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Vin Scully Knew When The Best Words Were No Words

LOS ANGELES - APRIL 13: the Los Angeles Dodgers the San Francisco Giants on September 2, 2009 at Dodger Stadiium in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Vin Scully. That’s it. No other words are needed. You may as well just do what he did at the end of Sandy Koufax’s perfect game in 1965: Step away from the microphone and let the crowd noise tell the story.

Silence and cheers are what are deserved for Scully, who died Tuesday at the age of 94. He was the poet laureate we, even those who hate poetry, all needed but maybe didn’t earn. He was America’s lyricist. He was broadcasting’s Switzerland, the one voice everyone agreed gave dignity and grandeur to the spectacular and the shambolic. Without him, the Dodgers might as well have been the Angels, the NFC Championship Game the Pro Bowl, and the Masters the Waste Management Open. He was God’s own larynx.

But you know that. We all know that. His gift was everyone’s, and he bestowed it freely for 70 years. He read a grocery list and made it Shakespearean (pronouncing it “bo-LO-na” and sticking the landing even though he might have been the only person ever to call it anything but “baloney”). He had many imitators, but since he lasted for seven decades, their imitations all crashed and burned. Without even trying, he defended his unique style by working longer than everyone. If he didn’t invent “Accept No Substitutes,” he damned well lived it.

His last game ever was performed in the home of the Dodgers’ archest of rivals, the San Francisco Giants in 2016, even though he could have called it a career after his last game at Dodger Stadium the week before. He did the game because it was the last game on the schedule, and by damn, the schedule would be adhered to.

I mention this last thing because as one of his 4,656,923 best friends in baseball, I went up to the broadcast floor to say goodbye to him one final time and he greeted me like I’d donated both kidneys and my pancreas to keep him going for that next Cincinnati-Pittsburgh-Philadelphia road trip. We talked for several minutes about the usual this/that, and at the end he said, “It was nice of you to drop by,” which I properly took for the directly opposite sentiment it actually was. He flattered everyone by engaging them in conversation, and he either knew everyone for decades or enveloped them in the illusion of having known them for decades.

There will be no truly comprehensive tribute to Vin Scully, just as there was none for Bill Russell. Those who tried failed because the canvas presented was too large and the palette too massive. As with Russell, everyone gets their own memories of Scully because he was available to everyone, and the moments he described were legitimized by their connection to him, not the other way around. He was the marker for nearly every glorious moment in Dodger history, and even if you wanted to hold that against him, you wouldn’t dare. You have too much decency to even try, and this is me saying that. Nobody was better, nobody was as good, nobody came even remotely close.

I will now step away and let the crowd noise tell the story. Don’t worry if it’s just a sad, rolling silence at first. Vin Scully’s body of work will provide the words.