Friendly fraternity: Branca honors Scully

Branca, Scully have a lasting bond

NEW YORK -- Vin Scully, in his 59th season calling Dodgers baseball games, listened to almost all of the advice that Hall of Fame broadcaster Red Barber gave him over the four seasons that the two shared a radio booth while calling Brooklyn Dodgers games in the early 1950s.

But Scully chose to ignore one law in Barber's rule book.

Barber had advised Scully not to socialize with players, because there might come a day when the radio man would have to be very critical of someone he called a friend.

But Scully willingly chose to become fast friends with Dodgers pitcher Ralph Branca in 1950.

The bond is still strong. The men, who have been friends for more than half a century, seemed genuinely pleased to be reunited once again on Tuesday night, when Branca presented the Lifetime Achievement in Sports Broadcasting Award that was given to Scully by WFUV-FM, the public radio station at Fordham University, Scully's alma mater.

Also honored at The Bronx school's annual spring gala at Sotheby's in Manhattan were singer Emmylou Harris, who performed and was given the WFUV Sound and Vision Award, and veteran television-radio journalist Charles Osgood, who graduated from Fordham in 1954, four years after Scully.

"I know you," Harris said when she met Scully and then echoed a sentiment many have shared. "I recognize you just by your voice."

And when she met Branca, Harris let out a big, "Oh, wow!"

Scully and Branca had much in common when they first met as young men in their early 20s. Scully was born in the Bronx and Branca is from Mount Vernon, N.Y., which is just north of The Bronx. They are both Catholics and they share many of the same interests.

"I never thought about it," said Branca of his friendship with Scully. "He's a friend. I didn't socialize with most of the press. But he was my age, and we were both from New York."

Scully even briefly dated the roommate of Ann Branca, who attended the banquet with her husband on Tuesday.

"There was an instant bonding," said Branca, who is also the father-in-law of former Major League manager Bobby Valentine, who is currently managing in Japan.

"We hit it off well," Scully said. "I think the world of him."

When the Dodgers played a series of games in Japan following the 1956 season, Ralph and Ann Branca planned to continue on afterwards and make a trip around the world. They asked Scully to accompany them and he accepted the offer.

The tour took them to Hong Kong, Pakistan, Rome, Paris, Ireland, England and then back to the United States on the ocean liner Queen Elizabeth. They also spent time in Italy, a stop that included an audience with the Pope.

"The thing that really stands out is that when we were in Japan, most of the ballplayers wanted to eat only hamburgers and steak," Branca said. "Vin would eat all the food in Japan, and I did, too.'"

Branca recalled some of the things on the menu: Shark skin soup, Kobe beef, sushi, teriyaki and other tasty items.

Branca, who lives a quiet life in Westchester County, N.Y., was a three-time All-Star known mostly for throwing the pitch that Bobby Thomson hit for a home run to propel the Giants into the 1951 World Series. The hit, known only as "The Shot Heard 'Round the World," broke the hearts of Brooklyn Dodgers fans everywhere.

Scully recalled that Branca went through a kind of "personal hell" for a time. But the two remained friends.

Unlike Branca, Scully is still going strong, although he no longer travels further east than Denver to broadcast Dodgers' games.

Scully, who has received numerous awards, was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982, the same year he got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

The award that Scully received on Tuesday will carry his name in the years to come. The broadcaster was elated to be getting the honor from a true friend.

Scully plans to keep on calling games for now.

And that's fine with Branca, who often watches Dodgers games to hear Scully on MLB.TV, or catches a broadcast on XM satellite radio.

Kit Stier is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.