The world of sports recently lost one of the greatest play-by-play announcers of all time. Over a career that spanned nearly 70 years, Vin Scully built a brand as the go-to voice for must-see sporting events like the World Series, NFL playoffs, NCAA tournament, and of course, LA Dodgers baseball. In this episode, we look at what made Vin Scully so beloved by fans and the lessons anyone could apply in their own careers.
Watch the episode here
Listen to the podcast here
Career Lessons From Legendary Announcer Vin Scully
Ian, I went into this one kicking and screaming but you wanted to talk about Vin Scully. Why did you think this would be a fun and compelling episode for our readers?
Vin Scully is the most decorated broadcaster in the history of American sports. He has at least five major lessons that made him a national treasure. We go into each and every one of them because anyone can learn from a guy like Vin Scully, who came from nothing and became so loved and treasured. He kept innovating all the way until he retired at the age of 88 years old. He was a broadcaster for 67 years, Frankie. He passed away and everyone could learn from this dude’s career.
Sports fan or not, if you are into any type of thing that has longevity and career, it is your focus, this is an episode for you. Ian and I use some fun examples and talk about the five incredible business lessons. We hope you enjoyed the show.
Ian, you son of a bitch. You censoring son of a bitch. I can’t talk about my hat and my shirt. For those of you that are loyal readers, you should check it out.
Frank is wearing a Reagan Bush hat, which is fantastic, 1984. It is very good. I’m very proud of him. I am not censoring him because I’m some woke D-bag and I don’t want to talk politics. I didn’t think it was terribly pertinent to what we were talking about but there is a little pertinence to it as we get into it in a minute. Frankie, you spend a lot of time in Southern California, more than about anyone I know. You love Southern California and probably spent more time there before you were a dad because it’s a little hard to get kids across the country. In your travels to Southern California, how many Dodgers games have you been to?
I went to the Dodger Stadium. I went to a playoff game.
You were there with Gary Vee.
That place is absolutely special. The Dodger Stadium is massive. It is a cathedral of a stadium. There are four decks behind the plate. All I could think of was how intimidating it must be to be an opposing pitcher there for the first time with that many people looking down on you. It’s history all over the Dodgers. One of the oldest baseball teams around and a huge part of their history for the majority of the Dodgers starting when they were the Brooklyn Dodgers to when they were the LA Dodgers was a man by the name of Vin Scully.
He was the broadcaster for the Dodgers for the better part of 67 seasons. It’s the longest tenure of an announcer for any sports team in the history of sports teams. He is absolutely synonymous with the baseball club to the point where he’s one of these guys that is a regional legend who became a national treasure. Everyone knows Vin Scully and we are going to get into some of that. When you were out there, did you ever have a chance to listen to Vin Scully on the radio or listen to him do a game?
The coolest thing about Dodger Stadium is going to the Rose Bowl. You got those beautiful mountains that you can see. The sunset is on and it turned a picturesque color. If you are a sports fan getting a chance to go to those two venues, it’s like up there with Fenway, the old Yankee Stadium and to be able to see the Cubs game. It’s special.Trusting your own skills and disagreeing with a new manager deserves a lot of respect. Click To Tweet
You might see a gang member stab someone in the parking lot after the game. It’s less on Raiders games but it could happen.
I’m a fat guy. Dodger Dogs are a big part of the experience. You got to get Dodger Dogs. You got to get some popcorn.
The kids call them glizzy hotdog now.
What are glizzies?
It’s pretty much a hot dog. Do you know who’s got the perfect glizzy? It is Fenway. Do you know Fenway has the buns that are pretty much a piece of bread that wraps around the hot dog? That’s an official glizzy, I have been taught by my son.
What I tend to notice is this. In the most picturesque places, the best of the best always draws the best. Vin Scully to me was someone who was born many years ago. He was born in 1930 and it’s a completely different era. He fell in love with a sport on the radio and realized there was an art form to it. What I love about Vin Scully is there are stories about him walking to the stadium in Brooklyn and all the best people show up in the best spots. The best announcers worked for the Lakers, the Dodgers, the Celtics or the Yankees. They like to go there. They follow the brands and I’ve always thought that was neat.
