(This very site seemed to have vanished on Nov. 6; at moments like that, one realizes how fragile all this geekiness is in the hands of innocents. Maybe it will re-appear on its own.)
Baseball has vanished to the other side of the moon, not to reappear til March. My greatest memory from the 2013 World Series goes beyond the joy of watching Ortiz and Lester and Pedroia and Uehara -- exuberant phenomena that even a non-Red Sox fan could love.
The best baseball note of October came from David Waldstein of The New York Times as he tried to outrun the ubiquitous KMOX on Tuesday night. He got south of Memphis, into Mississippi, and that landmark AM station was still going strong, outlasting the game itself. Here’s the link:
The part I loved about Waldstein's article was that it celebrated the holy union between baseball and radio, as good as ever, late in its first century. What fan has not learned to love the sport from an hour or two in the car, listening to great chunks of a ball game, epic or mundane?
It’s one of the great relationships in American life – the ball fan with the gabby play-by-play broadcaster and color commentator. I have great patience with John Sterling of the Yankees because he fills that job description – a character, living memory, part of the act.
I can recall some epic games in the car:
The car radio delivers amazing events. I remember driving before dawn from Nashville to eastern Kentucky, in 1971, listening to a New Orleans clear-channel station, I believe WWL, 870 on the dial, describing the final hours of Mardi Gras. I remember driving from the Detroit airport to Pontiac for a World Cup soccer match in 1994, listening to WFAN, 660 AM, for the madness in Madison Square Garden as fans watched the eerie O.J. Simpson drive along the freeway as it unfolded on TV. On drives on Long Island on Saturday night, I used to catch the Grand Ole Opry on WSM at 650 AM.
But nothing suits radio better than baseball. It is now officially Off Season. If you pick up any ball games from now until spring training, courtesy of sun spots or time warps or dark holes, please let me know.
Any great baseball car drives you can recall?
Alan D. Levine
11/1/2013 03:53:28 am
One stands out, but it's not a good memory. Driving along Tyringham Road in the Berkshires on a beautiful August day in 2005 and turning on WFAN just in time to hear Carlos Beltran and Mike Cameron collide in the outfield.
11/1/2013 04:21:15 am
Would a baseball walk count?
11/1/2013 05:03:29 am
Stereophonic radios. Too bad more people didn't go to the games. O'Malley would have had a harder time rationalizing the move. But you're right, baseball was a radio sport in those days -- and less air conditioning, so the sound carried. GV
11/1/2013 08:54:09 am
GV, In 1955 and 1956 Ebbets Field attendance was second in the league, behind County stadium in Milwaukee- about 1.2 million
11/4/2013 03:02:39 pm
Ed--There was a 10 year period when the Dodgers were either 1st, 2nd or 3rd in major league attendance. Considering their 32,000 capacity and that most were daytime games during the period, it shows the loyalty of the fans.
11/1/2013 05:29:39 am
Fathers' Day 1964. Stuck in traffic on the way to New Rochelle to take my grandpa out to dinner. A guy in the car next to us is gesticulating madly to my Dad who rolled down his window to hear the guy yell, "JIM BUNNING JUST PITCHED A PERFECT GAME!" And we missed it. Forgot to even turn on the radio.
11/1/2013 07:05:35 am
East Asian Navy duty, last year in Japan, 1967-68. Dialed into the 1967 World Series via Armed Forces Radio (Far East Network) at 0200 on game days in Boston. I can still remember being up at appx 0430 in game seven, when Stanford's and Sox' great Jim Lonborg could not pull off a third victory. The Sox were behind from the beginning, and even across 8000 miles of short wave static, there in my Tokyo house one could have heard a pin drop in Fenway.
11/1/2013 09:26:16 am
But AM radio -- where almost all baseball is broadcast -- has been in decline for decades. There is a New York Times story today on efforts to bring it back. I too have great radio memories, although I am far younger than most of you; I remember listening to Mel Allen, Phil Rizzuto (he was good then) and Red Barber call Yankee games.
11/2/2013 01:48:08 pm
Craig, thanks for calling my attention to the AM article. Didn't realize the situation was so Sirius.
