Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully thanked Los Angeles Dodgers fans for making him feel like an 8-year-old again every time they cheer. The crowd, in turn, saluted Scully with a loud roar and multiple standing ovations on his appreciation night Friday.
Holding hands with wife Sandi, he walked slowly from the dugout along a blue carpet dotted with the team's logo to a stage set up in front of home plate for the pre-game ceremony honoring his 67 years in the team's broadcast booth.
Smiling, laughing and waving to the crowd, Scully placed his left hand over his heart in a sign of gratitude. As the applause and cheers continued, he shook his head and mouthed "OK" to let the crowd know it could quiet down.
They ignored him.
"Hi everybody and a very pleasant good evening to you," Scully said, his signature greeting drawing the first of several roars. "I thought I'd get that out of the way right away."
The first 50,000 fans in attendance before the Dodgers' 5-2 win over Colorado received a typed letter signed by Scully containing recollections from his 67-year career that began in Brooklyn with the Dodgers and continued when the team moved west for the 1958 season.
"You were simply always there for me," Scully wrote. "I have always felt that I needed you more than you needed me and that holds true to this very day. I have been privileged to share in your passion and love for this great game."
In his remarks, Scully thanked the fans for "your enthusiasm, your passion for the game."
"When you roar, when you cheer, when you are thrilled for a brief moment I'm 8 years old again," he said. "You have allowed me to be young at heart. I owe you everything."
Actor Kevin Costner, baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred, Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax and Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw were among the speakers paying tribute to the 88-year-old Scully, who is retiring next weekend after Los Angeles concludes its regular season in San Francisco.
"Obviously he is a Dodger at heart, but he called a lot of really important games and people regard him to be one of those rare treasures that are always going to be a part of baseball," Manfred said before the ceremony.
Scully showed his sense of humor when explaining that he is often asked about his future. He turns 89 in November.
"I'm going to try to live," he said, drawing laughs. "I'm looking for a much smaller house and a much larger medicine cabinet."
Noting his five children, 16 grandchildren and three great grandchildren, Scully said, "I guarantee you if I don't know what to do they will find something for me to do."
Dodgers chairman Mark Walter, former owner Peter O'Malley and former managers Tom Lasorda and Joe Torre, now an MLB executive, were among those on hand. O'Malley's father, Walter, first owned the team and was instrumental in bringing the Bronx-born Scully west when the Dodgers relocated to the vast Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
"It was a very strange phenomenon to be on the field and hear the broadcast coming out of the stands," Koufax said. "The people of Los Angeles, even though they were at the game, didn't enjoy it without hearing Vin tell them about it. He entertained and he educated them."
The ceremony began with Bob Costas narrating a video featuring vintage photos from Scully's career and memories from former Dodger Steve Garvey, actor Bryan Cranston, fellow announcers Joe Buck, Dick Enberg and Al Michaels, Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson, and comedian George Lopez, among others.
The Dodgers and Colorado players jammed their dugouts to watch.
"We just want to say thank you," Kershaw told Scully during his turn at the podium.
Costner starred in the 1999 baseball movie "For Love of the Game," in which Scully narrated the play-by-play of his character's perfect game.
"We're all taking deep breaths, Vin," Costner said. "We're all struggling with our own emotions as we admit we're down to our last three outs with you. You're our George Bailey and it has been a wonderful life. You can't blame us for trying to hold on to you for as long as we can. And shame on us if you ever have to pay for another meal in public."
Manfred announced a $50,000 donation from Major League Baseball to the Jackie Robinson Foundation in Scully's name. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts toted the oversized check on stage. Scully called Robinson's career when he broke the sport's color barrier in 1947.
After the speeches, both teams lined up on each side of home plate, removed their caps and listened to John Williams conduct the Los Angeles Philharmonic in the national anthem behind the mound.
Scully stepped to the microphone and proclaimed, "It's time for Dodger baseball."
And then he was gone, hurrying upstairs to his fifth-floor booth to spin another night's worth of baseball lore for generations of Angelenos soothed by the sound of his voice.