To hear Vin Scully call a baseball game was like watching a master painter at work. Scully always sketched the big picture, but it was the details, the nuance, and storytelling ability that set him apart during his 67-year career as the voice of the Dodgers. What a bargain for the Dodgers, who hired Scully in 1950 when the franchise was located in Brooklyn.
Scully’s best attribute? Knowing when to keep quiet. Watch the videos of Kirk Gibson’s pinch-hit homer in the 1988 World Series or the “little roller” that got past Bill Buckner in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series.
“If something happens and the crowd roars, I shut up, ” Scully said.
Returning to that bargain, SCP Auctions is selling the first contract Scully signed with the Dodgers as part of its Summer Premier Auction, which runs through Sept. 28. As of Tuesday evening, the high bid was just under $8,000 but is expected to climb much higher by the time the auction closes.
On Dec. 23, 1949, Scully and Dodgers team president Branch Rickey signed a two-page document the aspiring broadcaster typed up. It served as the official contract between Scully, then just 22, and the Dodgers.
Scully had been recommended to Rickey by Dodgers broadcaster Red Barber. The young broadcaster had some experience under his belt, as he covered college football for CBS Radio.
Scully joined Barber and Connie Desmond in the broadcast booth, and he would take over the play-by-play duties for good by 1954.
Thomas Oliphant, a columnist with the Boston Globe, summed up Scully’s style perfectly: “Conversational, but erudite. Seemed like a bar pal, but with Einstein’s wisdom. Funny, but encyclopedic.”
The contract, signed in black ink by Scully and Rickey on the second page and initialed by each of the first. Scully asked for $100 per week, adding “if my services prove unsatisfactory. … You have the right to terminate the contract upon two weeks’ notice.
That never happened. Scully outlasted Rickey, Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley and his son, Peter O’Malley. Scully’s career in the booth spanned the terms of eight baseball commissioners and 12 U.S. presidents.
The contract was drawn up on off-white paper that measured 8½ inches by 11 inches. It comes with a letter of authenticity from PSA/DNA. There are no tears or holes; the only imperfections are some ruffled edges and wrinkle creases. There are two light smudge marks on the front page where the ink smeared slightly, and some of the words have faded.
Thankfully, Scully’s words will never fade away. It is not a coincidence that Curt Smith’s biography of Scully is called “Pull Up a Chair.” That’s because fans always felt like they were not listening to a game, but having a conversation with Scully.
That first contract Scully signed for Branch Rickey made it all possible.