Taking turns offering memories and sharing stories, Vin Scully’s children gathered at the altar at the end of the funeral Mass for the legendary Los Angeles Dodgers broadcaster on Monday, Aug. 8, at St. Jude the Apostle Catholic Church in Westlake Village.
Scully’s daughter, Erin, said she had searched his office to find something that would comfort her. She came across a famous prayer written by St. Cardinal John Henry Newman.
“God has created me to do Him some definite service,” read the first line. Another: “Therefore, I will trust Him. ... If I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. … He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from me. Still, He knows what He is about.”
For Father Jim Stehly, pastor of St. Jude, the prayer was a “perfect” glimpse of his most famous parishioner’s interior life.
“This wasn’t just a celebration of life, or Vin’s life, but really a celebration of that life he’s being ushered into its fullness right now,” he told Angelus. “To me, that was the real sense of Vin’s vocation as he was living his Christian life in this most public way.”
Father Steve Davoren, who presided the Mass and burial service, said that “in the context of everything, it was all so beautiful that showed how Vin was a man of deep abiding faith in our Lord Jesus and had a tremendous love of his family.”
The faces of Dodgers history — Sandy Koufax, Kirk Gibson, Clayton Kershaw, Jaime Jarrin, Steve Garvey, Dave Roberts — were among those in the pews at St. Jude’s that day. After hearing the readings picked by Vin’s family (Proverbs 3:1–18, Psalm 23, 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18; Matthew 5:13–16) as well as a version of “The Prayer” song made famous by Josh Groban, the 600 people in attendance may have felt more uplifted than sorrowful that he had lived 94 years until his Aug. 2 passing at his Hidden Hills home.
“No matter how many famous people may have been there in attendance, it was still about the ordinary person that Vin was, and the extraordinary friend he was to all,” said Father Davoren.
Vin is survived by five children — Kevin, Todd, Erin, Kelly, and Catherine — as well as 21 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his first wife, Joan, and his second wife, Sandi, as well as his oldest son, Michael.
Far from the lights of Dodger Stadium, church seemed to be Vin’s other natural habitat.
Father Stehly said it “was a lovely thing to discover 11 years ago that Vin Scully is exactly the guy we want to think he is.” But he was also impressed at how Vin “wasn’t shy about putting voice to his faith.”
Yet for someone who made a career talking, his actions also found surprising ways to speak to LA baseball fans.
In a 2016 cover story for Sports Illustrated, writer Tom Verducci wrote that the “benevolence of Vin was rooted in his [Catholic] faith. He emphasized ‘the most essential thing’ he learned from his faith and the Church was ‘the importance of continual communication with God.’ ”
Born in the Bronx, New York, on Nov. 29, 1927, Vincent Edward Scully grew up in uptown Manhattan attending the Church of the Incarnation. He was taught by the Jesuits at Fordham Prep School, spent two years in the Navy, and later graduated from Fordham University in 1949.
At age 8, he recalled the time his class wrote compositions for teacher Sister Virginia Maria about their career plans.
“All the boys wanted to be policemen, firemen, doctors, the girls were about nursing or ballet dancers or becoming mothers, but I wrote about being a radio sports announcer,” he said. “It wasn’t what Sister Virginia expected to read about. There was no TV and just a few things on the radio, maybe a Saturday afternoon football game between Ohio State and Notre Dame. So when I said what I wanted to be, that was way out in left field. When I eventually got that job with the Dodgers, in December of 1950, when I was 23, it really was the fulfillment of a dream just 15 years later. That’s rather remarkable in itself. I have a great deal to be thankful for.”
Through his involvement in the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO), Scully would get tickets to games at the Polo Grounds to see his favorite team, the New York Giants.
Starting with the Brooklyn Dodgers and hired by the legendary Branch Rickey, as well as bonding with generations of the O’Malley family as it assumed team ownership, Vin rejoiced in calling the franchise’s one-and-only championship in 1955. He took a leap of faith in leaving behind his home base to follow the franchise to Los Angeles in 1958.
In bringing the game to Southern California through the advent of the transistor radio, Vin’s voice captioned six Dodgers World Series runs. He also lent that voice to coverage of golf and NFL football during his 67 years with the Dodgers, which ended with his retirement in 2016.
“I’ve always admired Vin’s faith and he often gave credit to the nuns from Ireland who taught him and influenced his life starting in grammar school,” Peter O’Malley, the Dodgers’ team owner from 1979 to 1998, told Angelus. “He appreciated his faith and didn’t take it for granted. “
On mornings before Sunday home games, Vin found a home attending Mass at the stadium, a Major League Baseball tradition at ballparks around the U.S. organized by Catholic Athletes for Christ (CAC). Vin and Sandi would join longtime friend and Dodgers traveling secretary Billy DeLury at a makeshift chapel inside the bowels of Dodger Stadium. When DeLury died at 81 in 2015, Vin draped DeLury’s blue Dodgers jacket over an empty chair next to him.