What I think is cool about Scully is this. It’s a throwback in so many ways. Radio is a dying medium. He worked there for 67 years, which is incredible. That’s like the gold watch type of standard of you get a job and you hold onto it your whole life. The other thing that I think is awesome is this. My granddad died at 86 and for the last 10 or 15 years, he just sat on a couch and watched the Red Sox. That’s all he did. My buddy’s dad is the same age as my granddad and his dad is still alive. He is older than my granddad. My granddad has passed away and he’s innovative. He power lifts and walks. He has a young girlfriend.
He does all these things, innovates, and stays alive. What I thought was cool about Scully is he did the same thing. He was looked at as an innovator through his sixth decade doing this job, which most people hang on to their past achievements. We talk about the LIV Golf tournament. This is similar. This is someone who did the opposite of that. This is someone who innovated without being asked and stayed relevant. He stayed true to his core. He didn’t let the ego get in his way. He did all the little things that mattered and it made him a treasure.
Sadly, Vin Scully passed away and that’s why we are talking about him in this episode. He died at the age of 94 on August 2nd, 2022. A lot of tributes are going around to him. It’s all over Twitter, so I’ve listened to a bunch of his famous broadcasts but what’s pretty wild, especially if you are a baseball fan, are some of the absolute most iconic plays in history, he called.
He called Hank Aaron’s home run that beat Babe Ruth’s home run record. He called that play, which is maybe the greatest home run in the history of Major League Baseball. The most impressive record in Major League Baseball was Babe Ruth’s home run record. He called Kirk Gibson’s famous home run when he limped to the plate with two bad knees like an improbable home run.
He called Bill Buckner’s error when the Mets made that improbable. These are iconic images and he called it The Catch by Dwight Clark from Joe Montana in an NFL playoff game in the back of the end zone. As I was looking at how he called so many of these, it makes you wonder. The plays are big but to remember the plays because of the plays or was it because of the way Vin framed and brought them? He makes them into these cinematic moments. What we want to talk about is a little bit of what made Vin special, which is some of his storytelling.
One of the things that I loved and the first thing that I thought made Vin special. I went back and watched the Kirk Gibson home run. There were two of them. Kirk Gibson’s known for two big World Series home runs. The first one was with the Detroit Tigers when the manager for the Padres went out and they were going to walk Gibson. They had first base open and Goose Gossage talked Williams, the Manager out of walking him and said, “I can get this guy. Let me get him.”
Gibson promptly hit a home run into the right field deck but Vin was talking about it the whole time like, “He gave four. It looks like they are going to give him four. They are going to pitch them,” so he gets into it all. What’s awesome about it because, for me, as a Detroit Tigers fan, this is a moment etched in stone for me. I went back and watched it. Gibson hits the home run after Scully had led everything up.
Vin doesn’t say a word for 90 seconds. If you’ve ever sat in front of someone and tried to be quiet for 90 seconds, imagine seeing one of the greatest home runs in World Series history, Frank, and you’ve got all these emotions in you and you are in the crowd. You are in the box and the crowd is going nuts. They are jumping up and down. They haven’t seen a World Series winner in 30 or 40 years. They are going crazy. The fans going crazy. The teammates are jumping and mobbing them. You’ve seen history and you can keep your mouth shut for 90 seconds. To the point where the next hitter is Lance Parrish.
Lance Parrish gets to a 2-0 count. He lets the pitcher throw two pitches to the next batter before Vin Scully says, “An incredible homerun by Gummy,” and he gets into it a little more. I watched Bill Buckner play. Buckner makes an error. He says what happens and lets the crowd talk. He lets Buckner walk with his head down and show it. To me, what’s fascinating about all of that and he did it on Gibson. He did it on Hank Aaron’s. He would go quiet. Vin knew that people weren’t tuning in for him. Vin knew who the stars were. He knew to let the moment settle, let you sink in, and watch it without filling the silence and trying to talk over it.
