April 18, 1950: Vin Scully’s First Game

Scully knew what he wanted to do with his life as soon as he began listening to sports on the radio in his New York City home during the 1930s. As a youth he would place a pillow under the family radio—radios were pieces of furniture in those days—and listen to sports broadcasts for hours on end. Football broadcasts particularly appealed to him. The participating teams did not matter much; it was the sound of the crowd in the background and the announcer’s voice that enthralled him. He especially liked Bill Stern’s descriptions of college games. “[Stern had] the most electric quality to his voice I ever heard, so dramatic and colorful,” Scully recalled. One day in elementary school, Vin’s teacher, Sister Virginia Maria, asked each of her pupils to write an essay on what they wanted to be when they grew up. “The girls wanted to be nurses and ballet dancers,” said Scully. “The boys wanted to be cops and firemen. This new thing [radio] had me hooked. I wanted to be a sports announcer.” Sister Virginia Maria may have been the first person to appreciate Vin’s vocal talents: She had him read aloud to the class every day. Scully’s prep school principal wisely directed him to study English and elocution.

In one of baseball’s great ironies, the man most associated with the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers spent his childhood years as a Giants supporter. Scully’s fandom began during the 1936 World Series. Scully, not quite nine years old, walked by a Chinese laundry that had posted the score of that day’s World Series game on its outside wall. The New York Yankees had pummeled the New York Giants 18-4 at the Polo Grounds. He remembered, “This little red-haired kid on the way home from school stopped to read it. I had only a vague idea of what was going on, but I instinctively felt terrible for the losing team, and from that moment on [I] loved the Giants.” Mel Ott became his favorite player. Scully had never even set foot in the borough of Brooklyn until his first day on the job with the Dodgers in 1950.

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After a two-year stint in the U.S. Navy, Scully enrolled at Fordham University where he helped found the school’s FM radio station. Scully’s first professional radio gig was as a fill-in announcer with WTOP, a CBS affiliate in Washington, D.C. Scully’s smooth delivery caught the attention of Red Barber, the voice of the Brooklyn Dodgers who also served as the sports director for CBS. Barber assigned Scully to CBS’s college football coverage. During one chilly November afternoon at Fenway Park, Scully called a game from the rooftop without an overcoat or gloves. (He had been expecting to work from an enclosed press box.) Scully persevered without once mentioning the adverse conditions he was enduring. This dedication further endeared Scully to Barber, who took the 22-year-old under his wing. The following spring Barber brought Scully into the Brooklyn Dodgers’ radio booth. He replaced another broadcaster who would enjoy a long and prosperous career—Ernie Harwell. Harwell had signed with the New York Giants after the 1949 season.

Scully’s regular-season MLB broadcasting debut occurred on Tuesday, April 18, 1950. The Dodgers lost that game, 9-1, to the Philadelphia Phillies at Shibe Park. It was not much of a game, although the teams’ rosters were replete with future Hall of Famers. Pee Wee Reese, Richie Ashburn, Duke Snider, Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella and Don Newcombe all saw action that day. The Phillies leapt out to an 8-0 lead by the home half of the fourth inning and were never really threatened. The Dodgers were the defending NL champions, but were no match on this Opening Day for a team that would go on to win its first pennant in 35 years. There were more than 29,000 fans in attendance, but had they known the game’s historical significance, many may have opted to stay at home and listen to the 22-year-old dulcet-voiced young man in the Brooklyn Dodgers’ radio booth instead of buying a ticket. Scully was the third announcer that day, doing occasional commentary behind Red Barber and Connie Desmond.

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