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Vin Scully will not like this column. Scully detests unwanted attention and this column lead is designed to place the spotlight on him. But I make no apologies. Time is short and I want to take one more run at an idea the 88-year-old baseball poet has continuously shunned.
As most of you know, Scully announced last fall that his 67th season in the broadcast booth for the Dodgers will be his final one. His broadcasting career would conclude with L.A.’s season's final series in San Francisco from Sept. 30 to Oct. 2, or the postseason. Scully said he would consider working the playoffs should the Dodgers be involved.
So here we go again, for the last time. It’s an proposition that has been cited before, an idea re-ignited for me when I received an email a couple of weeks ago from Michael Weisman, one of the great sports producers of his time and Scully’s top producer when both worked for NBC on the World Series. (Weisman produced the game for NBC where Scully famously called Kirk Gibson’s home run in Game One of the 1988 World Series. Here’s an article on it.) Wrote Weisman:
“You should call for Fox to use Scully for part of one game during World Series. [Joe] Buck wouldn’t mind. Baseball would support, goodwill and ratings.”
Weisman is correct on all counts. Not only would Buck not mind, he wants this as much as anyone.
"I’d love it,” Buck told SI this week. “I am my dad’s [Jack Buck] son. I know what it means to have one of these voices walk away. As far as Vin is concerned, he is the best to ever do it. He’s kind of the last voice of this generation of play-by-play announcers that defined the craft. I would pay for the plane to bring him myself.
“As a kid growing up in St. Louis, I grew up on [NBC’s] Game of the Week. I could not wait to hear what Vin and Joe Garagiola were going to say about the Cardinals when they came to town to do a game. That voice and stamp of authority was everything to me.”
Scully was NBC television’s lead baseball broadcaster from 1983 to ‘89. He called three World Series (1984, 1986, and 1988) and four All-Star Games (1983, 1985, 1987, and 1989). When NBC lost the TV rights in 1989 to CBS, Scully called the World Series for CBS Radio from 1990 to 1997. That contract then shifted over to ESPN and that was the last national viewers heard Scully at the Fall Classic.
Los Angeles Times writer Bill Shaikin has written often about Scully and wrote recently about how the broadcaster is uneasy with the idolatry that comes his way from being Vin Scully. For instance, the Dodgers will give away Scully T-shirts in May and bobbleheads in September. “It makes me uncomfortable,” Scully told Shaikin. “I only work here, when you get down to it.”
There have been petitions calling for Scully to call a World Series before, and Scully has not budged. I understand Scully’s reticence to agree to something he might view as a stunt. But it would be the rare stunt benefiting millions of viewers. If you haven’t heard Scully in a while, please click on this.
“He knows how I feel at Fox and I speak on behalf of the whole network at this one,” Buck said. “If he knocked on the door of the broadcast booth, I would leave. It would be all his. But he does not want to do it and I can pretty much understand why. It’s just not his way, or his style. He doesn’t want it to feel like it’s about him – that’s not who he is. Now we know that is his last year, it makes all the sense in the world for something like this to happen. My Dad’s circumstances were a little different, He got sick, he got cancer, he got infections, and he went basically from a banquet into the hospital and never got out. Vin is going out on his own terms and at the age of 88 and still with his fastball. I would feel phenomenal about this. I would be—and we at Fox would be—honored if he agreed to something. But he has repeatedly said he’s not interested and said as much multiple times in years past.”
Buck said another reason Scully might be reticent is that it’s hard to step into another network’s production with no experience.
“He doesn’t know who is talking in his ear at Fox,” Buck said. “He’s in a comfortable situation with the Dodgers and people around him who he has worked with for years. If he were to sit in my chair and put on the headset that I am wearing, he has [Fox producer] Pete Macheska talking to him and [director] Bill Webb talking to him. He’s working with John Smoltz who he has never worked with. There are a lot of factors that I’m sure he does not want to bother with.”
If it were to happen, Buck said he would not want to be on the air with Scully. He would leave the booth and then Scully would have the option of doing the World Series solo or working with analyst Smoltz.
