Beloved broadcaster honors wife with song after final game at Dodger Stadium
By Richard Justice
LOS ANGELES -- At the end of the day, Vin Scully asked the crowd to indulge him a personal moment. Twenty-five years earlier, he'd recorded a song for his wife, Sandi, and had recently had it remixed and digitized.
This is how he would leave Dodger Stadium on Sunday afternoon for the final time as the voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers. He would make it about her, not him.
With that, he wrapped an arm around his wife's shoulders, wiped away tears and swayed gently as the public-address system belted out his voice singing "Wind Beneath My Wings."
So I was the one with all the glory, while you were the one with all the strength.
Endings are imperfect things, especially endings like this one. He'd been a constant, sweet presence in the lives of so many, his voice soothing and precise, his manners impeccable. He'd been in our lives for so long no one could imagine otherwise.
Did you ever know that you're my hero, and everything I would like to be?
Down on the field, Dodgers players and coaches paused their celebration of a division championship to turn toward the booth and salute Scully one final time at Dodger Stadium.
In the stands, fans wiped away tears, held signs and waved. It was the end of a weekend of celebration -- a weekend Scully wanted to make about only baseball but couldn't.
I want you to know I know the truth, of course I know it. I would be nothing without you.
And when it was done, Scully waved to the crowd one last time, touched his heart and saluted. He and Sandi exited his broadcast booth and walked slowly through the press box as friends and colleagues wished them well.
He will call next weekend's Dodgers-Giants series in San Francisco and then close the door on a 67-season career.
Scully had hoped this final home game would be a meaningful contest that could carry him through the day.
He got exactly what he wanted when the Dodgers beat the Rockies, 4-3, clinching their fourth straight division championship on Charlie Culberson's 10th-inning walk-off home run in front of 51,962.
Scully called this big moment the way he'd called thousands of others. He described it precisely, then went silent and allowed the cheers to wash over listeners.
"Can you believe a home run?" he asked. "And the Dodgers have clinched the division and will celebrate on schedule."
He paused for several seconds, then set the scene.
"Leave it to the Dodgers. Charlie Culberson a game-winning home run. Would you believe his first home run of the year?"
From the beginning of the broadcast, he had acknowledged that this day was different, and he offered up recollections of a baseball life.
He also acknowledged the stunning death of Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez, noting that Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig had wept in the clubhouse as he attempted to discuss his fellow Cuban.
Otherwise, it was a day of warm banter about the game he was watching and the places he'd seen and the people he'd met.
When a photo of Scully's mentor, Red Barber, and Babe Ruth flashed on the screen, Scully recalled a day at the Polo Grounds.
There in the outfield bleachers was the great Ruth surrounded by kids.
"He was just the way you'd picture him, but not signing autographs," Scully said. "He handed out business cards, and on the business card, there was his autograph.
"I got one.
"I lost it."
As shots of fans holding signs acknowledging him were flashed throughout the game, Scully said things like:
"You folks have given me so many memories on the job. I've never worked a day in my life."
When the Dodgers were unable to turn a double play, Scully said defense had been a cornerstone of this division championship.
"The little-known thing no one talks about is the Dodgers defense," he said. "It's been marvelous -- 74 errors.
"Good starting pitching? Yeah.
"Good offense? Yeah.
"Good bullpen? Yeah.
"But the defense is outstanding. You can hang around with a bunch of buddies talking baseball, but you'll neglect to talk about the defense.
"You win with pitching and defense. The home runs get the headlines. But you've got to be able to catch the ball."
These moments are what Dodger fans will miss. This was Scully at his best, mixing in the play-by-play in front of him with the perspective of having watched the game for 80 years.
Later in the game, he remembered the day then-Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley telephoned his house to say he would like him to come back for a second season behind the microphone.
All these years later, Scully seemed awed by the memory.
"I was absolutely flabbergasted. This man was taking over a huge organization, and he's going to call the third-string announcer.
"My respect and admiration grew and grew. If he wasn't like a father, he was certainly a second uncle."
Speaking of O'Malley ...
"A few days before the first game at Dodger Stadium in 1962, there'd been a lot of rain," Scully said, "and the infield and outfield didn't look good.
"O'Malley was friends with Mervyn LeRoy, the famous director, who said, `Walter, why don't you do what we do? We use vegetable dye, and it looks luscious green.'
"If you see Opening Day pictures, you'll think, `Wow, that grass looks dark green.' It was vegetable dye."
In acknowledging the 95-degree weather, he said:
"I think of a beautiful breeze coming off the lake in center field."
With that, he chuckled.
"I've talked about that lake in center field for 50 years. I'm sure some people coming from out of town think that lake is there.
"It's not real, but I can dream."
After Rockies rookie left-hander Tyler Anderson sailed through six innings with a 2-1 lead, Scully made a point of saying the seventh inning is the one that has given him trouble.
Seager's two-out home run in the bottom of the ninth tied it again, and then Culberson won it in the 10th.
Here's another memory:
"Way back when, when a new baseball was put in the game, the pitcher would give it to Gil Hodges.
"His hands were so strong he would squeeze the ball to raise the stitches if that's what the pitcher wanted."
And then the game ended, and Scully had to put a finishing touch on it. The Dodgers had won the game, and the players, who saluted him with tips of the hat as they came to bat, turned toward the booth.
Scully took the public-address microphone.
"I want you to know I needed you more than you needed me," Scully said.
That's when he asked if it was OK to play a song for his wife. Moments later, he was out the door. There's one last stop in San Francisco next weekend, and then it's on to the next chapter of his glorious life.
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.