Scully works a game in 1957, a year before the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles.
It’s April, the Masters has arrived, and the sounds of spring fill the air.
For me, the most beautiful sound of spring always takes me back to my youth, huddled underneath the covers listening to Vin Scully calling a Los Angeles Dodgers game on a cheap transistor radio.
I’ve listened to Scully, who is now 83, all of my life. Three generations of Dodgers fans have. For 61 seasons, his melodious voice has filled the air, painting pictures with words and turning phrases into works of art.
Fans of both baseball and golf were treated to a double dose of Scully’s sweet music between 1975 and 1989 — in addition to his job with the Dodgers, he worked for both CBS and NBC broadcasting golf, including the Masters.
I had the fortunate pleasure to work 15 years in the Dodgers press box as a member of the radio team at KABC. Want to know what Vin Scully is really like?
Exactly as you would expect him to be. He always greets you with a smile. He remembers your name. He extends a warm hand and offers a firm handshake.
Recently, I had a chance to catch up with this very private and incredibly humble man.
You’ve been a member at Bel-Air Country Club since 1970. Do you get out to play much these days?
I was a player, so to speak, at one time. But not much anymore. My lowest handicap was 12.
What drew you to golf?
First of all, I don’t think I’ve ever seen an ugly golf course. There are always trees or water and lots of green grass. It’s a great way to enjoy the outdoors. I mean, I’ve been blessed to visit a lot of great places, like Wimbledon, but let’s face it, a tennis court is a tennis court.
What are some of your most vivid memories from your days as a golf broadcaster?
I remember doing the Westchester Classic on CBS and seeing Bob Gilder score a double-eagle. Very rare.
I also remember when I was with NBC and we were doing the 1983 Hawaiian Open. San Diego’s Jack Renner was leading the tournament by one shot and he was in the clubhouse. The 18th hole is a very long par-4 and Isao Aoki was just one shot back.
Aoki decided to cut the corner and hit an incredible drive. Then he holed his second shot. Renner was in the scoring tent and we had a shot of him as the roar went up from Aoki’s shot. Renner looked up and said, ‘Birdie?’ thinking he was about to head to a playoff. But someone said, ‘No, eagle.’ Renner’s eyes filled with tears. It was an amazing shot. And the best part of the story? The very next year, Jack Renner won the Hawaiian Open.
What was it like broadcasting the Masters from 1975-’82 and seeing the Green Jacket go to legends such as Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Tom Watson?
It was great working there. Augusta is unique because it’s kind of like a bowl. If you’re up at No. 1 or No. 10 or No. 18, you’re on the rim of the bowl. When something happened, you’d start to hear the roars and they’d be like gunfire, like canons. Then the score would go up and you’d hear the roars again. It was marvelous.
Tell me what it was like when Nicklaus won his fifth Masters in 1975.
If you worked the 18th hole at Augusta, you also worked Nos. 9 and 10. And that year there was quite a show from my vantage point. I remember both Johnny Miller and Tom Weiskopf were challenging Jack to set up a dramatic final day. Those two were in the final group, with Jack in the group in front of them. Miller and Weiskopf kept knocking in birdies. Jack just kept answering back. When Miller and Weiskopf got to the 18th tee, both were tied, one shot back of Jack, who took the lead knocking in a 40-footer no one expected him to make. When the final two got to the 18th green, both had makeable birdie putts to force a tie. Both missed, falling to the mystique of the Golden Bear.
You’ve seen a lot of great shots. Did any particular shot truly amaze you?
It’s amazing what a golf professional can do with a ball. Tom Kite was in the back of a bunker that was playing downhill with the green sloping towards the water. He pulled out a 4-wood and walked into the sand. I thought, ‘What is he doing?’ There is no way he is going to hold the green. I had no idea what he was going to do but he took a mighty swing and clobbered the ball. Don’t you know, it hit the lip of the bunker and the ball trickled down to the hole. Later, I asked him about that shot and he said he learned it from Hale Irwin and he practices it all of the time. Amazing.
I’m going to throw some names at you … Jack Nicklaus…
I always felt he played without emotion. He also stood over a putt longer than anyone. At times I thought he was going to turn into a tower of salt.
Chi Chi Rodriguez…
Talkative, happy. Fun to be around.
He was maybe the best ballstriker of them all. He could do anything with a golf ball. Lee’s actually a very serious man. I believe he got his reputation because he needed to talk to calm his nerves.
How does broadcasting golf differ from other sports?
When you do football or baseball or tennis, you can leave at the end of the day and say ‘I did good or I had a good day.’ In golf, you’re a member of a verbal track team and you’re constantly handing the baton off to another announcer, another hole. It took a while to get used to listening to the great [CBS Sports] golf director Frank Chirkinian (who died last month) in your ear. I’d be describing a shot and Frank would be saying, ‘Vinny, when you’re done throw it to No. 15 where Nicklaus is lining up a birdie putt.’ Somehow you had to divorce yourself from what you were saying and thinking to make that baton pass. It’s difficult and it took a while to get used to it.
What’s your favorite memory from the golf broadcast booth?
In golf, especially at Augusta, you use your words sparingly. I’ll never forget working with one of the great names in golf broadcasting, the Englishman Henry Longhurst, who was quite a character. But this particular year, he gave a lesson in broadcasting worth learning. Clive Clark, also an Englishman who, by the way, now lives in Palm Springs, got a hole in one on Augusta’s 16th hole. All Longhurst said was, ‘Clive Clark has played the 16th hole in one.’
VINCENT EDWARD SCULLY
BORN: November 29, 1927 in the Bronx, New York.
RESIDENCE: For most of Scully’s years in Southern California, he lived in Bel-Air, where he has been a member of Bel-Air Country Club since 1970. He has since moved to Hidden Hills to be closer to his grandchildren.
EDUCATION: Scully attended high school at Fordham Preparatory School in the Bronx. He knew he wanted to be a sports announcer the moment he became fascinated with football broadcasts on his radio. He went to college at Fordham University, where he began his career as a student broadcaster.
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: In 1950, Scully joined the Brooklyn Dodgers broadcast booth at the age of 23. In 1953, he became the youngest announcer ever to work the World Series, a record that still stands today.
Scully accompanied the Dodgers in their move to Los Angeles in 1958 and quickly established himself as a fan favorite. L.A. fans became so enamored with him they brought their radios to the game. In 1976, Dodgers fans named him the “Most Memorable Personality” in the history of the franchise.
In 1975, Scully signed with CBS to work NFL football, tennis and golf. He primarily teamed up with Hank Stram on football broadcasts. He also worked the CBS Radio Broadcasts of the Major League Baseball All-Star Game and World Series.
In 1983, Scully moved to NBC to work their Saturday Baseball Game of the Week with Joe Garagiola. He also covered golf, teaming with Lee Trevino. Scully also worked the Skins Game for NBC during his years there. When ABC got the contract for that event in 1991, the network hired Scully to do the broadcasts, which he did until 1996.
NOTABLE: Scully has three career holes in one, all at Bel-Air — on the third, fifth and 16th holes. The ace on No. 16 was struck with a 4-wood: “I always felt I could control that club. Today, all of my clubs are my enemies.”