Since Vin’s death, the Scully family has suggested donations be made in his honor to CAC, which worked with Immaculate Heart Radio to record a two-CD set of Vin praying the rosary.
CAC ministry coordinator Kevin O’Malley said Vin typified “the best of what we are hoping to bring out with our pro athletes — the virtue of humility, offering time, talents, and treasure, and preaching without reading the Gospel.”
“It’s interesting: I had always wanted to be a baseball play-by-play man,” O’Malley told Angelus. “The first half of my life, I wanted to be Vin Scully, the broadcaster. But as I learned more and worked with him, I really wanted to be more like Vin Scully, the man, the Catholic, the gentleman, the husband and father.”
As an added treat for those in attendance, Vin would often lector at those ballpark Masses. Former Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier said his favorite memory from his 12 years with the Dodgers remains listening to Scully proclaiming the word of God.
“There was something probably not many got a chance to hear — Vin reading from the Bible, in his typical voice and presentation,” Ethier told a SportsNet L.A. tribute to Vin. “It kind of would always perk me up when you hear Vin say something out of context from what we were used to hearing.”
Father Stehly said Vin often arrived very early before Mass to allow for enough silent prayer time before anyone would be around to recognize him.
At one point, Vin decided he might need to be more proactive in asking writers to avoid including where he attended Mass.
“There will be autograph seekers standing out on the church steps as I am going in, and I will try to be polite,” Vin once said. “I would often tell them: ‘I’m going into church right now. If you want to come and join me, I’ll be happy to sign the ball afterward.’ It became almost a way to evangelize, right?”
Father Davoren recalled the time when, after a national appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” in October 2016, Vin mentioned he would be speaking at a career day event at St. Mel School in Woodland Hills, the Catholic elementary school where his daughter Erin enrolled her children.
On the Wednesday after Vin’s passing, a 97-year-old parishioner at St. Mel approached Father Davoren and wanted him to know she and Vin were “good friends.”
“The thing is, she has never met him,” said Father Davoren. “She said that after her husband of 65 years passed away, she was feeling lonely and one day her phone rang. It was Vin. Someone had connected them. For a half-hour they spoke. It was just what Vin did — like Christ did — making us all feel like we matter.”
The passing of family members and close friends is when Vin leaned into his Catholic faith the most.
Vin was only 4 when the father he was named after, Vincent Aloysius Scully, died of pneumonia. His mother, Bridget, who lived to be 97, remarried English merchant sailor Allan Reeve, whom Vin embraced as his dad.
Vin remembered a time when his mother took him back to her native Ireland to mourn her husband’s loss. In 1932, he recalled attending the International Eucharistic Congress at Dublin’s Phoenix Park with some 200,000 people for a Mass.
In January 1972, Vin said he heard his dog barking at 3:30 a.m. and turned in bed to check on his wife, Joan. She had died at age 35. The mother of his three children had been taking medications prescribed for a severe cold and bronchitis. They had been married almost 16 years, wed in February of 1958, right after the Dodgers moved to LA.
Michael Scully, the oldest of those three, died in 1994 at age 33 in a helicopter crash in the San Fernando Valley while inspecting pipelines after an earthquake.
In January 2021, Vin’s second wife, Sandi, died at 76 from complications brought upon by the neuromuscular disease ALS (better known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease) after a long struggle.
Vin had called her “a true saint if there ever was one. … Her faith is extremely important and I think that’s a major reason she’s held up.”
Sandi, who was part of the Calvary Community Church of Conejo Valley in Westlake Village, had brought two of her children into the Scully marriage in 1973. During their 48 years of marriage, they had their last daughter, Catherine, together. Sandi died just days before the passing of Vin’s longtime friend and fellow Dodgers icon Tommy Lasorda.
“Being Irish, being Catholic, from the first day I can remember, I was told about death,” Vin said in a 1986 interview with The Sporting News. “Death is a constant companion in our religion. You live with it easily; it is not a morbid thought. That has given me the perspective that whatever I have can disappear in 30 seconds. And being out on the road as much as I am, I realize I am killing the most precious thing that I have — time. You never know how much of it you have left.”
That wisdom spoke for itself when Vin had to interrupt a televised Dodgers-Expos game in Montreal to announce the passing of former Dodgers great and fellow broadcaster Don Drysdale.
