How Fenway Park changed Vin Scully’s life

Los Angeles Dodgers Hall of Fame announcer Vin Scully stares out the door of the green monster at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts (Photo by Jon Soohoo/WireImage)
Los Angeles Dodgers Hall of Fame announcer Vin Scully stares out the door of the green monster at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts (Photo by Jon Soohoo/WireImage) /

Legendary broadcaster Vin Scully passes away at 94

The legendary Vin Scully passed away on Tuesday at 94 years old, and it’s safe to say there will never be another like him.

Like Bill Russell, the Boston Celtics legend we lost two days before, Scully’s resumé and impact stands alone. He was the one who inspired everyone who sought to follow in his footsteps; he was the voice of our favorite and most epic moments, and he made the mundanity in between seem thrilling, too. His melodic timbre was jubilant in our joy, soothing and gentle in our moments of anguish. He radiated goodness, and in doing so, made everything around him better.

Nothing I or anyone else says will suffice for Vin Scully. It’s ironic that there aren’t adequate words to describe a person who was so eloquent with his own.

But maybe that’s the point.

So instead of trying to encapsulate all he meant to baseball, I’m just going to share a quick story. Because most people know Vin Scully as the voice of the Dodgers, but they might not know that a little old ballpark on the other side of the country is the reason why. If not for the Boston Red Sox lending Fenway Park out for football games, sports, as we’ve known them for more than half a century, might be completely different.

Right at the beginning of his enormous, unparalleled journey in sports, there was one pivotal day at Fenway, when a 21-year-old Scully showed up to sub in for another broadcaster, only to find out he’d be doing so from the roof of the ballpark.

It was Nov. 12, 1949, and the University of Maryland was playing Boston University. Then-Brooklyn Dodgers’ voice Red Barber offered Scully the chance to work the event when another announcer got sick. As the story goes, he arrived at the ballpark on a bitterly cold day, but left his cold-weather apparel at the hotel, assuming he’d be calling the game in a booth, as one normally does.

"“It was cold, but I thought — naively, dumbly — ‘I’m going to be working for a network; I’ll have a big booth.’ “Vin Scully"

A professional even then, Scully toughed it out on the roof, holding a microphone in his ungloved hands, calling football without a coat. He never complained, but to himself, he thought that he’d “blown it.”

Instead, it turned out to be just the beginning. Barber found out how well Scully had handled the less-than-ideal setup, and it stuck with him. He put him on a Harvard-Yale game, one of the biggest events in college football, and a few months later, brought him to the Dodgers and trained him to do what he soon did better than anyone else.

Scully went on to call some of the greatest moments sports will ever see. Kirk Gibson’s limping walk-off, Sandy Koufax’s perfect game, Hank Aaron’s 715th home run to break the record. His voice accompanied one of Boston’s most painful nights, when a baseball rolled between Bill Buckner’s legs, and prolonged a curse.

But before all of that, he was just an eager young man, shivering on the rooftop of Fenway Park, with a microphone and a dream.