O'Malley: Vin was Dodgers' greatest asset in LA

Former owner one of many to shower broadcast legend with praise

O'Malley: Vin was Dodgers' greatest asset in LA

LOS ANGELES -- He has known Vin Scully for the legendary broadcaster's entire 67-year career, was Scully's employer for three decades, and they were roommates on a goodwill trip to Japan when Dwight Eisenhower was president.

So Peter O'Malley knows the man as well as anyone, and he explained why Scully became the voice of the franchise and an icon in this city.

"In a word, Vin is genuine; that's the perfect word," said O'Malley, who was in the front row of dignitaries during the stirring pregame ceremony on Scully Appreciation Night. "Genuine, that is Vin, through and through. It's the way he is with work and the way he is with fans.

"There's no baloney there. He's very sincere, very thoughtful, and I think that's one of the reasons he's so popular. It's not just his talent behind the microphone, but it's the person that he is. He's a genuine good guy. I can't think of anyone more genuine, and that comes through in his work, or if you just met him in the elevator. That's him, and people see that and know that."

And O'Malley, having been president for nearly three decades of the club his family owned for nearly a half-century, credits Scully for helping make the Dodgers what they became.

"Having Vin communicate to the public for 200 days or 100 days or whatever -- he was the most important piece to the Dodgers' puzzle, ever since we came to L.A.," said O'Malley. "He was our spokesperson, even more than managers Walter Alston or Tommy Lasorda. No one was more important to our acceptance when we arrived, and no one has been more important since, than Vin."

If a man is judged by the company he keeps, consider the company Scully keeps.

"The thing I treasure most is that I call him friend," said Sandy Koufax, whose first game called by Scully was in 1955.

Former Dodgers manager Joe Torre remembers being a visiting player at Dodger Stadium in the 1960s.

"You'd be in the batter's box, and you would hear him on all of the transistor radios," Torre recalled. "It was the strangest thing -- hearing the broadcast of your own at-bat while it was happening. It only happened at Dodger Stadium, because of Vin. And in a way, it would sort of take the sting out of a strikeout. He sounded so nice."

Scully was at the mic for the Dodgers' World Series titles in 1981 and '88, his description of Kirk Gibson's "impossible" home run being voted by fans as the greatest call of his career. Gibson participated in Scully's Appreciation Night via a video, crediting the announcer for getting him off the training table to make history.

Vin Scully Top 20: #1 Gibson

"I had Ernie Harwell [in Detroit] and Vin Scully, who are both Hall of Famers, and they became great friends and they gave me great wisdom and advice, even if I didn't deserve it," said Gibson. "Thanks for helping inspire me to put on this uniform that night, and thanks for telling the story of our sport for so many years. It's an honor for me to have your voice attached to the soundtrack of my career. Vinny, congratulations on your career -- you're the best."

Carl Erskine, in a written tribute to Scully, said the familiar comfort of Scully's voice made the move from Brooklyn to Los Angeles easier for the transplanted players. Maury Wills said Scully helped inspire him to be aggressive on the bases when he would call Wills "The mouse that roared." Ron Cey said he's still amazed how Scully could handle broadcasts as a "one-man show" 40 years ago, as well as today.

Like so many fans of so many generations, Scully always reminds Eric Karros of his father.

"For me, growing up in San Diego, my dad was a Dodgers fan, and he would listen to Scully on the radio every night," said Karros, whol played with the Dodgers from 1991-2002. "He'd be in his office, and I would come in and lay on the floor every night and we'd listen to Vin broadcast the games. That represents the relationship with my dad. It will always be an important part of my life."

Remember how Shawn Green, a Dodgers outfielder from 2000-04, would throw his batting gloves to kids in the stands after hitting a home run? Thank Scully for that one.

"My first month as a Dodger, and one day I noticed a rip in a batting glove and I hit a home run, and when I came back to the dugout, I threw the glove to a kid," said Green. "When Vin saw me do that, he said, 'Well, that must be something Shawn Green does when he hits a home run.' I mean, I was new to the team and he didn't know. He's watching and trying to understand who I was.

"It got to the point where I would hit a home run and immediately kids would come running down the aisles to get a batting glove. That was a really cool aspect to my career. It one of those little connection points between me and the fans that are really meaningful. In fact, it's probably at the top of the list. I've had 30-year-olds come up to me and thank me for throwing them a glove."

Dodgers pay tribute to Scully

You've probably heard stories about kids with transistor radios tucked under their pillows listening to Scully until they fell asleep. Here's one about an active player.

"I used to come home every night and watched the replays late at night, and his voice literally put me to sleep every night," said Eric Gagne, the 2003 National League Cy Young Award-winning closer who pitched for the Dodgers from 1999-2006. "It was like a soothing voice, relaxing -- almost like warm milk does to babies.

"He was the Dodgers and will always be the biggest name in Dodger history. Riding the bus to the fields or to airports after a game, I would listen to all the amazing stories he had. It was an honor to have him say, 'Bienvenue Monsieur Gagne.' That's what my kids remember from when I pitched. They don't remember me pitching, they only remember Vin."

One of Scully's inimitable skills is his timing, right down to his retirement, even if fans find it bittersweet.

"There is nothing bitter; It's all happy," said O'Malley. "He's stepping aside at the right time. Everybody wants one more year. It's the right time to say goodbye, with his health good. A perfect time. I think the club has put together a great tribute to him -- well deserved -- and he's enjoying it."

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.