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Vince Bagli, One Of A Kind

Vince Bagli, a sportscaster who was on hand for the very best -- and worst -- of Baltimore sports for many seasons, recently celebrated his 80th birthday and this week he will be feted at J. Patrick's in Locust Point.

Some of the announcers who have followed in his footsteps maintain fond memories of the man called "The Dean."

Of the years I worked with Vince Bagli, I most treasure the time we spent together in our sports office. Every day from about 3:30 until 6 p.m., Vince had a string of visitors -- all spur of the moment. If the mayor was in the TV station, he’d stop by the sports department just to say hello to Vince. If the governor was in town, he’d stop by just to say hello to Vince. Chuck Thompson, Brooks Robinson, Johnny Unitas, George Young would all, unannounced, drop by just to say hello to Vince.

On any given day I might look up at my desk and see the Cardinal walk through the sports office door or a retired director, a former producer, one of Vince’s old neighbors, Elrod Hendricks. The well-known and the unknown, the rich and the poor, all came for the same reason: just to say hello to Vince.

It didn’t take long to figure out why. Vince connected with people. He might find a thread about the ’69 World Series or the ’62 Turkey Bowl to discuss, but he always made a point of digging beneath the chatter of sports, the mulch of conversation. Vince didn’t ask, “How’s your wife?” He asked, “How’s Betty?” “Are you still going to that church in Little Italy?” “Is your oldest a senior now?” Vince took the time to really know people.

And they loved him for it.

I no longer share an office with Vince, but I know how every one of those visitors felt. I feel the same way now when I see him in the press box at a Ravens game or an Orioles game or when we talk on the phone. My mood always lifts when I hear the smile beneath his gravely voice when Vince says, “Hey ace, how are you?” Better now, thanks. It’s always better … just to say hello to Vince.
- Gerry Sandusky, WBAL-TV

It was April of 1991. I was new to Baltimore and working for a new TV newscast that hadn't even been on the air yet. I'd go to Memorial Stadium, try to get to know the players, coaches and manager Frank Robinson. I'd also try to get to know my new colleagues, whose reactions varied from mildly interested to not interested at all. There was an exception though -- Vince Bagli.

Vince always asked me to sit down and talk. He wanted to know where I'd worked before, where I grew up and he wanted to know about my family. As I babbled away, I realized something: He had never -- not once -- said anything about himself. 

Here I was, sitting with a bona fide Baltimore legend, and I was monopolizing the conversation. That was Vince. He had the smallest ego ever in the broadcast business.

Some of you may not realize this, but Vince never used a script. He would take some kind of list with him into the studio and just wing it. I loved it. 

When I was learning how to be a sports anchor, my mantra was something that had been drummed into me from the very beginning: Write your scripts in a conversational manner. In other words, write it like you'd say it. 

When I first watched Vince on Channel 11, I finally realized what that meant. Since he used no script, he was basically having a conversation with thousands of people every night. That was his style, and it was brilliant.

My friendship with Vince is still strong. I just saw him at Camden Yards a couple weeks ago. He said "sit down" and proceeded to ask about my family. Just as he had in 1991. Vince Bagli, a true gentleman.
- Bruce Cunningham, WBFF-TV

Just mention the name "Vince Bagli" in conversation among Baltimore sports fans, and you get a smile. There are few names that elicit that response.  Notice the reaction you get when you speak of Brooks Robinson or Johnny Unitas -- similar to when you speak of Vince, or The Dean. He is genuine goodness, reminiscent of the best of times in Baltimore sports.

It's a joy to witness the buzz around Vince in the press box of a Ravens or Orioles game. Non-stop smiles and handshakes, everyone wants a moment with him.Bring up a game, any game, any year, and Vince will regale you with fond detail, making even the most forgettable sports moment come to life in vivid color.  

In my personal scrapbook of sports memories, I treasure every moment spent with Vince.  Sitting with "The Dean" at an O's game is the best; his passion for people and sports is inspiring. 

 - Mark Viviano, WJZ-TV and ESPN Radio 1300

It was a cold night at Memorial Stadium, the final homestand of the 1980 season, the new sports guy didn’t know his way around the beltway when “The Dean” of Baltimore sports sought him out to welcome him to town and offer a helping hand.

My friendship with Vince started that September night. Vince didn’t have competitors, he had friends. The channel numbers might be different, but the things that were important to us were the same; I always took it as a compliment when Vince would size somebody up with a “he’s one of us.”

As for Vince’s work, he was the right guy in the right place. Vince loved Baltimore and knew everything and everybody that had anything to do with it. Could he have made it somewhere else? Sure, but it wouldn’t have been as good.

He might not have been pretty enough for L.A., political enough for D.C. or egotistical enough for New York or Philadelphia, but he was perfect for his hometown. Who else did you want to tell you about the Calvert Hall-Loyola game, that Oriole trade or the feature race at Pimlico?  And if we could listen to just one more Baltimore Colts game,

Chuck and Vince would have to do it.

Without trying to,Vince has written the book for any aspiring sportscaster. His recipe: Have passion for your work and be humble and kind enough to make hundreds of friends along the way.

I don’t have many idols, but I sure admire the way Vince has run the race. He knows
I want to be just like him when I grow up! 
- Scott Garceau, WMAR-TV

Issue 2.24: June 14, 2007