All good announcers are that way like I sat here for three minutes and let that thing happen. That was gorgeous. Listening to Ian was like watching the reporter Bob Woodward hit that home run in the National.The best people to manage are never pushovers. It’s like marriage. You don’t want to marry someone you argue with all the time. Click To Tweet
I’m the Hank Aaron of the show. You sat and watch quietly.
What’s amazing to me is Vin Scully took 90 seconds for the best home run at all times.
You’ve managed salespeople forever. You manage sales teams. Are the best salespeople the ones that talk the most? Are they the ones that are the most quiet and listen the best?
The best sales advice I ever got was when I was being trained in sales brand spanking new. This woman was training me. She looked at me and goes, “We are going to have an appointment tonight and you are not going to say a fucking word.” I was scared stiff and she goes, “God blessed you with 2 ears and 1 mouth for a reason. Shut up and listen.”
When she looked at me and asked me a question. I sat there and she goes, “You can talk now,” and then I opened my mouth but that’s a big lesson in taking at the moment. The other thing is this. It’s easy to be humble in the beginning. It’s much harder to be humble in the end. Most people get huge egos. There’s a show on HBO called Winning Time. It’s about the “Showtime” Lakers. Chick Hearn is the announcer for the Lakers. He was there forever. Not as long as Vin Scully but it was roughly 50 years. It was a very long time.
There’s a thing in there where they make fun of him because he used to fist people and was like, “Don’t worry. You will get used to getting fisted.” What he’s doing is shutting up as co-announcer because they would only give him a few seconds and would shut you off because he had an ego. He wanted to be the one that said it. Vin Scully still knew that he wasn’t the star. The pitcher or the hitter was the star and what’s so rare is being able to be a backseat rider, even though you are a legend.
When I went and watched the Bill Buckner error, which was a huge moment. Here’s an all-star first baseman on a Red Sox team that has not won a championship in decades and decades. It feels cursed letting an easy Little League ground ball roll through his legs. I went back and watched it because I hadn’t seen it in a while. I wanted to know what Vince said after it. It was like, “He let it go through his legs,” and then nothing.
It’s so compelling, Frankie because the camera keeps cutting the Red Sox on the bench. I can’t believe what happened. You see the humanity in the face. You see the Mets team laughing and going crazy. You see fans going crazy and then it slowly shows Buckner with his head down walking off the field. Vin would have been talking over all that. I feel like you wouldn’t have been focusing as much on the face, the expressions, the people that were really in the moment going through it.
Vin Scully transitioned. He was the voice of the Dodgers but the voice of the Dodgers on the radio. He then became the voice of the Dodgers on television and was not only the voice of the Dodgers. He was the guy who called in. He was like Joe Buck. Joe has been calling the World Series for almost 30 years and left to go to ESPN to work with Aikman again but the point of the matter is he was the best and doing the World Series. That’s what they did with Vin Scully. We will talk about the All-Star game in ’88 and all these incredible things that this guy did.
We talked a little bit after John Madden died about this as well. John Madden was an NFL player, and coach and then he became an announcer. After he was an announcer, he became someone who pioneered video games. He refused to let them do a 7-on-7 video game. They needed to do 11-on-11. He goes, “I won’t endorse it until it’s 11-on-11,” and forced it. They are like, “That’s going to take us ten years.” He goes, “Don’t call me until it’s a full football game,” and they did it in three. They made them innovate but the point is he had four distinct skills.
Vin Scully adapted his game. On the radio, he couldn’t be silent. He had to talk but learned how to take his game and make it from the new medium. We’ve gone from a TV age to a YouTube age. The people who’ve adapted are the ones who dominate and that’s it because that’s where it is. What Vin did is it was different technologies but he advanced. He pioneered radio. He got great at telling stories. When the color picture came in, he incorporated those skills into a new medium and then had the humility to shut up and realize, “I am not the star. Gibson, Mays, or whoever is the star or the drama is that ball going through Buckner’s legs.”
I remember where I was when the Challenger blew up. I’m a Red Sox fan. I remember where I was sitting when Buckner let that ball go between his legs. I remember looking at it with my dad and being like, “We are fucked.” I absolutely remember that stuff and it’s incredible that he was able to take that skillset and adapted it to a new medium.
