Scully watched clock, but his call is timeless
While the attention of the world is affixed elsewhere on those trying to achieve greatness, it was Sandy Koufax Bobblehead Night at Dodger Stadium, and a good reminder of two men who found perfection here almost 47 years ago.
“Three times in his sensational career has Sandy Koufax walked out to the mound to pitch a fateful ninth where he turned in a no-hitter, but tonight, September the ninth, nineteen hundred and sixty-five, he made the toughest walk of his career, I’m sure, because through eight innings he has pitched a perfect game,” began Vin Scully that night, and what was Scully thinking?
He pulls up a chair to explain, and can it really get any better than this?
“I don’t think I was nervous,” he says, to this day having never heard his own classic call.
“I almost felt like it was an out-of-body experience. I was so mesmerized; I almost felt everything he did. All of a sudden I was sweating on the mound. All of a sudden I was rubbing up the ball. I don’t think I’ve ever come close to that feeling again.”
Koufax has struck out 11 as he faces Chris Krug of the Cubs, and the roar of the crowd can be heard in the background on YouTube.
” And you can almost taste the pressure now,” Scully says.
“That’s the way I felt,” Scully says today.
Scully happened to pass through the clubhouse when Koufax got a Dodgers tryout. First thing he noticed was Koufax’s all-over tan, and he recalls telling himself, “This guy will never make it.”
He watched him throw, everything so raw, and then he’s there with Koufax at his unhittable best:
“Koufax lifted his cap, ran his fingers though his black hair, then pulled the cap back down, fussing at the bill. Krug must feel it too, as he backs out, heaves a sigh, took off his helmet, put it back on and steps back up to the plate.”
Scully laughs at the recollection, hearkening back to his own contrast in style when he called Don Larsen’s World Series perfect game in 1956.
“The MLB Network’s first broadcast, I believe, was on a Sunday and I was watching football,” he says. “MLB was going to begin with Larsen’s perfect game.
“It’s a good football game, but I tune in. In those days the TV critics said all announcers talk too much, so here I come and I’m watching myself say, ‘Ball one. Foul ball.’
“I swear to God, two batters and I went right back to football. I was terrible. If you asked me what I said during the ninth inning with Larsen? No idea.”
“It is 9:41 p.m. on September the ninth,” Scully announces, and upon reflection he says, “I was just looking for something to say. So I thought to myself, ‘I’ll do the only thing that doesn’t mean a darn thing; I’ll mention the time.’
“Just one of those lucky things, people saying later it was so dramatic. Really?”
As Koufax continues to pitch to Krug, Scully says, " And there’s 29,000 people in the ballpark and a million butterflies.”
What a great line.
“It’s a very mundane line, I think,” Scully said. “Maybe I had the butterflies. I don’t think that’s a very good line.”
On YouTube the fans can be heard booing and Scully says, “A lot of people in the ballpark now are starting to see the pitches with their hearts.”
What a great line.
“I think that’s a better line than butterflies,” he concedes. “We all have butterflies. I don’t know if I used it before, but I’ve used the line since, the crowd watching with their hearts.”
Krug strikes out, Scully saying, “Fastball, got him swingin’.”
Joey Amalfitano pinch-hits for Don Kessinger, Koufax starting him with two strikes and Scully saying, “I would think that the mound at Dodger Stadium right now is the loneliest place in the world.”
“There it is; that’s how I might have felt had I been out there,” explains Scully.
He’s asked if he got the chills that night and says, “I’m getting them right now talking about it.”
Amalfitano strikes out and Harvey Kuenn is called on to pinch-hit. With the mention of Amalfitano, a Scully postscript:
“As Amalfitano makes his way back to the dugout after striking out, he passes Kuenn who is on his way to the plate,” he says. “Joe said something like good luck and Harvey says, ‘I’ll be right back.’ ”
As Kuenn gets ready, Scully tells everyone Koufax has struck out five straight hitters before criticizing him.
“Sandy ready and the strike one pitch: very high, and he lost his hat. He really forced that one. That’s only the second time tonight where I have had the feeling that Sandy threw instead of pitched....”
“I found a flaw in that Hope Diamond,” says Scully.
“It is 9:46 p.m.
“Two and two to Harvey Kuenn, one strike away, Sandy into his windup, here’s the pitch: Swung on and missed, a perfect game!”
And so what does Scully do? He stays seated. No clapping, no shouting for joy.
“In all probability,” he says, “I’m letting the crowd roar and writing the totals in my score book.”
For 38 seconds the crowd cheers while Scully says nothing. Thirty-three years later, he would wait almost a minute after Kirk Gibson’s home run to say, “In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened.”
He also waited more than 100 seconds before adding chilling perspective after Hank Aaron’s record-breaking homer in 1974.
He prepares nothing, does not write anything down, but finally speaks from the heart.
“On the scoreboard in right field it is 9:46 p.m. in the City of the Angels, Los Angeles, California,” Scully says.
He chuckles now in retrospect. “I just figured Sandy didn’t know where he was,” he says.
“And Sandy Koufax, whose name will always remind you of strikeouts, did it with a flurry. He struck out the last six consecutive batters. So when he wrote his name in capital letters in the record books, that ‘K’ stands out even more than the o-u-f-a-x.”
“It just happened to be one of those rare precious moments when everything went well,” Scully says now.
The perfect night over, then what?
“I got in the elevator and went home,” he says.