Shut Up, Vin Scully
Blasphemy for Baseball's Sake

Baseball should be a cheerful pastime, an escape from the everyday, and Vin Scully, the pre-eminent play-by-play announcer for the Los Angeles Dodgers, its voice. In his last season, after 67 years behind the mic, Scully was bathed in universal praise. A street was named after him, a day was named for him, and a Dodger Stadium Scully monument was in the works.  Life was complete for the Golly geewhiz Reagan-loving Hall of Fame broadcaster except for one thing:  Scully forgot how to use his voice.

“… if I have a trademark,” Scully said in 2014, “it would be to call the play as quickly and as accurately as I possibly can, and then shut up — and listen to the roar of the crowd.”

For the last three seasons of Scully’s tenure, 80% of that Los Angeles crowd was blacked-out from televised Dodger broadcasts.  Why?  Because Time/Warner TV offered a sinful amount of money for Dodger Broadcasting rights and the Dodger organization grabbed it.  The crowd — including everyone who subscribed to cable — was on the hook to either reimburse that sinful amount of money or be blacked-out from the games.

How did Vin Scully call it? At the end of the first year of the black-out, Scully recorded a TV spot telling the crowd to rejoice. Time/Warner had decided to broadcast the last 5 games of the season free in Los Angeles. It was as if Scully disremembered that Fox TV, the previous owner of broadcasting rights for the Dodgers, broadcast FIFTY games FREE the year before.  (Charter Communications bought-out Time/Warner in 2016 and during the final 162 game season, broadcast only the final six games Scully would ever call.  Imagine that… getting to see a spectator sport.)

During his final three seasons, Scully could have spoken up for the crowd and challenged Time/Warner to lift the black-out. He was the most respected member of the Dodger organization.  Firing or disciplining him would have been unthinkable.  But let’s be realistic. Scully was not a rebel.  He was a company man whose employer believed that sports spectators are simply consumers and play-by-play announcers representatives of corporate entertainment.  As a man of priorites, bred to love capitalism and its flag-waving wars of attrition against the Red Enemy, Scully ranked his paycheck and job as number one and the crowd down the list.

How far down that list was made more apparent with Scully’s in-game announcement of the death of Mohammed Ali. With an opportunity to honor an iconic, much-loved crowd-favorite, Scully went sideways. “We understand that right now Mohammed Ali, the former Cassius Clay, has passed away,” Scully said being sure to include Ali’s slave name. 

Ali, Scully continued, “had so much of a reaction from his fans and the impression he had on so many people.” What kind of reaction or impression Scully wouldn’t say. Ali was a civil rights and anti-war activist. Scully, along with Dodger Stadium, honors a different war veteran every game.  Nothing, of course, is ever mentioned about the corporate influence on the dirty wars they fought in. 

Scully’s snub of Ali was ignored by corporate media and instead his announcement was treated as if it was poetry. “He did it in only the way Scully can, with the same gentle tone and gravitas that made his reading of the Field of Dreams speech so beautiful…,” said USAToday. 

A few weeks later, in the middle of a game, Scully decided to let the crowd know what he thinks about socialism.  That’s right.  Not the play, not the count, not the at-bat, but socialism.  With Milwaukee third baseman and Venezuela native Hernan Perez at bat, Scully said,  “Socialism failing to work as it always does, this time in Venezuela.  You talk about giving everybody something free, and all of a sudden there’s no food to eat. And who do you think is the richest person in Venezuela? The daughter of Hugo Chavez. Hello.”

Again, the corporate media praised him. “Legend Vin Scully Obliterates Socialism During Dodgers Broadcast,” Redstate magazine bragged.
Never mind that there are the dozens of socialist governments that work fine, if not better than their capitalist counterparts — Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, Canada, Sweden.  Facts are stupid things. By the end of his last season you half expected Scully to lecture the crowd on the horrors of FDR, Medicare, fire departments, public libraries, and Bernie Sanders.  

That’s not to say Vin Scully didn’t deserve a happy Morning in America retirement.  He was a dreamer and his dream came true.  After a life in baseball, the remarkable broadcasting crooner got his bust, his street, and his day.  But for the sake of baseball, Scully should have taken his own advice and learned when to shut up.  It was time to listen to the roar of the crowd.

— Nathan Callahan

First Broadcast September 16, 2016

© / Nathan Callahan / all rights reserved


Broadcasting Fridays at 8:50 am from KUCI 88.9 fm Orange County, California