11/1/2013 02:56:16 pm
This drive happened during a baseball season, but there was no baseball to be found. I was caught mid-flight on 9/11 on the way to California (by way of Phoenix, thank you Southwest) when we were forced to land in St.Louis. We were unaware of the events until they were over, but spared the immediate trauma we were still victims of circumstance, stuck in a purgatorial holding cell and waiting for the national shock to wear off. After three days of hoping for a resumption of flight service, I rented a car at the airport and headed north to Route 80 and then east toward home. I relied on NPR that day, jiggling the dial as I passed from one broadcast zone into another. I would have given anything to have heard a baseball game ... I'd even have put up with Sterling, if it came down to it. Still, the NPR broadcast threw out a small, consistent beacon of normalcy in an otherwise abnormal moment in our time. I'm thankful for that.
11/2/2013 02:24:32 am
Charlie, great point. The NPR stations are often synchronized, easily findable. My wife and I were driving north on Dec. 2, 1990, when Aaron Copland passed. Through coastal Georgia and South Carolina, we were able to enjoy Appalachian Spring and Fanfare for the Common Man, plus his biography and interviews and critiques. I think of that when the lunkheads in Congress talk about NPR as the devil that needs to be defunded. In their own red states, there is a web of culture and knowledge, operating because people in those regions want it, need it. Fanfare for the Common Man, indeed.
11/2/2013 05:02:27 am
Peggy and I drive to and from Florida to Canada and return each summer and have the joy of NPR virtually all the way. In our early days we drove between NYC and Tuscaloosa, Ala. On the weekends NBC had a program called Monitor, what would be called today a magazine format, I believe. It was NPR before NPR and Bob and Ray had hilarious segments that are unforgettable, spoofing sports reporters among others. Tuscaloosa was a radio wasteland in the 50s and early 60s and I would cries the clear channel stations looking for jazz, baseball, conversation, etc. WHO from DesMoines was an eye-opener they broadcast a long list of High school girls basketball scores-- Ottuma 37- Waterloo 26. Girls basketball in the dark ages! WWL in N.O. Had jazz after midnight, "Moon Glow with Martin (sending and receiving.). KMOX brought Cardinal games sometimes, Crossley fro Cincinnati (forget call letters) and WGN from Chicago also were intermittent and sometimes KDKA from Pgh.
11/2/2013 09:10:54 am
And let's not forget WHO in Marshalltown, Iowa.
11/3/2013 11:32:51 am
You had me there for awhile GV. I found no info on the link,connecting Marshalltown to WHO, but thanks to Wikipedia I found Adrian "Cap" Anson, Hall of Fame Baseball Player, from a time even before my time.
11/10/2013 10:11:11 am
Great stuff on baseball and radio, but the real message that I get from the many interesting posts is the beauty of radio and its impact on society over the years since its inception.
Edwin W Martin Jr
11/11/2013 01:36:21 pm
Hi Alan, Just catching up on your last post. We listened to just about the same shows. There was one centered around three characters, Jack, Doc and Reggie. It might have been called, "I Love a Mystery." It kind of set me back a bit when I heard the same three actors on "One Man's Family" a family oriented soap--they played the three Barber brothers.
11/3/2013 11:24:19 pm
Cincinnati's WLW brought Clara Kappelhoff (Doris Day) to the air.
11/2/2013 05:02:32 am
11/2/2013 09:14:07 am
Altenir: keep driving with two hands!
11/3/2013 06:51:13 am
11/3/2013 03:46:20 pm
George’s mention of Vin Scully got me recalling a few things. My memory’s not the greatest, but 60 years later I can still remember his exact words as the Dodger game came on: “It’s time for Brooklyn Dodger baseball! Brought to you by the F & M Schaefer Brewing Company, makers of Schaefer – it’s REAL beer; and the American Tobacco Company, makers of Lucky Strike – remember, LSMFT: Lucky Strike means fine tobacco!”
11/3/2013 11:18:03 pm
I caught Scully while driving around LA two years ago. Still the best. Couldn't get the Beach Boys on the car radio, however.
11/4/2013 02:54:33 am
From 1963 to 1968 I spent five years in graduate school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Somehow in those days of my yout' as Casey Stengel would say it, I'd drive the 1000 miles from NYC in one stretch, baseball broadcasts being my steady companion. Harry Caray and Jack Buck on KMOX may not have liked each other off the air but they were a precise delight to listen to, talking about bad positioning on defense and then bingo! a triple over a center fielder playing too shallow. That's one clear memory I have.
11/4/2013 03:28:27 am
Lee, five years in grad school? I' m impressed. But it was Madison -- a great place to be in those days (or any days).
