Remembering Vin Scully and his iconic work in the 1986 World Series

The deserved accolades and touching remembrances have continued to pour in since the sad news of the recent passing of the legendary Vin Scully. Among the many tributes to the beloved baseball and broadcasting legend, one of the most notable and eloquent came from the Mets’ own Gary Cohen, emphasizing how clearly and plainly Scully was the broadcasting GOAT.

Most definitely known for his sterling 67 years of work with the Dodgers starting in 1950, Scully belonged first to Brooklyn and then to Los Angeles—an impressive double to pull off for anyone—much less a boy from The Bronx. However, his impeccable work naturally led him to the national stage in multiple sports on both TV and radio—most prominently when he was paired with Joe Garagiola on NBC’s national baseball coverage from 1983-1989.

This dovetailed nicely with an era where the Mets were the marquee team in baseball, giving Mets fans ample opportunity to enjoy Scully’s work thanks to many appearances on the national game of the week. And it was in that post where the most notable and historic intersection between the Voice of the Dodgers and the franchise which helped fill the void left by their departure from Brooklyn took place, as Scully’s voice wove into the fabric of Mets history as he called one of the most memorable World Series ever, highlighted by one of the most dramatic comebacks in the sport’s history which he described with an iconic call many would consider among his most memorable.

There has been no shortage of coverage of the 1986 World Series, featuring two major markets and two passionate, championship-starved fan bases. Already a notable affair, on October 25, 1986, the fateful Game 6 kicked off with a parachutist landing on the Shea infield, and it would only get more unbelievable from there. The details of that tenth inning are baseball legend—familiar to most baseball fans; etched in the minds of any Mets fan who experienced it. Down two runs with none on and down to their last out of the series, three straight singles brought the Mets within one before Bob Stanley uncorked a wild pitch to bring in the tying run. Bedlam erupts in the ballpark in Queens, as Scully leads viewers through what would become the most memorable inning in franchise history,

“Can you believe this ballgame at Shea?” – With both teams putting up multiple runs in extra innings of a potential deciding World Series game and the game back even at 5, Scully’s simple, sincere, wondering comment confirms what we all realize—that we are watching a classic. A moment to appreciate that baseball’s ebbs and flows provide as the game, the series, the season—all but decided moments before—is now once again in the balance. The endless possibilities of a sport without a clock simply appreciated as the announcer—as all of us—wonder what could possibly be in store next.

“A little roller up along first…behind the bag! It gets through Buckner!” – the sudden switch in tone from the seemingly routine baseball play the announcer has seen thousands of times—its outcome predetermined—before the shock of the error and the ensuing realization that the Mets will complete the miraculous comeback. With a perfectly timed cut to the winning run rounding third, Scully’s surprised voice seems to carry a leaping Ray Knight home: “Here comes Knight, and the Mets win it!”

I watched the video more for nostalgia purposes than quote checking—between experiencing it live and watching highlights on a loop, this call feels to me as much the soundtrack to my childhood as any Best of the 1980s radio hit. While certainly noted many times before, the length of the silence after Knight scores before Scully speaks again is astonishing—one minute 50 seconds in this video. The wisdom to let the images of the shocked, riotous joy of the Mets and the Shea crowd and the stunned disbelief of the Red Sox speak for themselves, the humility to not interject or intrude upon the moment—pure grace. And perhaps giving him time for the perfect, eloquent bow to wrap up this gift from the baseball gods. “If one picture is worth a thousand words, you have seen about a million words.”

Sure, I have to admit that as a kid, I preferred hearing Bob Murphy’s call. He was our (brilliant) guy, and shared our joy. Looking back though, it feels special to have an immortal moment tied to this immortal. For while Dodgers fans would naturally and possessively quibble, ultimately Scully belongs to baseball. The length and breadth of his career put him in position to make many historic moments. But what a happy coincidence to be cherished that for the Mets, theirs was placed in the hands of the master.

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