Thursday, 26 July 2012

Hollywood Loves Vin Scully

The United Press International’s Hollywood correspondent proved his point, albeit unintentionally.

Vernon Scott wrote a story published 52 years ago today explaining how Los Angeles Dodgers baseball announcer Vin Scully was unknown in most of the U.S. Except in the column, Scott called him “Vince.”

It was in January 1950 that another national columnist, Hugh Fullerton, Jr., revealed that Vin Scully, ex Fordham outfielder and announcer, would be helping out on the Brooklyn Dodgers broadcasts in the summer. And he’s still doing it, 62 years later.

Getting back to Scott’s column, you might wonder why a Hollywood reporter would choose a baseball announcer as his subject. It’s very simple. Hollywood loved baseball.

Bob Hope and Bing Crosby each had a piece of major league clubs. Joe E. Brown had played ball before he made movies (his son was later general manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates), including the baseball-themed “Elmer the Great” (1933). Bill Frawley had a clause in his “I Love Lucy” contract that he was to be given time off to see World Series if the Yankees were playing. Hollywood was the home of the Hollywood Stars of the Pacific Coast League, in those days practically a major league circuit. Stars filled the box seats, some bought shares in the club. And Brooklyn manager Leo Durocher pushed his way into a show business career, guest starring hither and yon on radio comedy/variety shows.

Several of Jack Benny’s radio broadcasts revolved around Benny attempting to listen to a ball game, but being thwarted by the channel switching to wailing soap opera actresses (Bea Benaderet), sinus-congested singers (Sara Berner), cheesy commercials (Frank Nelson) and a variety of running gags. On one show, Nelson pulls off one of the funniest routines of all time as an announcer calling the bottom of the ninth with his mouth stuffed with a hot dog so no one can understand how the game ended. Another broadcast had Jack and Mary watching a PCL contest involving the Los Angeles Angels and the Seattle Rainiers with The Sportsmen Quartet singing a Lucky Strike commercial to “Nobody Loves an Umpire.”

And so it is that Jack and Vin Scully are connected in Scott’s column.

Even Benny Listens to This Celebrity
HOLLYWOOD, July 26—(UPI)—Jack Benny fired off the first fan letter in his long career to the most listened-to man in Cinema City—a celebrity’s celebrity who has stars and moguls hanging on his every word.
Outside of Southern California and Brooklyn this imposing figure is almost entirely unknown. But he can break up concerts, stop shooting on the sets and commands fan mail on the grand scale.
He’s Vince Scully, the man who announces the Dodgers baseball games.
An 11-year veteran with the ball club, Scully has made Southern Californians a sect of transistor radio fanatics.
When Dodger games are in progress, movie sets, TV stages and the streets are filled with semi-conscious listeners with wires running from tiny radios to their ears.
Scully, an engaging Irishman with a shock of fire-red hair, is delighted with his popularity among movietown’s bigwigs.
“I guess my biggest fan is producer Mervyn Leroy,” Vince said. “He gave me a small role in one of his pictures just for the heck of it.
“Benny sent me a telegram of congratulations for the job I’m doing. He said it was the only fan letter he’d ever written. Kirk Douglas also sent me a nice letter.”
During games in the Coliseum fans can hear Scully’s account of the action clearly—there are that many transistor radios blaring through-out the crowd.
“I think that’s because so many Californians are unfamiliar with major league baseball,” he explained, “and they like to understand what is happening out on the field.”
Scully considers his broadcasting job a part of show business.
“There is always excitement and drama in a ball game, and I depend a great deal on the roar of the crowd to give it punch.
“There have been complaints from the Hollywood Bowl and theaters in this area that people can’t hear what’s going on because of the radios smuggled in to performances. Even the actors can keep up with the games by listening from the stage between lines.”
One performer was embarrassed in a restaurant recently when he approached a patron wearing an ear phone to inquire about the Dodgers' score. It turned out the man he had asked was wearing a hearing aid.
“We’re all mighty happy that the club is so welcome here,” Scully concluded. “Underneath it all, Los Angeles fans are almost exactly the same as the ones we left in Brooklyn.”

What makes Scully a great play-by-play announcer? Perfect timing. Makes going on the air seem effortless. Avoids phoney hype and just builds on the situation as it unfolds around him. Dependable, year in and year out. And a genuine guy.

That descriptions fits one of Scully’s biggest fans, too. It can be said that Vin Scully, really, is the Jack Benny of baseball broadcasters.

1 comment:

  1. There's been a push the last couple of seasons to include Scully as part of the broadcast crew on Fox's World Series broadcasts, and he was lead announcer on several Series back in the 1980s. And it certainly would make sense if the Dodgers climb out of their current swoon and make the Series, but saddling him with Tim McCarver or some other color commentator would cancel out in large part what Vin Scully's been about, which is the ability to paint the picture of the current and possible future actions on the field while at the same time inntergrating the history of the players involved and the game itself.