Legendary announcer Vin Scully's last call will come Sunday at AT&T Park in San Francisco, one final game with the Los Angeles Dodgers after an incredible 67 years with the franchise.
Scully's career in broadcasting is singular. His start, it turns outs, was just as unique: on the roof of Fenway Park, in frigid November weather, calling a college football game.
In the fall of 1949, according to the Los Angeles Times, Scully was 21 and fresh out of Fordham. He had spent the summer working for Washington's WTOP. After the radio station hired him full time, he introduced himself to the news director at CBS News and mentioned his interest in sports. Word reached Red Barber, voice of the then-Brooklyn Dodgers and host of a college football roundup show on the CBS Radio Network.
When an announcer fell ill in November, Ernie Harwell, later the longtime voice of the Detroit Tigers and former voice of the Orioles, was reassigned to the North Carolina-Notre Dame game in Yankee Stadium.
Now, someone needed to cover a Maryland football game against Boston University at Fenway Park. Barber got in touch with Scully, who agreed to handle what would be his on-air debut.
He planned on going to a dance later that day, Nov. 12, so he left "his coat, hat and gloves in his hotel room, preferring to be unencumbered when he got to the dance," according to the Times.
Scully thought he would be announcing the game from a booth. He was instead pointed to the ballpark's roof, where the temperature never got above 45 degrees. The wind made a mess of his papers, and he had to work a hand microphone for the duration of the game.
And what a game it was. According to Maryland, it was played before approximately 30,000, "the largest crowd before which the No. 15 Terriers had played — and lost." The Terps won, 14-13, and Boston University coach Buff Donelli blamed the result on "poor officiating," according to The Boston Globe. (Coached by Jim Tatum, Maryland went 9-1 that season, defeating Missouri in the Gator Bowl.)
When the game ended, "I was so cold, so unhappy," Scully remembered. "I thought I had this great break. I thought I blew it because I was unprepared for that." Barber didn't learn of the blustery broadcast conditions until a Boston University official called two days later to apologize.
"That turned out to be a big break," Scully told the Times, "because let's say I did a very, very ordinary job. In Red's mind, 'This kid never mentioned anything about no booth, the cold, nothing.' That made a very ordinary job a little more than that in Red's mind."
Barber was impressed. He gave him the Harvard-Yale game that week, and when Harwell left the Dodgers' broadcasting team to work for the New York Giants, Barber remembered Scully. He was hired as Brooklyn's No. 3 announcer, and broadcast his first Dodgers game the next April. In 1953, at the age of 25, he became the youngest person to broadcast a World Series game, between the Dodgers and New York Yankees.
On Tuesday, the Terps sent Scully a letter of congratulations.
It reads: "Mr. Scully: Congratulations on your legendary career and the celebration of your final broadcast. We are honored to have been a part of your first!" It's signed by Maryland coach DJ Durkin, below which are the game details:
"Maryland 14, Boston U 13
Nov. 29, 1949"