It makes me want to go watch some other famous moments in baseball history and see where the announcers talking all over it. I love your point about being able to transition to a different media. When he was a radio guy, he would do it himself. They would take turns on different innings and he didn’t have a partner but in TV you have a partner.
I’m thinking about what you said. I’m wondering if, for that whole 90 seconds, he’s putting his hand up like, “Don’t talk.” He knew intuitively, “We need to let the cameras do the work and let the stars be the stars.” It’s the same with sales and management, 80/20. Once you become a manager, it’s about them and not about you.
Don’t talk over them. Give them all the praise and effort. It’s a great lesson from Vin when you look at it. Number two, the one thing he is known for is he told incredible personal stories throughout the game. I feel this way, Frank. I don’t know about you. Most guys now are play-by-play guys. They tell you what’s going on but you are watching the game. Especially on TV, you could see what’s going on. I don’t need you to tell me that someone snapped and threw it to a wide receiver and got 8 yards.
What makes a great announcer and Madden this way is they would tell these irreverent stories that have nothing to do with the play you saw. They would add color to what was already a lot of color and Vin, in the 4th inning, he would break in and start talking about how a player survived an attack by a wolf in his backyard. He will go into a two-minute conversation with himself about it.If you continue to innovate and maintain your market value, you continue to get to do what you want. Click To Tweet
He had another moment with Madison Bumgarner where he talks about how Madison found a big snake in his backyard and hacked it up with an ax and there was a live rabbit in it. Along the whole inning, he takes up telling stories. For me, that’s an incredible skillset of good leaders. The ones that can tell colorful stories to make you relatable and build rapport. The only way to do that is to be well-researched.
Vin spent time on the field asking good open-ended questions, “Where did you grow up? Was baseball your first love?” He would tell stories that had nothing to do with baseball. He tells stories about growing up on a farm at a time when hay bales fell on someone. He was down there on the ground taking a real interest in the people he was trying to cover. I would listen to games and he would uncover stories about the Detroit Tigers I didn’t know. I have been listening to 80 games that year. He would do three games with them and would tell you something new about one of your favorite players you had never heard before.
What I think is fascinating about that is something very different. Baseball is a dynamic game. An at-bat can be 1 pitch or 20. Some at-bats have gone longer than twenty pitches. It could take forever. What he could do is weave a story into 1 pitch or 30 pitches and when that was over, he knew how to close it. The example you gave about when Kirk Gibson hit that home run and Lance Parrish is up. He finally closes the story two pitches into the next guy’s at-bat. He was a masterful storyteller but didn’t lose sight of the big picture.
He knew that it was inside of a context and didn’t dictate. He was simply on the horse for the ride and he needed it fitted into the window and didn’t have so much ego. We talk about residuals or things over time that starts to add up. He did this job for so many years. People get traded. Just because he did a story on somebody eight years ago, he didn’t get to use it but that person came back. He did the research and had reams and reams of data, which is a cool thing about being a real professional over time. It showed.
He felt very strongly that his job as an announcer was to be objective. He was always very balanced. Whereas, he grew up in an era where the announcer was always a real homer. He was always real one-sided about the local team and felt like that wasn’t his job to report on what he saw and not take sides. The reason he believed that is he wanted to have more of a national audience than a local niche.
What’s interesting is that’s how he became synonymous with the Dodgers. When he moved to California with the new ownership in LA, they asked him if he would be more one-sided. If he would be more of a homer for the Dodgers and stuck to his ground. He said, “No. That’s not who I am. I don’t believe that’s the role of an announcer.”
That’s pretty cool because you got new bosses and they ask you to do something different but trusting yourself and your own skillset enough to say no to a new manager, “This is the way I’m going to do it and I think you are going to be happy with the results. Trust me.” I have a lot of respect for that because people in their career have to have conviction in themselves to sometimes tell a manager, “I don’t agree with you. I’ve got a better way of doing it. Would you give me time to show you it will work?”
