Monday Over Coffee: "Day to Day"

Published July 24, 2023 by Greg Funderburk

Andre Dawson has a bruised knee and is listed as day-to-day… but aren’t we all?
—Vin Scully, June 7, 1991, Cubs v. Dodgers

Some have said the late baseball broadcaster Vin Scully’s sonorous tenor voice was so mesmerizing that he could read the phone book over the air and people would listen. That may be, but what folks would really be tuning in for were the compelling stories he’d inevitably tell as he went along. Between names, Vin would likely offer an interesting thumbnail sketch of someone whose name he recognized, drawing a vivid picture of their life in some clever way. Then he’d probably go into a winding narrative about why the alphabet was arranged the way it was, or mention a particular worker in the mill that supplied the phone book’s paper who was the second cousin of Dodger third baseman, Ron Cey. Scully was certainly a captivating storyteller, but his singular brilliance was in how he told such lyrical stories between calling the balls and strikes of a baseball game.

Scully was hired as the play-by-play announcer for the Brooklyn baseball club in 1950 and followed the team out west to Los Angeles when they moved to Southern California in 1958. He retired in 2016 after 67 seasons. He broadcast three perfect games, 21 no-hitters, 25 World Series, and 12 All-Star games. He died in 2022, but will remain, in the opinion of most fans, the greatest baseball voice of all time. Really, I don’t think it’s even very close.

Scully was awarded the Ford Frick Award by the baseball Hall of Fame in 1982, the Commissioner’s Historic Achievement Award in 2014, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016. His tenure with the Dodgers was the longest of any broadcaster with a single team in the history of professional sports, and he’s still the youngest person to ever handle the national broadcast of the World Series. He first did it in 1953. He was 25 years old.

As marvelous as Vin Scully’s voice was, his genius for broadcasting a baseball game was really in how he knew when to be quiet. “I try to call the play as quickly as I possibly can and then shut up and let the crowd roar because, to me, the crowd is the most wonderful thing in the whole world when it’s making noise.” When Scully was at the mic for one of the most iconic walk-off home runs in the history of the game—the injured Kirk Gibson’s miraculous round-tripper in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series—listeners heard Scully say, “High fly ball to right field. She is…gone!” Then he remained silent for a full minute as 55,983 Dodger fans went absolutely berzerk. (Watch the video here.)

Often Scully’s spontaneous comments seemed applicable not just to the game out on the field, but to life itself. “That’s the way this game is,” he suggested during one up and down Dodger season, “you win, you lose, you celebrate, and you suffer.”

Scully lost his wife, Joan, 35, in 1972, and then his eldest son, Michael, 33, in a helicopter crash in Los Angeles in 1994. His second wife, to whom he was married for 48 years, passed away in 2021 after suffering for several years with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). A devout Catholic, Scully credited his faith not only in helping him through these losses, but for an ability to gratefully maintain a hopeful outlook on life in spite of them. It was perhaps because of these tragedies that he saw not only how brief and fragile life is, but how precious also because of its fleeting nature. “I’ve always felt it’s a gift of God, whatever I have…But I know I can lose that in one second…One second…So, when you do think about that, you realize how fortunate and how blessed you’ve been.”

My very favorite Scully quip of all bears on this tenuous quality of life, as well. Prior to the first pitch of a Cubs-Dodger game in 1991, going over the batting orders, Scully mentioned to his listeners that one of Chicago’s outfielders wouldn’t be in the lineup today due to injury: “Andre Dawson has a bruised knee,” Scully said, “and is listed as day-to-day.” Here Scully paused for a beat, then in his winking, winsome, signature way, offered a more expansive and philosophical insight: “But,” he added, “aren’t we all?”

God has given us life. It’s tenuous. It’s fragile. It’s brief. Batter up.

God—May I comprehend that the fleeting nature of life is what makes it so precious day to day. Amen.

—Greg Funderburk