“There’s no reason for me to me on there with him – he’s the best,” Buck said. "It’s mind-blowing and not just that he’s doing it at 88 but doing it by himself at 88. And this isn’t just a guy calling play by play. This is storytelling weaved into play by play. This is that great dance and that melodic delivery that he has had forever. I’m gripping just to get through it 46.”
Buck said he believed Fox would also make the same offer to Scully for this year’s All Star Game in San Diego.
“Just to hear that voice on national TV, I think would be great,” Buck said. “But it’s ultimately up to him and at this point, he doesn’t want to it.”
My only thought to try to pry Scully would be to appeal to his sense of charity. What if Fox Sports agreed to donate $100,000 or $200,000 to Scully’s alma mater—Fordham University—to be used for scholarship money for broadcasting students with economic-based needs. Or Fox donated a six figure check to Scully’s preferred charity? (And don’t be worried about the money—the advertising dollars Fox would make promoting Scully doing a game would more than pay for it.)
There’s one more World Series left in Vin Scully’s broadcasting life. Here’s hoping that somehow, someway, all of us across this country could get one last taste of what Dodgers fans have been gifted for more than a half century.
The Noise Report
(SI.com examines some of the most notable sports media stories of the past week.)
1. Last Wednesday was one of the most remarkable television nights in NBA regular season history. Golden State’s record-setting 73rd win drew 3.649 million viewers on ESPN, just edging the 3.465 million who watched Kobe Bryant’s final game on ESPN2. The Warriors’ win was the most-watched regular season NBA game on ESPN since Jan 2014; the Kobe finale was the highest-rated regular season game ever on ESPN2. Locally, CSN Bay Area’s 23.22 rating for the Warriors’ game was the best NBA regular-season figure on record for any regional sports network. The Lakers-Jazz telecast averaged 116,000 viewers on ESPN Deportes, the most-watched regular-season NBA game ever on Spanish-language cable.
1a. As a result of the national interest in Golden State this season, NBA ratings were up at ESPN and ABC for the season. The 76 NBA games aired by ESPN averaged 1,652,000 viewers, up 10 percent from 1,504,000 viewers last year. The 16 NBA games on ABC, including the new NBA Saturday Primetime on ABC, averaged 3,926,000 viewers.
1b. The most-watched game this season across any network was the Christmas NBA Finals rematch between the Warriors and Cavaliers on ABC. The game averaged 11.2 million viewers. ESPN officials believe it is the fourth-most watched regular-season game on any network all time.
1c. The most-watched (non-Christmas) regular-season NBA game on any network since 2014 came on Feb. 27 when ABC broadcast the Warriors-Thunder game (5,322,000 viewers).
1d. NBA TV’s live game coverage averaged 345,000 viewers for the 2015-16 regular season, a new all-time record for the network, and a 19 percent increase over last year. NBA TV’s airing of the Warriors-Spurs on April 10 was the network’s most-viewed game telecast ever, averaging 2.6 million viewers.
The league said NBA TV Fan Night’s live game coverage was up 10 percent in viewership this season.
1e. Here’s an FS1 personality saying the NBA’s ratings are in decline.
2. NBC Sports said its 105 NHL regular-season games on NBC and NBCSN averaged 503,000 viewers, up two percent vs. 2014-15 (491,000; 104 games).
2a. NBC Sports said the 2015-16 NHL regular season on NBCSN averaged 378,000 viewers, the most-watched full regular season in network history and the most-watched on cable since the 1993-94 season. The network said viewership was up eight percent versus 2014-15 (349,000).
2b. NBCSN’s 24 Wednesday Night Rivalry telecasts averaged 608,000 viewers, up eight percent vs. 2014-15 (565,000; 24 games).
2c. The NHL on NBC games (11) averaged 1.545 million viewers, up six percent vs. last season (1.457; 13 games).
2d. The top local markets for NBCSN’s NHL games:
2e. The final round of the Masters averaged 12.4 million viewers for CBS. The third round drew 7.96 million viewers.
3. Episode No. 51 of the Sports Illustrated Media Podcast features a pair of guests: Yahoo Sports MLB columnist Jeff Passan, the author of The Arm: Inside the Billion-Dollar Mystery of the Most Valuable Commodity in Sports, and The New York Times horse racing writer Joe Drape, the author of American Pharoah: The Untold Story of the Triple Crown Winner’s Legendary Rise.
