Vin Scully’s call of the ninth inning of Sandy Koufax’s perfect game in 1965 is considered one of the classic moments in broadcasting history, so lyrical that I’ve seen it transcribed in its entirety and presented as prose. And Scully himself, who this weekend celebrated the 60th anniversary of his first Dodger broadcast, is considered by most to be the greatest announcer in baseball history.
Here’s how Scully began his call of the 9th inning of Koufax’s perfecto:
Three times in his sensational career has Sandy Koufax walked out to the mound to pitch a fateful ninth where he turned in a no-hitter. But tonight, September the 9th, nineteen hundred and 65, he made the toughest walk of his career, I’m sure, because through eight innings he has pitched a perfect game. He has struck out 11, he has retired 24 consecutive batters, and the first man he will look at is catcher Chris Krug, big right-hand hitter, flied to second, grounded to short.
And so it goes. Scully shows no hesitation in mentioning Koufax’s pending no-hitter right from the start, and as the inning progresses, he mentions it again. I bring this up because I know there has been some criticism of Mariner broadcast Dave Sims for talking about Doug Fister’s pending no-hitter last night as the game progressed (the picture above shows Fister making the putout at first on Chone Figgins’ great play in the sixth to preserve the no-no).
This issue dates back to Sims’ first year with the team, 2007, when he took some knocks for mentioning that Felix Hernandez had a no-hitter going when he took one into the eighth inning against the Red Sox at Fenway Park.
That is patently ridiculous. Sims understands, as Scully did, that his job is to inform the listeners, not to worry about some sort of “jinx” that supposedly attaches to any mention of a no-hitter as it is in progress. As Sims told me in 2007, if it’s good enough for Vin Scully, it’s good enough for him.
I even took some heat myself last night (mostly good-natured. I think.) for blogging that Fister had a no-hitter going, and for talking about it in the press box. One, I don’t believe in no-hit jinxes, and I certainly don’t believe in them when it comes to a reporter covering the game. Pitchers lose no-hitters because it’s exceedingly hard to retire 27 batters without giving up a base hit, not because an announcer, or a sportswriter, had the audacity to talk about it.
Mind you, I understand why the players adhere to this tradition of not mentioning a no-hitter in progress to the pitcher. It’s a long-standing baseball custom, for one thing, ingrained in the fabric of the sport, for players involved in the game to keep quiet. For another, I can see the benefit of not cluttering the pitcher’s mind with talk about something as historic and special as a no-hitter. And if fans want to believe they can affect the outcome of the game by their actions — and I know they do, through lucky hats, or where they sit, or any number of things, up to and including keeping mum about a no-hitter — then who am I to stop them?
But a reporter covering the game? Come on. For one thing, in the day and age of Twitter and blogs, it’s impossible to maintain no-hit silence. If you don’t inform the people what’s going on, you’re not doing your job. And my job is not to try to protect the pitcher by keeping hush-hush about a no-hitter — a silly notion, when you really think about it. Now, I realize Dave is in a slightly different position, because he does work for the team, in essence. But I salute him for making it his duty to not ignore the big story that’s building.
You know what? Doug Fister would have lost his no-hitter last night even if Dave Sims and I had not said a word about it. And Vin Scully didn’t stop Sandy Koufax from throwing his perfect game — or three other no-hitters that Scully called in the exact same fashion.
(Photo by Associated Press)