11/4/2013 04:52:06 am
Lee--great to hear from you. It has been a while since Josh interned at WBAI and got me on to your sports program. He had given me a cassette of your interview with Kevin Kerrane discussing his book, "Dollar Sign on the Muscle: The World of Baseball Scouting" as well as the book. An interesting read. I asked a scout at a Pittsfield met's game if he had read the book. He said that it was quick accurate.
11/4/2013 09:39:16 am
alan - wonderful to hear from you. Please give my best to Josh.
11/6/2013 10:31:32 am
Lee's book, "Branch Rickey" is a great read. "Dollar Sign on the Muscle: The World of Baseball Scouting" by Kevin Kerrane complements it well since it covers Rickey's farm systems and his harsh treatment of minor league prospects.
11/4/2013 03:24:42 am
WWL. Thanks for the memory jolt. Good old Clara, I remember her. Didn't she own the club at one time-- no that was Marge.
11/4/2013 03:39:38 am
I just went back and listened to Scully calling that last half inning of Koufax’s perfect game. As the last batter came to the plate, I was reminded of another of Scully’s signature phrases: “Smith has his foot in the door, and Koufax is trying to close it.”
11/4/2013 03:54:45 am
George - My childhood buddies from KC have fond radio/baseball memories. I've enclosed their KC Blues thoughts.
11/4/2013 03:57:15 am
More KC radio
11/4/2013 08:08:24 am
Bill, nothing like home-town broadcasters on the radio. Bob Murphy almost had the listener shocked that the Mets ever lost a game. But late in his career, after the Phillies, I think, staged a huge rally, he ended up his recap with, "Aw, t'hell with it." He thought he was gone, but everybody agreed, it was charming.
11/4/2013 10:55:15 am
I started to understand how great car radios were when I was 17. My family and I had just attended a Nets-Warriors exhibition game at Nassau Coliseum in October 1975. They were my favorite ABA and NBA teams.
11/4/2013 11:39:56 am
great memory. 6th game?
11/4/2013 02:01:01 pm
G.V- I remembered that the game was in Cincinnati and Tiant pitched. I looked it up and it was Game 4. That was a memorable World Series. Jonathan Schwartz is still my favorite dj because he would talk about baseball on his show. I am glad he is still on the air.
11/5/2013 12:09:18 am
Did you see the great Remnick profile of Jonathan in last week's New Yorker? GV
11/6/2013 06:06:31 am
After reading David Remnick, I agree with Remnick, in this age of large corporations running radio stations, I am glad to know that Jonathon Schwartz is doing his own show without interference. G.V. that was a great article.
11/4/2013 12:12:56 pm
Peggy Martin chips in. She worked on 27th street and 7th Ave. And as she walked up toward Penn Station she sway crowds of people almost pressing up against store windows. Distinguished men in blue suits, bicycle messengers, working women, homeless people all staring at flickering tv sets broadcasting the Mets-Houston 16 inning playoff game. Lots of people got home late that night.
11/5/2013 12:12:18 am
One of the most desperate games the Mets ever played. They would get Mike Scott the next day.
11/5/2013 02:18:54 am
George, what a great idea you had on this string. Vecsey on line may be the best thing since baseball and radio. The Mets-Houston game reminded me of a visit John McMullen, Nets and Houston owner made to the Henry Viscardi School on Long Island, a non-profit, tuition-free school for children with physical disabilities. As I showed him around we came upon a youngster using a wheel chair and Mr Mc Mullen asked him if he liked baseball. The youngster immediately said yes and McMullen told him his favorite player was Mike Scott. The lad's expression darkened and he replied, "He's a scuffer!".
11/5/2013 06:28:49 am
John McMullen was a good guy. Heart on his sleeve.
2/17/2018 09:16:37 am
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From the great Maureen Dowd:
As I write this, I’m in a deserted newsroom in The Times’s D.C. office. After working at home for two years during Covid, I was elated to get back, so I could wander around and pick up the latest scoop.
But in the last year, there has been only a smattering of people whenever I’m here, with row upon row of empty desks. Sometimes a larger group gets lured in for a meeting with a platter of bagels."
--- Dowd writes about the lost world of journalists clustered in newsrooms at all hours, smoking, drinking, gossipping, making phone calls, typing, editing.
"Putting out the paper," we called it.
Much more than nostalgia.