Breaking Down Two Great Calls
This is about Vin Scully and Jack Buck, but I kind of got lost along the way. Hey, it happens. Three years ago, I posted (with a great deal of help from my editor Larry Burke) the 32 best calls in sports history. In going back to find it, I realize that those 32 calls were taken down at some point.
So, I repost those calls. Then I get to Scully and Buck. I did include the links from the original story when they were not dead: 32. Verne Lundquist on Christian Laettner’s shot to beat Kentucky.
“There’s the pass to Laettner. Puts it up. Yes!”
“It’s over! Gonzaga! The slipper still fits!”
30. Chris Cuthbert and Harry Neale on Tie Domi’s sucker-punch knockout of cheap shot artist Ulf Samuelson.
“You live by the sword, you’re apt to die by it.”
29. Bill White on Bucky “F-----“ Dent’s home run to beat the Red Sox in ’78.
“Yastrzemski will not get it … it’s a home run! A three-run home run for Bucky Dent.”
“End zone! Touchdown Titans! There are … NO … FLAGS … ON the field. It’s a miracle!”
27. Jack Buck on the Kirby Puckett that forced Game 7 of the 1991 World Series.
“We’ll see you tomorrow night!”
26. Joe Buck’s homage to Dad using David Ortiz’s post-midnight homer in the 2004 ALCS.
“Ortiz into right field, back is Sheffield, we’ll see you later tonight!”
“The pitch, swing, and there’s a shot deep into right center, racing back Dellucci, still going back into Death Valley, it goes right over his glove, he missed it, but Ruben Rivera missed second base. Now he’s heading for third and they’re going to throw him out by plenty, but the throw to third is botched. Now he’s heading home, the loose ball in the infield, and he’s out by five feet at the plate. And that was the worst base-running in the history of the game. The game should be over, and Ruben Rivera just did the worst base-running you will ever see. Unbelievable. Ruben Rivera had gone around second base, and then for some reason seemed to assume that the ball was caught in the outfield. He got totally lost and confused out there, and started to go back to second base as Grissom was pulling in at second. Ruben Rivera was the only man in the ballpark, apparently, who did not know what just happened.”
24. Verne Ludquist on tight end Jackie Smith’s dropped pass in Super Bowl XIII.
“Dropped in the end zone, Jackie Smith all by himself. Bless his heart, he’s got to be the sickest man in America.”
23. Tom Cheek on Joe Carter’s home run that ended the 1993 World Series.
“Touch ‘em all, Joe. You’ll never hit a bigger home run in your life.”
22. Marv Albert on Michael Jordan’s mesmerizing, hand-switching layup against Los Angeles in the 1991 NBA Finals.
“Oh! A spectacular move by Michael Jordan!”
21. Jack Buck on Ozzie Smith’s home run to beat the Dodgers in Game 5 of the 1985 NLCS.
“Go crazy folks! Go crazy! It’s a home run!”
20. Milo Hamilton on Henry Aaron’s 715th home run, the one that passed Babe Ruth.
“Outta here! It’s gone! It’s 715! There’s a new home run champion of all time, and it’s Henry Aaron.”
19. Vin Scully on the ball that went through Bill Buckner’s legs in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series.
“Little roller up along first … behind the bag … it gets through Buckner! Here comes Knight and the Mets win it!”
18. Dan Hicks on Jason Lezak’s ridiculous comeback to overtake world record holder Alain Bernard in final leg of 400-meter relay at 2008 Olympics.
“The United States trying to hang on to second, they should get the silver medal. … Now, though, Lezak is closing a little bit on Bernard. Can the veteran chase him down and pull off a shocker here?… Bernard is losing some ground! Here comes Lezak! Unbelievable at the end! He’s done it! The U.S. has done it!”
“He is one out away from the promised land, and Harvey Kuenn is comin’ up. … So Harvey Kuenn is batting for Bob Hendley. The time on the scoreboard is 9:44. The date, September the ninth, 1965, and Koufax working on veteran Harvey Kuenn. Sandy into his windup and the pitch … a fastball for a strike. He has struck out, by the way, five consecutive batters, and that’s gone unnoticed.
