The 50th Anniversary of Vin Scully's Greatest Call Ever
By Rich Lederer
"It's a fight, a blow-by-blow verbal battle."
- Vin Scully, June 30, 1959
One of the greatest baseball rhubarbs in my lifetime took place 50 years ago today. The "blow-by-blow verbal battle" occurred between two of the biggest rivals in all sports: the San Francisco Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers, in just their second year on the west coast.
The game was played on Tuesday, June 30, 1959 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The paid attendance of 59,312 was the largest Coliseum crowd since Opening Night when 61,552 fans were on hand to watch the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Dodgers, 6-2, while setting a new attendance record for a National League night game. (Interestingly, the Cardinals and Dodgers had set the previous league record on April 25, 1958 when Stan Musial's first Coliseum appearance attracted 60,635.)
The Giants and Dodgers were in a virtual tie for second place in the National League, 1.5 games behind the Milwaukee Braves. Milwaukee had beaten the New York Yankees, winners of eight of the prior ten World Series, in seven games to win the championship in 1957, then lost the title in seven games to the same Yankees in 1958. San Francisco had snapped the Dodgers' seven-game winning streak the night before when Jim Davenport and Willie Mays led off the 13th inning with back-to-back home runs en route to a 6-4 victory in what my Dad called "the most thrilling game ever played in the Coliseum" to that point.
Mays was to be heard from in more ways than one the following night. Batting second in the lineup, the "Say Hey Kid" slugged his 13th homer of the year (and fifth against the Dodgers) in the third inning to give the Giants a 2-0 lead and, according to Dad's game report in the Press-Telegram the following morning, "almost clouted another in the sixth inning, touching off a 10-minute rhubarb. While the fans hooted and hollered, the umpires changed their ruling twice and finally awarded Mays a ground-rule double. Rigney lodged a protest, but withdrew it after the game."
The batted ball was first ruled foul, then a home run and, finally, a double. I'll let Vin Scully, in what I believe is not only his most descriptive call ever but one of the greatest in the history of the game, take over from here.
Although narrator Steve Bailey says the date was May 30, 1959, the incident actually took place on June 30, 1959. Bailey eloquently introduces the nine-minute clip, "Orchids to Vin Scully for a magnificent description of one of the wildest rhubarbs baseball has ever known."
"Drysdale ready and the 1-1 pitch . . . curveball, cut on, there's a high flyball right down the left field line, right on the line, hits the foul pole and kicks foul. That's just about as foul as you can get without being fair.
Willie Mays hit the foul pole and it kicked off in foul ground. Rigney is telling Mays to trot all the way around. Salty Parker and Bill Rigney appealing to third base umpire Dusty Boggess . . . and now they're gonna wave Mays around and here come the Dodgers after Boggess.
If you know the Coliseum at all and you know the girder that supports the screen right down the left field line, Willie Mays hit a fly ball that actually hit that girder and then kicked off into foul territory. At first, Dusty Boggess called it foul but Rigney told Mays to go around anyway. And after Rigney and Salty Parker got into the discussion, Boggess suddenly ruled home run. The Dodgers came racing out of the dugout . . . a firecracker goes off back of home plate like to scare everybody out of ten years' growth . . . and the argument continues directly back of third base along the line. All four umpires along with a heated group of Dodgers . . . and the rhubarb continues about 30 feet down the line.
So Willie Mays, who is normally causing a lot of noise either at the Coliseum or Seals Stadium, has now really set off a bomb here at the Coliseum.
When you look at that girder down the left field line, there are many cables and wires that make it a very tough spot to look at. No doubt the Dodger contention is the ball hit one of the wires to make it foul.
But Boggess is now sticking to his guns. Drysdale is so mad he almost kicked 20 feet of the Coliseum out of the park. Gil Hodges right now is jaw-to-jaw with Dusty Boggess. Gil pointing first with his left hand, then with his right hand. Drysdale appealing to the gods right now. He just wants to holler at anybody who will listen. Don Zimmer is arguing with Tommy Gorman. The other three umpires now leave Boggess alone, and he is in the midst of lions.
Don Zimmer, Don Drysdale, Walter Alston, Gil Hodges, and Wally Moon are blistering Boggess, and Dusty every now and then seems to punctuate a Dodger's sentence by pointing with his left hand to that left field foul pole. At the very top of the foul pole, there are two slanting guide wires. One goes from the top of the pole to the right, down to the screen. And the other one goes from the top to the left, down toward the stands. The Dodger contention is that the ball hit the guide wire to the left and would be foul. Alston and Hodges and Zimmer and Moon continue to appeal. Gorman now tells Hodges to walk away, but Hodges goes right after Gorman. Zimmer will be hoarse in another two minutes. The veins on each side of his neck bulging out like the cable that actually holds up the left field screen.
Boggess sticking to his guns. The Dodgers continue to appeal, but Mays has touched all the bases and will come in with a home run. Gorman, who is the captain of this umpiring quartet, has now summoned Bill Rigney out of the Giant dugout. And both Gorman and Salty Parker are flanking Bill Rigney and, of course, Gorman doing all the talking.
