College football gave Vin Scully his first major career break

Vin Scully is baseball’s defining voice for Angelenos and millions of Americans. He died Tuesday at the age of 94.

Scully spent 67 years naming games for the Dodgers. The history of baseball and the history of Los Angeles cannot be fully told without Vincent Edward Scully; such was his career, and such was the breadth of his resonance in a sport and the city he called home.

But as close as Scully is to baseball, it was a college football game that started the redhead’s towering and iconic career.

It was November 12, 1949 and Scully was only 21 years old and after graduating from Fordham University wanted to get into broadcasting. A special circumstance had helped him land the job of calling the game at Fenway Park between Boston University’s 6-0 and Maryland’s 5-1.

At first, Ernie Harwell (later the longtime Detroit Tigers announcer) was given the game at Fenway, but he was reassigned to officiate the North Carolina-Notre Dame game at Yankee Stadium when the original broadcaster fell ill.

Scully was given the task of traveling to Boston by another famous Dodgers announcer, Red Barber, who was then CBS Radio’s athletic director. According to Barber, the only thing he remembered about Scully was the color of his hair.

“We needed someone to go to Boston,” Barber said Los Angeles Times 1984. “I asked Ted Church the name of the red-haired boy he brought with him. He did not know. I asked around and nobody knew. I remembered him saying he was visiting Fordham, so I called Jack Coffee, Fordham’s sporting director. That’s how I got Scully’s name and number.”

At the same time, after getting the job in Boston, Scully was looking forward to attending a dance at Boston College that night (since Fordham was playing there that same day). He then decided to leave his warmer clothes at the hotel so that he would be “unencumbered” when he danced later. Scully figured he would get warm in a broadcast booth.

“It was cold,” Scully remarked in a recent interview, “but I thought—naively, stupidly—’I’m going to work for a network; I’ll have a great booth.’ “

This proved to be a mistake when he was led onto the roof as there were no vacant cabins.

Forced to announce the game while sitting at a table outside and exposed to the cold, Scully calmly continued the broadcast. By the end of the afternoon, his call garnered the majority of CBS’s attention as the Boston University vs. Maryland duel lived up to the hype.

“The other games started to fall by the wayside,” Scully said. “But my game was great. But it’s also getting dark, the wind is blowing off the Charles River, the lights are on and I’m freezing.”

“Boy, it was cold,” Scully said in a 1966 interview about the game. “I’ve never been so cold in my life.”

After Maryland won the game 14-13, Scully climbed off the roof, feeling he had missed his big chance, transfixed by the cold.

“I thought, ‘Here is this opportunity of a lifetime, but I was frozen, blah, blah, blah.'”

Luckily, it was the cold that made a positive impression on Barber, who would one day hire him to work for the Dodgers. A BU officer then called Barber and apologized for the CBS station having to sit on the roof in the cold. He was impressed that Scully had maintained his professionalism despite the adverse circumstances.

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