One of the things baseball fans like to debate is which records are unbreakable.
There are certain records that fall into this category because the game is completely different and will never go back to the way it would have to be for the record to be broken. A lot of pitcher records fall into this category: Cy Young’s 511 career wins is an obvious one, as are Old Hoss Radbourn’s 59-win season in 1884 and Matt Kilroy’s 589⅓ innings in 1887. Those can never be broken because the game is just not played that way anymore.
Then there are the records that are virtually unbreakable: technically possible, even with the game played as it is today, but so unlikely as to not even warrant serious consideration. Cal Ripken’s consecutive game streak of 2,632 (and, to the end, his consecutive innings streak of 8,264); Chief Wilson’s 36 triples in a season for the 1912 Pirates; Hank Aaron’s 25 All-Star games; even Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak is arguably in this territory.
But one record almost never gets mentioned, even though nearly everyone would agree that it is probably impossible to break: Vin Scully’s 66 years of broadcasting games on a regular basis for a major league baseball team . And now comes the word that Vin will be extending that record by returning in 2016 to the Los Angeles Dodgers for a 67th and final season which, at that level, makes it exponentially more likely that his record will indeed never be broken.
You might be thinking at first, hey, good call on mentioning Scully’s streak as a baseball record that’s unbreakable. (I confess that I myself had never considered it before hearing the announcement this morning.) But then you might be thinking, wait, this one will certainly be broken someday, won’t it? After all, each generation lives longer than any generation before it. People living into their nineties and even past 100 is becoming way more common, and soon might even come to be commonplace. So we can’t really call a record of 67 seasons in the broadcast booth totally unbreakable, can we?
Technically, you’d be right to think so, and maybe you’d even be proven right some day. But there are also a few mitigating circumstances to consider. For one, Vin Scully came into the booth as one of the youngest broadcasters ever to call a major league game, during the 1950 season at the age of 22. By contrast, the youngest baseball broadcaster today, Aaron Goldsmith of the Seattle Mariners radio network, started his major league broadcasting career just shy of his 30th birthday. The likelihood of any major league team hiring a kid in his or her early 20s to be a regular on their broadcasts is very slim.
For another thing, in order for someone to call 67 straight seasons of baseball as a regular for a major league team, they would almost certainly have to do so into their 90s, living to which becomes increasingly less likely as you pass through your eighties. When you as an American male turn 80, for instance, your chance of dying that same year is 1 in 16 (contrasted with 1 in 430 at age 40 and 1 in 88 at age 60). That drops to 1 in 8 by Vin’s age of 87, and 1 in 6 by age 89. Put another way, 87% of all American males born in a given year will have died before their 90th birthday. And even though the odds that an American female will live into her nineties is much greater at about 24%, it will be a long time before females are hired as regular major league team broadcasters at a rate that makes it just as likely that a woman will call games into her nineties as it is for a man to do so. So even with today’s extended mortality levels and tomorrow’s egalitarianism in broadcaster hiring, that is still a long, long shot.
Lastly, the chances that someone will remain with a major league team, any major league team, for 67 seasons without getting fired, or without quitting for another job or to go to a network, makes the odds longer still that this record will ever be broken.
Roll that all around in your head, and once you have, you will come to a fresh, new appreciation of the magnitude of the record that Vin Scully sets every time he steps back into the broadcast booth to begin another season, which he will do yet again next spring.
That is beyond amazing, and we are beyond blessed for living in these times so we can witness it.
Congratulations to you for your long and successful career, Vin Scully, and thank you for returning to the booth to entertain us for another year. And special thanks to your lovely wife, Sandi, for allowing you to do so.
(This article has been edited, with a revised headline, from the original to include reference to 2016 as Scully’s final season.)