He was tried and true to his beliefs. He knew what he thought was best. The best people to manage are never pushovers. It’s like a marriage. You don’t want to marry somebody who’s a pushover. It sucks. You get into arguments, have to fight, and push back and forth but that’s how best things are forged. It’s not through do-what-you-are-told constantly and that was him. The next point we are going to get into is his innovation and that’s part of the innovation. He didn’t want to be the old voice. He wanted to innovate and turn something into something new and pioneered something. He’s created, copycats.
Flattery is the biggest form of compliment and that’s what he was able to do through his way of looking at a story and telling it. He wasn’t patronizing the audience. He was instead treating them like grownups the way he wanted to be treated, which is something that’s big that gets overlooked a lot of times. You listen to the college football games and I love listening to the Gators. Our guy, Mick Hubert, just retired. That’s how I listened to games in college. It was over the radio with him. He was such an incredible homer but was a regional guy. He’s never going to become Vin Scully. Vin Scully can become the national voice of baseball because he spoke to a national audience, not a limited audience.
Vin retired when he was 88 years old. Sixty-seven years he spent doing one job or another announcing. We’ve talked about this with Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger, Frankie, that you want to find careers that you can do your whole life. Warren was 93 years old and still investing. He’s still the Chairman of a Fortune 500 company. Vin was the most successful and popular announcer in the country at 88 years old. They begged him to do the 89th year. No one was pushing him out the door. If you remember, it was a big deal. Jimmy Fallon was flipping cars to try to get him to come back for that one last year in 2016 or something.
I have a similar story as you. My grandpa worked in a steel mill and he was a millwright. That does not work you can do much after 60. You are lugging heavy shit around. You’ve got tools. You are getting underneath a steel mill. He was the same. My grandpa lived until he was 99 years old. My entire life, I knew him as retired, and retired to him, meant sitting on the same chair and watching TV all day every day and feeding the squirrels. Forty years of chilling. My grandpa loved it. That’s what he fought in the war and worked in a mill.
He was like, “My retirement is going to be spent doing jack shit,” and that’s what he did but I’m wired like you. I wouldn’t mind at 90 still doing some form of work and you can do investing. About everything I do now, I could probably do when I’m 90. As long as my brain is still working and hasn’t killed too much of my brain cells with rye whiskey and other stuff.
The old days of like, “Ian, if I slammed this beer with you, we are going to block out.” Those days are sadly fewer and farther between than they used to be because kids wake up at 7:00 every day no matter how much they drink.
I spent more brain cells now than I used to. No doubt.
One of my favorite things about him is he was an innovator and humble enough to not let it go to his head. Buffett is similar. The people that Ian and I adore are the older crowd. A show that I’m into right now is The Kominsky Method and there’s an 88-year-old guy in that show who’s crotchety and old. There’s something to it to be an innovator at that age and not only becoming stubborn. This is an aside but it’s worth saying here. I have this kid staying in my house. He turned eighteen and I met him at the mastermind group I helped run. He’s this charismatic kid. I met him at seventeen.
He was asking me a bunch of business advice. What I told him is, Ian and me, a handful of people, we don’t have to do. We get to do it. I get to do real estate and I love it. I’m not a Major League announcer. I’m not a football player. I’m a real estate guy and I get to do it and love it. What Vin Scully did is he got to do something. He got good at it. He was competitive. He was better than anybody else early. He continued to adapt and got to do. All the way to the end where he was saying, “That’s enough,” people wanted him to continue. I will give a different example of this.Don’t define yourself narrowly. Always be open-minded about translating your skillsets to different industries, companies, and niches. Click To Tweet
For a very long time, Joe Paterno got to do. He got to do a ton of things at Penn State. He got to do it over and over. He was there for 40 years or thereabouts but when the Sandusky thing broke, he no longer got to do it. He was told to do. He lost the right. Vin Scully never lost the right to get to do because he continued to be humble, prioritize what required prioritization, and continued to innovate. That is a gift. You can go away for all of us, and he never let that happen because of his approach and his grounding. That happens a lot of times over time with people who are super successful and it didn’t happen to him.
