Vin Scully called it a career last weekend, and why not?
The man will be 89 on Nov. 29 and has established a towering resume, including the television call of Don Larsen’s perfect World Series game for the Yankees 60 years ago Saturday.
Bob Wolff? Not so fast.
He is not ready to drop the mic, even though he will turn 96 on Nov. 29 and has his own remarkable resume, including the radio call of Larsen’s perfect game that same long-ago afternoon at Yankee Stadium.
He still contributes commentaries to News 12 Long Island and plans to keep going indefinitely.
“I enjoy it,” he said by phone from his Rockland County home. “If I didn’t do it, what would I do to have fun?”
And by the way, his call of the Dodgers’ final out was richer than that of the Scully kid — seven years his junior, to the day — although in fairness he had the broader canvas of radio on which to paint the picture.
Wolff has heard the call countless times over the decades, but it never gets old.
“I listen closely to make sure I sounded OK,” he said, with a laugh. “I love it when I hear it . . . I did the clip well. I was proud of that. I was proud of my voice when I did it. It sounded excited, and I’m proud that the baseball network always plays that thing now as well. I like the fact that it was a big chance and I came through the way I would have liked.”
MLB Network premiered on Jan. 1, 2009, with the rare kinescope of the TV version, but Wolff’s call of Dale Mitchell taking a called strike for the 27th out has been heard far more often over the years. (Both versions are on YouTube.)
Said Wolff: “Larsen is ready, gets the sign. Two strikes, ball one. Here comes the pitch. Strike three! A no-hitter, a perfect game for Don Larsen!
“Yogi Berra runs out there, he leaps on Larsen and he’s swarmed by his teammates. Listen to this crowd roar! The first World Series no-hitter, a perfect performance by Don Larsen!”
(Unlike Scully, Wolff had avoided using the terms “no-hitter” or “perfect game” during the action for fear of jinxing the outcome.)
Wolff said in that era television producers feared announcers speaking too much, leaving Scully (and others) with styles that would be considered extremely minimalist by modern standards.
“The people who did the hiring kept telling you to speak less,” Wolff said. “No, you don’t speak less, you just caption the pictures, that’s all.”
Even in 2016, being a TV announcer means being somewhat limited. “Michael Kay (of the YES Network) just says, ‘See ya!’ for a home run,” Wolff said. “That spoils all the fun of it for a radio guy. He wants to say, ‘It’s a long drive, going up, and it’s sailing up into the 10th row in the bleachers!’ You want to put all the details in you can.”
Wolff has been friendly with Scully for decades. But Scully has been based on the West Coast since 1958, so their paths rarely cross.
“I thought he had a magnificent voice,” Wolff said. “He was almost like an operatic star with his voice.” He recalled hearing Scully early on and thinking, “Boy, this guy is great.”
Scully started in the business at a young age, but Wolff started even younger, after he suffered a broken ankle while playing baseball for Duke in 1939. Instead, he landed a job at the local CBS radio affiliate.
That was 77 years ago. Now he and his wife, Jane, who is 97, have 11 great-grandchildren, and he feels pretty good, all things considered. “My legs aren’t as good as they used to be,” he said. “I don’t plan on doing any dashes. But I’m alive at 95.”
Wolff used to travel to Long Island to record his weekly commentaries, but now he makes the shorter trip to News 12’s sister station in Yonkers. He did one this week on the two New York baseball managers, Terry Collins and Joe Girardi.
“I think they have done a heck of a good job; they’re optimistic guys, and I think both the Mets and the Yankees are very fortunate to have two guys who seem to care about people,” he said. “They look like guys I’d like to play for.”
Wolff spoke early Wednesday evening, and said he would have no trouble making it to the end of the Giants-Mets wild-card game. “I’m so used to going to bed at 1 or 2 in the morning, staying up is great,” he said.
He marveled at the fact Scully and Dick Enberg, 81, who stepped down as the Padres’ announcer last weekend, kept going for so long, given the grind of the job and in particular of the travel.
At one point Wolff was working 250 events or so a year, including iconic ones such as the 1958 NFL Championship Game. He was the Knicks’ lead TV voice for both of their NBA championship seasons in 1969-70 and ’72-73, among many other things.
He rarely gets out to games in person these days. But the job goes on.
“I love the fact that I’m doing opinion pieces,” he said. “They may not be right, but they’re opinions.”