Legendary announcer thanks fans, club in ceremony; Koufax, Manfred and Costner among speakers
By Richard Justice
LOS ANGELES -- It was Sandy Koufax who told the story that seemed to sum up Vin Scully's remarkable life so perfectly. That it would come from the great Koufax seems appropriate since these two men have known one another for more than 60 years, their lives forever intertwined in the hearts and minds of generations of baseball fans.
This was a Friday night the Los Angeles Dodgers hoped would never come, one set aside to say a formal goodbye to their voice of 67 of their 127 seasons.
Scully will call his last series at Dodger Stadium this weekend and then be done after broadcasting next weekend's regular season-ending series in San Francisco.
The Dodgers did Friday night up nicely with a touching pregame ceremony before a 5-2 win that drew both laughter and tears from Scully. From Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred to actor Kevin Costner and others, they spoke of a man millions of Dodger fans consider both a friend and a confidant. They talked of his talent and his humility and told him how much they'd miss him.
"He has been our barometer, our thermometer, uncle, dad, friend through good times and bad," said Dodgers broadcaster Charley Steiner, who anchored the ceremony.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti presented Scully with a key to the city. Manfred announced Major League Baseball would make a $50,000 donation to the Jackie Robinson Fund in Scully's name.
When it was Koufax's turn to speak, he, too, seemed to be fighting his emotions as he spoke of how Scully was never a cheerleader for the Dodgers, that he always appreciated the talent of players in both dugouts.
And then this:
"Before the World Series, Vin would go to church and pray there'd be only heroes, no goats," Koufax said. "That showed his compassion for the players."
"I think the thing I treasure most is he allows me to call him friend."
Manfred called Scully "a national treasure with an honored place in baseball history" and pointed out that just two non-players had won the Commissioner's Historic Achievement Award -- Jackie Robinson's widow Rachel and Vin Scully.
"There's a certain poetic [quality] to that," Manfred said.
Scully and his wife, Sandi, walked onto the field to a roar of cheers before the ceremony. These were the very kind of cheers he has long said had been what thrilled him most about the game.
"We will miss you, my friend," Costner said. "We will miss you in our radio and our cars and our backyards. You've been a gift to Los Angeles and baseball itself."
Costner joked "shame on us" if Scully ever had to pay for his dinner again in Los Angeles restaurants. Mostly, though, he hoped his words helped Scully appreciate why people loved him so.
"We couldn't be Kirk [Gibson], and we couldn't be Sandy," Costner said, "but you found a way to put us all in the batter's box and on the mound. When we were at a loss for words, you were Norman Rockwell painting the clearest of pictures. You were a poet, a wordsmith. Your name is spoken with a reverence reserved for only the greatest of players. You're our George Bailey, and it has been a wonderful life."
Garcetti said he once asked his father, Gil, why so many Dodgers fans listened to transistor radios while watching a game at Dodger Stadium.
Eric Garcetti said his father delivered a two-word answer: "Vin Scully."
"For so many of us, Vin, you are baseball, and you are the Dodgers," Garcetti said. "You have introduced us to our heroes and taught us the game and voiced some of the most exciting moments of our lives. You live your life with such humility and such grace. You are an example for all of us."
When it was Scully's chance to speak, he said simply that he was blessed to have lived his dream.
"Welcome to my thanksgiving because that's what this is all about," he said. "I should be on my knees in prayer for all the wonderful things that have happened to me. I had a child's dream. I didn't just fulfill that dream. I got it for 67 years."
He drew a roar from the crowd when he said, "There is one group I really feel I must thank -- you people sitting in the stands. Your enthusiasm, your passion for the game. When I was eight years old, I fell in love with the roar of a football crowd coming out of a radio. When you are thrilled, when you cheer, for a brief moment, I'm eight years old again. You really and truly have been the wind beneath my wings. I owe you everything."
Dodger fans voted his two greatest calls being Gibson's walk-off home run in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series and Koufax's perfect game in 1965.
"It's an honor to have your voice attached to the soundtrack of my career," Gibson said in a taped message.
Scully thanked the Dodgers for organizing the tribute, then ended with: "For those who wonder what I will do, I'm looking for a much smaller house and much larger medicine cabinet. Good night, everybody."
Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.