On this episode, Passan discusses how why he wrote the book, how to get year-long access to subjects, what it was like interviewing Sandy Koufax, the most interesting single story in baseball this year, why Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens should be in the Hall of Fame, and more.
Drape discuses why we should still care about American Pharoah, his experience inside a thoroughbred breeding shed, the personalities of Bob Baffert and Ahmed Zayat, the favorites for the 2016 Kentucky Derby, why stories about the treatment of horses resonate, where American Pharoah ranks historically, and more.
A reminder: you can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes and Stitcher, and you can view all of SI’s podcasts here. If you have any feedback, questions or suggestions, please comment here or tweet at me.
4. Non sports pieces of note:
• Laura Reiley of the Tampa Bay Timeshad a remarkable piece on the scam some restaurants are pushing when it comes to local products.
• The Economistobit on Joseph Medicine Crow.
• Via the New York Times: 272 slaves were sold to save Georgetown University. What does it owe their descendants?
• The Guardian’s Jon Ronson interviews Monica Lewinsky, 20 years after the storm.
• How much would you pay to eliminate jet lag?
• From Wired: The strange case of the women who couldn’t remember her past and can’t imagine her future.
• The dark side of the Guardian comments section.
• The Washington Post on the greatest singer that never made it.
• Via Kashmir Hill of Fusion: How an internet mapping glitch turned a random Kansas farm into a digital hell.
• New York Magazine’s Gabriel Sherman on Megyn Kelly’s future.
• Boston Globe writer Eric Moskowitz on Patrick Downes, who with Adrianne Haslet-Davis will become the first people who lost limbs in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing to attempt to run the full race.
Sports pieces of note:
• New York Times reporter Andrew Keh examined a group of fans who believe flagrant fouls against Jeremy Lin are not being called.
• From The MMQB’s Jenny Vrentas: The tale of the mystery German wide receiver who may get drafted without ever playing football in the U.S.
• Via Kevin Van Valkenburg of ESPN The Magazine: Does Carson Wentz really add up to $20 million?
• From Runners World: Dozens suspected of cheating to enter Boston Marathon.
• Michael Powell of the New York Timesexposed a Yankee executive complaining about revenue sharing.
• Author Charles Leerhsen, on why Ty Cobb has been wronged by history.
5a. The Wall Street Journalexamined FS1’s Hail Mary programming plan.
5b. TSN’s Michael Farber narrates a piece on the 20-year anniversary of the Panthers' unlikely Stanley Cup run.
5c. Todd McShay signed a multi-year agreement to remain with ESPN, a clear sign that he is the long-term successor to Mel Kiper Jr. when it comes to all NFL Draft coverage.
5d. NBC announced last week that Marv Albert will call U.S. Olympic men’s basketball games for the first time since the Atlanta Games in 1996. ESPN’s Doug Collins will serve as the analyst; the reporter will be Craig Sager. The women’s Olympic basketball tournament will be called by CSN-Philadelphia announcer Marc Zumoff (he calls the Sixers), with Ann Meyers as the analyst and Ros Gold-Onwude, who works Golden State Warriors telecasts for CSN-Bay Area, as the reporter.
5f. Fox Sports 1 will broadcast six National Women's Soccer League games this season, the second consecutive year that the network will air games.
5g. Showtime will air weekly episodes of a docu-series starting May 20 titled All Access: Quest for the Stanley Cup.
5h. CBS Sports and Turner announced an eight-year extension of the current multimedia rights agreement for the Division I Men’s Basketball Championship. The new contract extends the agreement through 2032 and gives both CBS and Turner the ability to air the games across any platform within their respective portfolios, including those to be created over the life of the agreement. The total rights fee for the extension is $8.8 billion, according to the partners. More information here.
5i. HBO’s The Fight Gameprofiles 21-year-old boxer, Claressa Shields.
5j. Here’s how University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee basketball play-by-play announcer Bill Johnson left his job after 17 years.
5k. The Edge of Sports podcast talked to the longtime New York Times sports writer Robert Lipstye, who had some interesting things to say about his experience as ESPN’s ombudsman. In short, Lipstye believed the position had no impact on ESPN.