Rick Munday, former defensive player and longtime Dodgers announcer. “Whether we actually met Finn Scully or not, he was our friend.”
Like best friends, he was full of surprise, joy, humility, and surprises.
“When I was in college, I wrote for The Times, so you may have seen my byline,” Scully said eagerly to begin an interview with the New York Times earlier this summer for a story on Jill Hodges. It was very close. It says, “The Times’ Special Correspondent.” I was under a pseudonym. Anyway, I just wanted you to know my literary background.”
Once again, late at night after an Angle Stadium questioning game early in the 2013 season, some members of the media were waiting for an elevator to the press box to get home in the evening when Scully joined them for the ride. He was wearing a brace in his left hand and wrist, as a result of a bout of tendinitis.
“I was telling someone earlier that I should tell people that I’m interested in falconry and that I’m waiting for the bird,” he said, smiling widely. “That would be a better story, wouldn’t it?”
His instincts were perfect and the joy of life was constant.
“It was very good to read,” he said on Monday. “I also own English. When I listened to Vin, I felt like you should go back to school right away. But he never spoke to anyone. He was amazing.”
In one of his last public works, Scully wrote a letter to the Era of Baseball Hall of Fame committee in support of Hodges’ nomination for the Hall of Fame—a letter said to be very moving. But the always humble Scully refused to believe that he had enough influence to influence the electorate, and, moreover, he did not want any credit.
“Even when I wrote it, my fingers were so crossed that it wouldn’t be made public that I’m suddenly trying to step into the same spotlight because I didn’t want to at all,” Scully said this summer. “Yes, I have already written the letter, and it is true as far as I know in every respect. But I do not want to dwell on it at all.
“I’m very sensitive now that I’m retired. I just don’t want to do anything where I might seem out of place.”
But Scully’s “place” was everywhere, and everyone welcomed a friend, starting with his warm invitation at the beginning of each broadcast to “pull a chair.” And for nearly seven decades, from Bel Air mansions to blue-collar neighborhoods around Southland, on behalf of the Dodgers, he created an incredible extended family.
Mondays grew up in Santa Monica, California, with a single mother who fell in love with the Dodgers when they moved west in 1958. Every time they were in the car when the Dodgers were playing, he remembers on Mondays, Scully was their buddy.
“His voice was like a gentle hand on our shoulder saying, ‘Hey, it’s going to be fine. Whatever’s going on in the world, whatever’s going on in your life, for the next three hours, I’ve got you,'” he said on Monday. That’s the feeling we had.”
Millions of others have experienced the same feelings over the 67 years of Iron Man.
“This game fascinated me and was even more intrigued by Finn’s voice and the way he presented the game,” he said on Monday. “His description of the uniform, the field, how fast a man could run, how hard he hit the ball, and the diving catch that was made. When Finn was playing a game, it wasn’t just the game plays, it was the game queen contest.”
Monday was the first overall pick in the 1965 first amateur baseball draft, taken by the athletics team, who traded him with the Chicago Cubs prior to the 1972 season.
“So the Dodgers are finally going to Chicago, and my mom can watch the game on TV,” he said on Monday. “It’s my seventh year as a senior, and I heard my mom Finn Scully mention my name. I said, ‘Mom, you didn’t even realize I was in the major leagues until Finn mentioned my name.’ I laughed. That made it official.”
The Los Angeles Times Magazine in 1998 named Scully the most trusted man in Los Angeles. Eight years earlier, the late legendary Los Angeles Times writer Jim Murray explained that Scully was the most important dodger of all time. Little has changed since then.
“Vincent Edward Scully meant for the Dodgers the 300-plus hitters they’d ever signed, any 20-game winner they’d ever played,” Murray wrote in a column published in August 1990. The home plate and win that turned the season into a miracle – but he knew what to do with it for it to resonate through the ages.”
When Kirk Gibson crashed that home race against Oakland’s Dennis Eckersley to set the tone for the Oakland Dodgers’ disorder in the first game of the 1988 World Championships, Scully exclaimed, “In a year that was so improbable, the impossible happened!”
For a minute and eight seconds, he remained silent, allowing the raucous Dodger Stadium audience to fill the television speakers. The echoes continue to this day.
His sense of timing, date, and moment was impeccable, whatever the occasion.
“He wasn’t just an announcer,” Steiner said. “He wasn’t just a baseball character. He was a father figure, he was impassioned, he was conscientious, and he was all we wish he was right with the world. And a lot of the time, he was.”
Steiner continued, “Los Angeles is the city of stars. Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks, you name it. I’ve always felt that Finn was the biggest star ever because of his longevity. No one has done it better before, and no one has ever said he stinks.” He was a comforter, a fatherly, an angel. He had a brilliant and pure mind.”
After the Dodgers-Giants game Tuesday night, he said Monday that he was up in his hotel room in San Francisco until 5 a.m. flashing memories in his mind, alternately smiling and tearing up. He said that when he and his wife travel somewhere, his wife often jokes that the place wasn’t as good as the brochure. “Fin Scully was better than the book,” he said on Monday.
He recalled the last Dodger Stadium broadcast that Scully broadcast in 2016, when the icon beautifully chanted the selling crowd by singing “Wind Beneath My Wings” at the end of the match. The attendant’s man, Charlie Colperson, had smashed the short story teller a few moments earlier. What’s easy to forget is that it wasn’t Scully’s last broadcast, the Dodgers finished the season with three games in San Francisco.
There, Colpersonson had the now famous bat. When he wasn’t sure what to do with it, on Monday he suggested that Scully sign him. Colperson was shy, asked him on Monday, and Scully said he would “honor” his signature.
On Monday, Culberson took him upstairs to the press box in San Francisco where they met Scully.
“It was incredible,” he said on Monday. “It was like two kids in a park checking out that magic bat wand. Finny signed it, and they were about to say goodbye when he entered the booth but the guy Finn always said was the greatest player he’s ever seen – Willie Mays.
“Charlie and Vinnie were already in tears, and then Willie came in and it was like one of those moments out of a time capsule.
“And then we got word in the third or fourth inning here last night, 60 feet from where that happened.”