Vin Scully’s Pre-Dodgers Life and Career

Scully’s been a Dodgers fixture for so long it’s hard to imagine him existing as anything other than their broadcaster. But, back in 1985, Rick Reilly of the L.A. Times took a long look at Scully’s already very long career, as well as his pre-Dodgers story. Here is that story:

Born to immigrant parents, Scully was seven years old when his father died of pneumonia and the family moved to a fifth-floor walk-up apartment house in Brooklyn, near the George Washington Bridge [Scully grew up in Washington Heights, near the bridge, which actually links north Manhattan to Fort Lee, New Jersey]. His mother later married a reserved, pipe-smoking Englishman who worked as a doorman near Central Park in Manhattan.

“We weren’t real poor, but we weren’t quite middle class, either,” Scully remembers. “I remember my stepfather used to come home sometimes with a pair of pants. One of the tenants at the apartment where he worked would hand him a pair and say, `Hey, Al, don’t you have a son these might fit?’ And he’d bring them home to me.”

On Scully’s most lavish Christmas he received a bicycle. “It was stolen in two days.” When Scully eventually made his television debut, his family had to walk down to the neighborhood saloon to witness it. They didn’t own a television.

Ironically, the loquacious Scully almost turned out to be a stutterer. The sisters at his Catholic elementary school believed left-handedness to be a vice cured best by a ruler rap across the knuckles. Scully was a natural left-hander. The strain caused when a natural left-hander is forced to use nothing but his right hand was starting to show up in Scully’s speech pattern _ he was starting to stutter.

Eventually, Scully’s mother asked a doctor for help. The doctor sent a note to the sisters explaining to them that if God had wanted young Vincent to favor his right hand, God would have made him right-handed. But since young Vincent most definitely wanted to use his left hand, the sisters must not mess with God’s work. And from that point on, they didn’t.

Scully was never without employment, inglorious as it sometimes was. He delivered the Bronx Home News. He pushed garment racks through Manhattan. He delivered mail. He delivered milk. And, of course, he worked the Silver Room at the Stadler Hotel.

The Silver Room?

One day a man walked up to a group of teen-agers and inquired as to who among them would like to work The Silver Room at the hotel. That sounded pretty glamorous to Scully, so he raised his hand. The Silver Room! Scully could see himself now. Dressed in tails at the maitre d’ stand of the Silver Room. Table for two? Right this way.

“Come with me,” the man said. He took Scully back to a hot, steamy little room where, cascading through a hole in the ceiling, came dirty silverware from the hotel restaurant. The lucky young gentlemen in The Silver Room were granted the distinct privilege to wash it.

Scully eventually went to Fordham Prep, then to Fordham University, where he worked on the school paper, ran the school radio station, wrote stringer stories for the New York Times, and played for the Fordham baseball team, for whom he contributed a decent center field, swung a fickle bat, but exhibited the best adenoids on the team.

“I remember I’d stand out there and broadcast the games to myself, although sometimes the priests sitting behind me in the stands would hear me and laugh,” he said. “But I kept right on.”

After spending two years in the Navy, Scully came back to Fordham and graduated in 1949.

[I looked, and Scully first appeared in the N.Y. Times as a player on the Mount St. Michael football team in 1943, and he was already broadcasting Fordham games in fall 1947.]

That summer [of 1949] Scully got his break. Pressed for a warm body, Red Barber of CBS Radio told his aide to call “that red-haired fellow” he’d met once upon a time to help fill in on the Boston University-Maryland game. Scully, 21, was glad to do it, but because of a mix-up, Scully wasn’t going to do it from a broadcasting booth.

Instead, he had to work from the roof of the stadium on a cold and wind-whipped day, wearing only a light coat and counting upon a 60-watt bulb for his sole source of light and heat.

“Yet not once did that boy complain about how cold he was or how he couldn’t see,” remembers Barber, now living in Tallahassee, Fla. In fact, Scully didn’t even complain the following Monday when he saw Barber in the CBS offices. Scully’s misfortunes were retold to Barber later that week. “I was very impressed about that,” says Barber.

By 1950, Barber had offered Scully the job of replacing Ernie Harwell on the Dodger broadcasts, to be the No. 3 man behind Barber and Connie Desmond. But when Desmond left, Scully moved up to No. 2. By the beginning of the 1954 season, Barber had jumped to the New York Yankees and the Dodgers had themselves a brand-new No. 1 golden-throat, Vince Scully, age 26.

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Published in: on February 14, 2011 at 4:27 am  Comments (1)  
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  1. Great story. I have often noticed that those who emerge out of hardship to great success are often the ones who always appear most gracious and humble. Truly a class act. Thanks for sharing, Bill


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