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Monday, March 22, 2010
Vin Scully and the Fordham drawl


There is so much about Vin Scully that is artistry: his approach to calling a game, the stories he tells, his tireless preparation, his ability to appreciate and articulate the true emotional sensation of a moment, big or small. So much about him that is the work of a master, a genius.

But integral to the way Scully connects with us is something that is simply a physical part of who he is, and that's his voice.

It's at once authoritative and soothing. It is friendly without being overly folksy or saccharine. Ever have that teacher in school who you grew up to become good friends with – mentor and peer, all in one?  That is all in Scully's voice.

And it stands in such contrast with the voices of most broadcasters today that seem to have come from an assembly line. Those poor factory products – they simply don't have it. You can hear them, but often it feels like we can hear them all too well.

In my mind, the way I describe Scully's voice is to call it a "Fordham drawl." It's an entirely invented term, one that's meant to be taken anything but literally. It's just meant to capture the trace hint of his New York upbringing and the relaxed, elongated speech pattern he has evolved into. The Fordham drawl is the voice of a Northerner who took up residence cowboying in the West, who embraced the relaxed way-of-life but found the happiest of mediums in his accent.

Scully is hardly Jack Palance, the Pennsylvania-born actor who won an Academy Award playing Curly Washburn in "City Slickers." Hardly that rough and tough. But you can certainly imagine Scully holding up one finger and convincing you that he knows the secret to life. Because it's all in that voice.

Scully was not even 10 when he began dreaming of becoming a broadcaster. Not only wasn't he old enough to be aware of his gift, he hadn't even acquired the gift yet from the puberty gods (although what we wouldn't give to have a recording of an 8-year-old Scully doing play-by-play of some stickball game in his neighborhood.) But somehow, the perfect voice found the perfect man for it.

It's really sort of a miracle – a blessing for Dodger fans.