“Sandy ready and the strike one pitch: very high. And he lost his hat. He really forced that one. That’s only the second time tonight where I have had the feeling that Sandy threw instead of pitched, trying to get that little extra, and that time he tried so hard his hat fell off. He took an extremely long stride to the plate, and Torborg had to go up to get it.
“One and one to Harvey Kuenn. Now he’s ready: fastball, high, ball two. You can’t blame a man for pushing just a little bit now. Sandy backs off, mops his forehead, runs his left index finger along his forehead, dries it off on his left pants leg. All the while, Kuenn’s just waiting. Now Sandy looks in. Into his windup and the 2-1 pitch to Kuenn: swung on and missed, strike two.
“It is 9:46 p.m. Two and two to Harvey Kuenn, one strike away. Sandy into his windup, here’s the pitch: “Swung on and missed, a perfect game!
“On the scoreboard in right field it is 9:46 p.m. in the City of the Angels, Los Angeles, California. And a crowd of 29,139 just sitting in to see the only pitcher in baseball history to hurl four no-hit, no-run games. He has done it four straight years, and now he caps it: On his fourth no-hitter he made it a perfect game. And Sandy Koufax, whose name will always remind you of strikeouts, did it with a flurry. He struck out the last six consecutive batters. So when he wrote his name in capital letters in the record books, that ‘K’ stands out even more than the O-U-F-A-X.”
16. Howie Rose on the Stephane Matteau’s overtime goal that sent the Rangers to the Stanley Cup Finals.
“Matteau swoops in to intercept. Matteau behind the net, swings it in front. He scores! Matteau! Matteau! Stephane Matteau! The Rangers have one more hill to climb, baby, but it’s Mount Vancouver!”
“Some people are on the pitch. They think it’s all over. It is now.”
14. Someone in the booth yelling during Billy Mills extraordinary comeback at 10,000 Meters at the 11964 Olympics. Some have said it was a fan yelling, or someone working for ABC in another role. There are those who say it was announcer Dick Bank.
“Look at Mills! Look at Mills!”
13. Bob Costas summing up Michael Jordan seconds after he hit the shot that beat Utah.
“That may have been — who knows what will unfold in the next several months — but that may have been the last shot Michael Jordan will ever take in the NBA. … If that’s the last image of Michael Jordan, how magnificent is it?”
“Havlicek steals it! … Havlicek stole the ball! It’s all over! It’s all over!”
“Now there’s a steal by Bird. Underneath to DJ, who lays it in!”
11. Bill King’s remarkable soliloquy after Oakland’s Ken Stabler fumbled forward the Holy Roller. While the last line is goose bump popping, my favorite part has always been the two words before: “He does!”
“The ball flipped forward is loose! A wild scramble, two seconds on the clock. … Casper grabbing the ball … it is ruled a fumble … Casper has recovered in the end zone! The Oakland Raiders have scored on the most zany, unbelievable, absolutely impossible dream of a play! Madden is on the field. He wants to know if it’s real. They said yes, get your big butt out of here! He does! There’s nothing real in the world anymore!”
10. Three awesome college football calls -- I realize that’s cheating, choosing three, but that’s what I did:
Larry Munson on the chair-crunching Georgia play that beat Florida: “Got a block behind him. Gonna throw on the run. Complete to the 25. To the 30. Lindsey Scott! Thirty-five, forty. Lindsey Scott! Forty-five, forty! Run Lindsey! Twenty-five, twenty, fifteen, ten, five! Lindsey Scott! Lindsey Scott! Lindsey Scott! [crowd noise] Well, I can’t believe it, 92 yards, and Lindsey really got in a foot race. I broke my chair. I came right through a chair. A metal steel chair with about a five-inch cushion. I broke it. The booth came apart. The stadium, well, the stadium fell down.”