The last thing that resonates with me about Vin Scully’s career is if you bring up Vin, he’s the Dodger guy. Anyone who knows sports, he is synonymous with the LA Dodgers. He was the voice of the Dodgers for 67 years. A cool little thing, Frankie, and I don’t know if you’ve ever seen this. Before Dodger Stadium started, which is a little smaller, they played in the Coliseum, which is a massive football stadium. It was so cavernous that some of the seats were really far away from the field and you really couldn’t see what happened or who the player was that made the play.
A lot of people started bringing Vin Scully. They would bring transistor radios and would listen to Vin on AM radio from their seats. It got to a place where so many people brought radios to Dodgers games to listen to Vin that they would have problems up in the booth because there would be interference with the delay of the voice. Even if you went to a game, it was hard to sit in any seat where you couldn’t hear Vin Scully within a few seats or rows away because many people brought radios to all the games to listen. It’s pretty cool.
I looked it up. I didn’t know that part of the story. That’s cool.
Another thing that I love about Vin’s career is he’s known as the Dodgers guy but took that skillset. His skillset wasn’t, “I’m a Dodger.” He didn’t define himself so narrowly, “I’m a baseball guy. I’m just the Dodger guy.” His skillset was reporting on what he saw, letting the stars be the stars, doing great investigative reporting before the game to get to know the people he was talking about, and then telling rich, compelling stories at a good cadence and pace. That was his skillset.
He took that and started doing playoff football games. He did tennis. He did PGA golf. He did college basketball. He did pro basketball. He did all of these other sports and it was never weird. It was like, “There’s Vin Scully’s voice. We love that guy. He’s fantastic.” I don’t know if you know this. You brought up John Madden. He was Madden’s partner for a while.
He had to do the Dodgers. He would do football with Madden for four weeks but then he would have to get back for the World Series and Summerall would come in and do it. It got to a place where Summerall became Madden’s full-time partner because Vin would never leave the Dodgers or some of his other things. What my takeaway there and for anyone in your career is don’t define yourself narrowly. Frank could have defined himself as a publicly traded home builder Vice President. That’s not who he is. He got into real estate. He could have defined himself and that’s all he is. He also has a coaching business. He leads masterminds. He’s running a podcast. He invests in tech companies.
I’m the same way. I didn’t let myself get defined as an engineer. I didn’t let myself get defined as an industrial business-to-business guy, a home builder, or a mortgage guy. I’m always very open-minded about, “Where can I translate the skillsets that I’ve learned at each stop and then go apply them in a different industry, a different company or a different niche.” You build all your experiences and if you are open to saying, “Yes, I will try that,” there are parallels from what you’ve done in the past but you don’t need to be defined by your past. You can always stay very open-minded. I hope both you and I are still doing new things when we are 85, 86, and 87 and still using the skills we’ve learned in the past.
I said it this way, you said it that way. It’s a get-you. If you continue to innovate and have market value, you continue to get to do. You will be replaced like our granddads. Mine was an electrician and yours was a steelworker. Their knees, hands, and eyes gave out and all they could do was the TV and feed squirrels. My granddad went to the track and that was it. They didn’t get to do it because their functionality went away but if you continue to innovate, your get-to-do has a lot longer trajectory.
What birthday was it off your grandad when everyone came in from out of town, sat down at the table to have dinner and he was like, “Thanks, guys? I’m going to the track.”
He just turned 80. Everybody was there with him and he got up to go to the track. Some people got pissed and a couple of us were like, “We are going with you,” because he wants to go.
Your grandad was a personal hero of mine. “Thanks for coming in. I’m going to the track,” and it’s such a hassle to get to your granddad’s house for everyone. Getting to the airport, getting over there, and finding a place to stay. He’s like, “Thanks for coming. I’m out of here.”
He gave zero.
I will absolutely miss Vin Scully’s voice. He was a treasure for me growing up and this was a fun episode for me to do because his career was incredible.
We said enough about him. If you don’t know him, look him up and listen to some of these clips that Ian has referenced. Again, this is where innovation and continuing to focus on what’s important. Also, realize that if you are the jockey, that’s your role but you can be great at that role. It can be a long run.
If you liked this show, follow us. If you have been reading for a while, give us a five-star review on Apple. Thanks. See you, Frankie.
See you, Ian.
- Apple Podcasts – Let Me Speak To A Manager