The Dodgers rolled out the blue carpet for Vin Scully, literally. They rolled out the dignitaries too, and the videos, and even a symphony orchestra.
At its heart, however, the Vin Scully tribute Friday was the world’s biggest thank-you card, come to life. The greatest broadcaster in baseball history came to say thank you to the fans, and the fans came to say thank you to him.
When Scully was introduced, to a sellout crowd seemingly hoping to applaud long enough to persuade him to reconsider retirement, he fought back tears, then put his hand over his heart. The crowd would not sit down before he did.
For nearly an hour, in person and on video, speakers from Sandy Koufax to Kobe Bryant and from Bob Costas to Kevin Costner extolled the virtues of Scully. The occasion was so special that players from the Dodgers — and the visiting Colorado Rockies — gathered in their dugouts to watch.
Then the guest of honor stepped to the microphone, and again the fans rose as one, for so long and with such gusto that Scully sheepishly interrupted the fans he has called friends for 67 years.
“Aw, come on,” Scully said. “It’s just me.”
And then he brought the house down by dropping the line with which he greets his listeners, his viewers, his friends.
“Hi everybody, and a very pleasant good evening to you,” he said, almost mischievously. “I thought I’d get that out of the way right away.”
Dodgers Chairman Mark Walter said the team would add Scully’s name to the stadium “ring of honor,” next to the retired numbers. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti gave Scully the key to the city. Commissioner Rob Manfred said the league would donate $50,000 to the Jackie Robinson Foundation, in honor of Scully.
Don Newcombe, 90, the Dodgers’ starting pitcher in Scully’s 1950 debut, was there. So were Koufax and Clayton Kershaw, the greatest left-handers in team history. Scully called no-hitters for each, half a century apart.
Kershaw, on behalf of Dodgers players past and present, thanked Scully for “painting a picture for us.”
Said Kershaw: “Long from now, when we’re retired and we don’t have this game anymore, we’ll always have your voice.”
In his memorable broadcast of Koufax’s 1965 perfect game, Scully said, “I would think that the mound at Dodger Stadium right now is the loneliest place in the world.” As Koufax started his speech Friday, he said, “As many times as I have been on this field, I have never been this nervous.”
Koufax thanked Scully for his friendship and decency, for his compassion for players on both sides, and for not being “a homer” in his broadcasts.
“You never heard the word ‘we,’ ” Koufax said.
Kirk Gibson and Hank Aaron, who hit home runs that inspired two of Scully’s most memorable calls, each offered a video tribute.
Costner delivered a long ode to Scully, accompanied by music from the “Field of Dreams” score.
“You’re our George Bailey, and it has been a wonderful life,” Costner said.
The Dodgers had distributed a letter from Scully to each fan, in which he wrote about growing up with the fans of Los Angeles.
“The transistor radio is what bound us together,” he wrote. “Were you at the Coliseum when we sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to an umpire? Were you among the crowd that groaned at one of my puns? Did you kindly laugh at one of my little jokes? Did I put you to sleep with the transistor radio under your pillow?
“You were simply always there for me. I have always felt that I needed you more than you needed me.”
As the last speaker Friday, after he greeted the fans, he said, “Welcome to my thanksgiving.”
He saluted the fans for the energy he got from them, telling the story about how he fell in love with broadcasting as an 8-year-old boy, hearing the roar of the crowd through the radio in his living room.
“When you roar, when you cheer, when you are thrilled,” he said, “for a brief moment, I am 8 years old again.”
Scully, who turns 89 in November, grinned as he talked about his retirement plans.
“I’m going to try to live,” he said.
And, amid all the love and tears, he closed with a laugh line.
“I’m looking for a much smaller house and a much larger medicine cabinet,” he said. “Good night, everybody!”