Lyell Bremser on Johnny Rodger’s punt return of the century: “He’s all the way home! Holy Moly, man, woman and child did that put them in the aisles! Johnny the Jet Rodgers just tore ‘em loose from their shoes!”
Dan Davis on Doug Flutie’s Hail Mary that beat Miami: “Looks, uncorks a deep one toward the end zone, Phelan is down there (Oh he got it!) did he get it (he got it!) Yes! Touchdown! Touchdown! Touchdown! Touchdown! Touchdown Boston College! He did it! He did it! Flutie did it!”
“Montana … looking … looking … throwing in the end zone … Clark caught it! Dwight Clark! [Crowd noise ... 29 seconds] It’s a madhouse at Candlestick.
“Oh, wow! In your life, have you seen anything like that?”
First in Spanish: “Siempre Maradona. Genio! Genio! Genio! Ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta … GOOOOOOOOAL! GOOOOOOAL! … Quiero llorar! … Dios Santo! … Viva el Futbol! … Golaaaaazoooo! Diegoooool! Maradona! Es para llorar, perdoneme. Maradona en recorrida memorable en la jugada de todos los tiempos. … Barrilete cosmico! … De que planeta viniste? … para dejar en el camino a tanto ingles. … Para que el pais sea un puno apretado gritando por Argentina … Argentina dos, Inglaterra cero … Diegol! Diegol! Diego Amando Maradona! … Gracias, dios por el futbol, por Maradona, por estas lagrimas, por este Argentina dos, Inglaterra cero.”
And translated: “Always Maradona. Genius! Genius! Genius! Ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta … GOOOOOOOOAL! GOOOOOOAL! … I mourn. … Holy God… Viva football. … Golaaaaazoooo! Diegoooool! Maradona! It is to mourn, forgive me. Maradona memorably traveled on the play of all time. Cosmic Kite. … Which planet are you from? … To leave both on the road to English. … For the country is a closed fist screaming for Argentina. … Argentina two, England zero. … Diegol! Diegol! Diego Armando Maradona! … Thank God for soccer, for Maradona, for these tears, for Argentina two, England zero.”
“Secretariat is widening now! He is moving like a tremendous machine! Secretariat by 12! Secretariat by 14 lengths on the turn!”
Buck: “Gibson swings. And a fly ball deep to right! This is gonna be a home run! Unbelievable! A home run for Gibson! And the Dodgers have won the game 5-4! I don’t believe what I just saw! I don’t believe what I just saw!”
Scully: “High fly ball into right field. She is… gone. [Crowd noise] In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened.”
“The ball is still loose as they get it to Rodgers! They get it back now to the 30, they’re down to the 20…. Oh, the band is out on the field! He’s gonna go into the end zone! He’s gone into the end zone!! … And the Bears, the Bears have won! The Bears have won! Oh, my God! The most amazing, sensational, dramatic, heart-rending, exciting, thrilling finish in the history of college football!”
“Down goes Frazier! Down goes Frazier! Down goes Frazier!”
“Here’s a long drive. … It’s gonna be, I believe … the Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! [crowd noise] Bobby Thomson hits into the lower deck of the left-field stands! [WAHOO! heard in background again] The Giants win the pennant, and they’re goin’ crazy! They’re goin’ crazy! Heeeey-oh!”
“Do you believe in miracles? Yes!”
* * *
As you can see, even then I ranked the Kirk Gibson home runs calls of Vin Scully and Jack Buck as a tie. That is the point of all this. Tuesday was the 25th anniversary of the Gibson home run that is No. 5 on the list. It is the only great play in American sports history I can think of that has TWO iconic calls. Which one was better? It was much easier for me three years go to rank them as a tie and not get into it. But, now, 25-year anniversary …
I first heard the home run on the radio. That meant Jack Buck. It was a Saturday night -- should give you a small idea of how much sports has changed that they started the World Series on a Saturday night -- and I was driving home from the Duke-Clemson game at Memorial Stadium. Hey, that was actually a good Duke team coached by the ol’ Ball Coach Steve Spurrier. And, yeah, Clemson won 49-17.