Meanwhile, the Dodgers are still around Boggess at third. But watching Rigney's reaction, it looks like Gorman is going to call it foul . . . and Rigney is about ready to eat his glasses. Alston has walked away like a Philadelphia lawyer who has just won his case. Rigney slams his hat down and the gray hairs glistening under the lights. Bill is now going jaw-to-jaw with Boggess. Now he kicks at the dirt, hands on his hips, left hand thrown high in the air. Ed Sudol comes in to quiet the Giant manager down. Rigney's left hand, then his right hand up in the air. Now his hat is back on.
So, first the Dodgers appeal and walk away and now it's Rigney's turn to be on the griddle. All four umpires appear to be trying to placate Rigney, presenting their case. The Giant manager now starting to walk around, slamming his hands together, pointing with the right hand, then with the left. Now a big sweeping gesture with the left hand. Gorman comes after him now as if Rigney must have touched a nerve, and Gorman goes chewing right back after the Giant manager. Rigney now goes after Gorman, points with his left hand to that girder. Gorman answers with a right-handed gesture. Rigney bows at the waist with a sweeping right hand. And Gorman and Rigney are really going at it. Boggess comes over and Rigney like a mad traffic cop now with a right hand indicating that all the umpires are mad. Rigney kicks at the dirt, walks away with a hopeless gesture of both hands. Willie Mays comes out. Rigney drapes his left arm around Mays' shoulder and tells him to go to second base, 'I'll meet you halfway and what a riot.'
First it was ruled foul, then it was ruled fair, then the Dodgers won half a case and got Mays to go to second base. As soon as we get the ground rules on this particular play off the back of a batting card, we can pass them along.
Willie Mays hits the loudest double ever heard in Southern California or in the United States, for that matter. Rigney now comes to argue with the plate umpire Ed Sudol. Sudol pointing with his right hand toward the screen. Rigney pointing with his right hand . . . let's say, towards the Dodger dugout. Now Salty Parker comes down, and it's Rigney with his head just jerking a mile a minute, and now Sudol wants to talk to third base umpire Dusty Boggess. It's a fight, a blow-by-blow verbal battle.
Rigney has Boggess on his left and Sudol on his right, and right now Rigney is laying down the law, and the umpires come right back with words and gestures. Salty Parker, third base coach, with his arms folded across his chest, just listening right now. Rigney is concentrating his verbal fire on third base umpire Dusty Boggess. Sudol is now trying to draw some of the wrath of the Giant manager, but Bill wants to stay with Boggess. Rigney now whirls and since Sudol is walking towards the plate, Bill starts to go after him, then turns and goes back after Boggess.
Willie Mays, the cause of it all, at least he hit the ball, standing quietly at second base. Tommy Gorman and Ed Sudol have a meeting halfway between home plate and first base. Boggess has his hands full, with both Rigney and Salty Parker. We will have to wait to get the actual and official clarification. Walter Alston has come out of the Dodger dugout and, in the runway leading back towards the tunnel, he is now talking to Buzzie Bavasi, the Dodgers Vice President.
Rigney is exploding at Boggess so Gorman and Sudol are coming over again, trying to bail out Dusty. Gorman talking to Rigney. Rigney turns and starts to walk away, gives a big gesture with his hands and Gorman comes back with the same gesture. Now, plate umpire Ed Sudol has hollered up to the press box that the Giants will play the ballgame under protest, and it must be announced to the crowd. Listen, here comes the announcement."
After John Ramsey, the public address announcer, informed the crowd, amidst boos, of the protest, Bailey concluded the segment, "San Francisco manager Bill Rigney quickly forgot his protest because Sad Sam Jones pitched a one-hit, 2-0 shutout."
Jim Gilliam had the only hit, a disputed infield single in the eighth inning. According to Dad, "Gilliam's high chop behind the mound was the cheapest of hits, but a hit it was in the opinion of official scorekeeper Charlie Park. 'I hated to call it,' Park told Jones after the game. But Jones, brushing by and refusing to shake hands with Park, answered, 'I don't think it was a hit, whatever you call it.'
"Gilliam's hit bounced over Jones' head and was charged by shortstop Andre Rodgers, who over-ran and fumbled the ball. Park ruled that Gilliam would have beaten the play even if Rodgers had handled the ball cleanly.
"Rodgers and Giants manager Bill Rigney said it should have been called an error. 'I thought he called it too soon,' said Rigney with Park a listener in the clubhouse. 'If he had thought about it, he couldn't have called it that way. We'll never know if Rodgers could have thrown him out, but the way Rodgers throws, I think we had a chance.'
"Jones, who was aware of his no-hitter all the way, said, 'I thought sure the shortstop would get it. Had he caught the ball, he would have got Gilliam.' Then, turning to a group of questioning reporters, Jones said, 'Why don't you buy yourself another scorekeeper.'"
My father was one of the rotating official scorekeepers during his tenure covering the Dodgers and, in fact, was the official scorer during Koufax's perfect game. In an attached piece that accompanied his article, entitled "As Lederer Saw It," he wrote, "It was a hit. Had it happened in the first inning, there would have been no question. It was unfortunate that Jones lost the no-hitter, but it was the right call. I'm happy that I didn't have to make it, but I would have done the same."
Gilliam's high chopper was indeed a hit as was Scully's "blow-by-blow verbal battle" of one of the greatest baseball rhubarbs and calls of the past 50 years.