“Never have I been asked to make an announcement that hurts me as much as this one,” Vin said. “And I say to you as best I can with a broken heart.”
In later interviews, Vin seemed to sense a greater need to speak from experience about his faith.
“The worst thing you can do in times of trial is to stop praying,” he told the National Catholic Register in 2013. “The tough moments are when you need God the most. There are so many good things about the Church, but that might be the most essential thing I’ve learned from it: The importance of continual communication with God. That’s what all the kneelers, candles, incense, stained-glass windows, holy water, and other things are about: directing our minds and hearts to God.”
Vin received just about every award possible over the years for his talent as a professional wordsmith, including a spot in the broadcasters’ wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, that was intended as a lifetime achievement award. That was in 1982 — and he would go on to call games for 34 more years.
Vin was grateful to live long enough to see the induction of one of his favorite Dodgers and Catholic cohorts, Gil Hodges, into the Baseball Hall of Fame this July. Through CAC, Vin participated in a documentary, “Soul of a Champion: The Gil Hodges Story,” an open letter to voters asking for support of Hodges’ cause based on his character and Catholic faith.
His professional career is dotted with milestones he witnessed and described: Don Larsen’s perfect game for the New York Yankees against the Dodgers in 1955, Henry Aaron’s record-breaking 715th home run in Atlanta against the Dodgers in 1974, and Kirk Gibson’s 1988 World Series Game 1 walk-off home run that lifted the Dodgers to a championship, where, as Vin said, “in a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened.”
A star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame also came in 1982, and in 2016 a Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama. His “microphone” was retired and put among the Dodger Stadium’s list of retired numbers. The Dodger Stadium street address and press box have both been renamed in his honor.
But Vin’s Catholic accolades were probably a better reflection of the legacy Vin hoped to leave behind.
In 2009, he was one of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles’ Cardinal’s Awards recipients. One of the archdiocesan representatives assisting him and his family that night was Ellen Loretta, the mother of then-Dodgers second baseman Mark Loretta, a graduate of St. Francis High School in La Cañada Flintridge.
A member of the Knights of Columbus, Vin was also recognized by Catholic Charities of Los Angeles for his commitment to the community — outreach that included work for Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles.
In 2000, Vin returned to his alma mater for a commencement address and received an honorary doctorate degree. Fordham often called him “the patron saint” of the campus radio station, WFUV, which launched when he was there in 1947.
Vin asked the graduates to follow the Ten Commandments and “build a better moral climate,” in his first visit to the campus in the 50 years since he’d graduated. “Don’t let the winds blow your dreams away or steal you of your faith in God.”
In June of 2016, the summer leading up to his retirement from the Dodgers, Vin was recognized with the Gabriel Award by the Catholic Academy of Communication Professionals for his accomplishments as well as being a person of faith.
Unable to attend their ceremony in St. Louis, Vin recorded a five-minute video acceptance speech. It gave him an opportunity to recall the time in 1956 when he was with a group that got to meet Pope Pius XII in Rome.
As he explained it, he was on the way back from a trip to Japan with the Dodgers for some exhibition games when Vin decided to join pitcher Ralph Branca and his wife, Ann, and divert through Europe for an audience with the pope. Ann’s father, James, part owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers, was a member of the Order of Malta and arranged it.
Vin relayed how he tried to stay calm as “my knees were trembling,” trying to keep a promise to his mother to remember every detail — including describing the pope as “somewhat gaunt, with black olive eyes, wearing glasses.”
After the pope greeted the Branca couple, he turned to Vin and asked, “Are you with them?” Scully said, “Yes.”
The pope then walked over to the next guests.
“How would you like to tell that to your mother?” Vin asked.
But Vin took that line to heart as only he could do.
“As I’ve gotten older I realized that those couple of words ‘Are you with them?’ really sums up why I’m here,” he said. “Oh yes. ‘Are you with them’ for the thousands of baseball games that I saw, the hundreds and hundreds of home runs to end exciting games, the no-hitters — I was with them.
“The more I think about it now I realize not all of us can be heroes,” he continued. “Certainly for me, a hero goes by and I’m standing on the curb applauding, as I was with them.
“I remember: To whom much is given, a great deal is required. And I pray that I will be able to fill the definition of what was required before I leave this mortal coil.
“And one last thought, if you don’t mind,” he told his audience. “Could I have a picture of all the great priests and nuns [from the organization]. I’d like to have that so when I am finally called upon Judgment Day, I will go up and I will hold that picture and I will say, ‘I’m with them.’ God bless and good night.”