Anyway, I was driving up I-85, and I was literally driving by the giant water tower shaped like a peach right outside of Gaffney, when Gibson hit the home run and Buck screamed “I don’t believe what I just saw!” It was so amazing I remember pulling over to the side of the road and getting out of the car.
I honestly cannot remember when I first heard Scully’s legendary, “In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened.” But I remember being awed by it from the start. So perfect.
Now, 25 years later, it’s so clear what makes each of those calls such genius. I asked people on Twitter which call they liked better, which is a totally unfair question. And it did not surprise me that the vote went almost right down the middle. It did surprise me, though, how PASSIONATE people were about their choices. I figured on getting a lot of, “They’re both great calls but I like this one better.” Intead, it was more like one tweet would say “Scully and it’s not close,” and the next would be, “I’m a Scully fan, but Buck’s call was way better.” It did not seem that many people liked BOTH calls at all, much less like them equally.
And maybe that makes sense. The calls really are different. They are not just different words and different decibel levels and different men announcing. They seem to reach for different parts of us as sports fans.
Buck’s call was passion. Jack Buck was as good as anyone has ever been at grabbing your heart, pulling it out of your chest, letting it beat in the sunshine. “Go crazy folks” is not a particularly expressive or vivid phrase, but when Ozzie Smith hits a left-handed home run to win a playoff game -- he hit FIVE left-handed home runs in his entire big league career -- it is the roar for that moment as a Cardinals fan. The call that would clash against the feelings of a Dodgers’ fan and would not mean much to a neutral observer. But Buck was talking to Cardinals fans. “Go crazy folks,” was like the soundtrack to their wild emotions.
That was Jack Buck. His calls came directly from his heart, unfiltered, unadorned. And his was a fan’s heart. When he saw Gibson’s amazing home run, there were no words for it, no words he could think of at the time. He could not believe it. He literally could not believe it. He had been watching baseball for a half century or more, and that was unlike anything -- a wounded man who could barely walk hitting the home run off the great Dennis Eckersley, He could not believe what he just saw. And so he said, “I don’t believe what I just saw.”
Scully’s call was poetry. Vin’s love of baseball is evident in every call he makes, but it’s not the love of a fan. He loves baseball as an artist, loves it the way Da Vinci loved Mona Lisa -- he wants to bring out every nuance, every subtlety, every sound and smell and sliver of sunlight. Many of us have written about Scully’s love of crowd noise -- after the Dwight Clark catch that sent San Francisco to its first Super Bowl, he did not say a word for 29 seconds, letting the crowd noise tell the story. He did the same after Henry Aaron’s 715th home run. “There is nothing I could say,” he explained, “that could tell the story better.”
Think about that for a minute. Scully is an announcer. He has made his living speaking words to describe action. And, in the biggest moment, he trusts that the sound of 50,000 other people can tell it better than he can.
And so what makes Scully’s call art is how he quickly describes the call (“She is gone!”) and then lets the crowd noise take over and then, when the cheers have soaked through and are exhausted, he came in with the most poetic phrase, one he said was given to him like a gift from God: “In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened.”
Comparing the two calls is like comparing a good beer when you’re sweating and hot with the amazing song “What’s Going On,” coming on the radio. It’s like comparing the feeling of making a hole-in-one with the feeling of your child bringing home a good report card. It’s like comparing the most amazing chocolate ice cream with getting fooled by the ending to “The Sixth Sense.” I mean, it’s all absolutely fantastic, and there’s no real common ground there. I heard Buck’s call first, so it is the call that rings through me when I see that home run. But I have watched Scully’s call probably 50 times since it happened, and I think it’s the most beautiful arrangement of words ever built around a great baseball play.
So, I’m still copping out, right?
Fine: I think Buck’s call is more memorable. I think Scully’s call was better.