More dramatic than the playoffs?

Courtesy of my father, here’s the last half-inning of Vin Scully calling Sandy Koufax’s perfect game on September 9, 1965. I’ve heard a bit of him on the radio during both Dodgers division series games so far, and he still sounds pretty much the same, 43 years later.

During the regular season, for the games he broadcasts (everything but away games east of the Rockies), Vin does the entire game on TV, with the first three innings simulcast on the

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radio; Charley Steiner and Rick Monday do the rest of the game on the radio. For the playoffs, with no local TV, Vin is doing the first three and last three innings on the radio, which means he gets to take three innings off. In his L.A. Times column today, T.J. Simers suggested that he uses the time to take an extended bathroom break, but I prefer to imagine him going over to the WGN booth to try to distract Pat Hughes and Ron Santo. (Yes, I know he’s too much of a professional to actually do that.)

The olden days

Phil Rizzuto’s death today comes just a couple of days after I (finally) listened to a Christmas present from my father: a 2-CD set containing the radio broadcast of the Yankees and Dodgers in Game 5 of the 1949 World Series (the deciding game). At one point during the game, Mel Allen points out that if you saw Scooter walking with the rest of the team, because of his small size, you might think he was the batboy.

It was a game with a lot of action (16 total runs), but I found the radio broadcast more interesting for things other than the game itself. Red Barber and Mel Allen were the announcers, with each responsible for the team they announced for during the regular season — Mel was at the mike by himself in the half-innings when the Yankees were batting, with Red while the Dodgers were up. Occasionally, they would talk to each other between innings, mostly to do live commercials for Gillette (all of the commercials were for Gillette — this was a “Gillette Cavalcade of Sports” broadcast).

At one point, Red Barber mentions that Jerry Coleman was moving Jackie Robinson’s glove out of the way — fielders used to leave their gloves at their position. And Mel Allen refers to the fact that the American League umpires were wearing their chest protectors on the outside, and the National League umpires were wearing them on the inside.

There’s also a mention that this Sunday game started an hour late (2:00 instead of 1:00) due to “New York state law” and couldn’t go past 7:00 for the same reason. Because of all the action, the game goes fairly long, and the umpires confer with commissioner Happy Chandler in the stands, with the results being that the lights are turned on for the first time during a World Series game.

And for a broadcasting geek like me — I didn’t realize the phrase “let’s pause 10 seconds for station identification” was that old, but there it was, followed by a station identification for “WOR and WOR-FM, New York” and a suggestion to watch the game on WOR-TV, Channel 9. Yes, I did know WOR-FM and WOR-TV were that old.

Play ball!

I became a baseball fan the summer I turned eleven. My mother was taking classes towards a degree in social work at a college about an hour’s drive from Carmi, and my brother and I would ride along with her a couple of nights a week to the campus. On the drive, we would tune in to the Cardinals, carried at that point on the clear-channel powerhouse of KMOX. The Cardinals were very good that summer, holding off a tough Mets team to win the division and then the pennant before a disappointing World Series performance. Jack Buck and Mike Shannon described it all, and made us fans.

Sometime in the next few years, as my baseball fandom turned into the sort of obsession that only preteen boys, it seems, are capable of, I discovered on an out-of-the-way bookshelf in our house a musty, digest-sized baseball magazine previewing the 1974 season. Opening it, I discovered on the first page a nearly inscrutable scrawl, one bearing no little resemblance to my own:

June 1974–Play Ball, Boy! Love, Col.

It was a gift, given at my birth and no doubt tucked away at the time and forgotten, from my great-grandfather, Grandpa Colonel, about whom I’ve written before. Living his whole life in rural Kansas, he spent a lifetime enjoying baseball–and the Cardinals–the same way I grew up enjoying them: on the radio, far from the ballpark. Jack Buck may be gone–as is Grandpa Colonel–but the radio is still my favorite way to experience the game if I can’t be there, and sound of baseball on the radio is still, for me, the heart of summer.

I never was much of a ballplayer, but I find myself thinking of Grandpa Colonel’s admonition every spring. Last Sunday, I spent the morning playing catch with my nephew at Montrose Beach, throwing until our arms ached. Tonight, Stacey and I open the house to friends–several of whom haven’t visited since October–for chili, brats, cornbread, and beer, all in honor of the return of spring. One of these days, we’ll have to get Jim here for the opener.

It’s the Cardinals and Mets. The last time we saw these two teams, they played one of the most exciting, stressful, and rewarding games I’ve ever seen. Tonight, like every spring, it starts all over again.

Play ball.

Report from Santa Barbara, California

On one hand, my car radio could not pick up the NLCS game while in Santa Barbara this evening, although I could pick up the Raiders-Broncos football game on several stations, including the Raiders’ flagship station.

On the other hand, the ice cream stand on Stearns Wharf was serving up Blue Bunny brand ice cream. We like Blue Bunny.

On an unrelated note, for those of you who read this blog but not my personal blog, I start tomorrow as a full-time employee of the Yahoo! corporation. Which means I get paid time off. Which will make it easier to do another baseball road trip in the future. I’m thinking 2008 may be a more realistic proposition than 2007, but I don’t know what Levi is thinking.

Fun at the old ballpark

Seconds ago, as I was sitting in my kitchen editing a post for my other blog, listening to the Cubs play the Rockies, I heard the following exchange between Pat Hughes, Ron Santo, and a surprise mystery guest:

Pat Hughes: Colorado has eight runs on twelve hits and one error, though I think the scorer might change that one.

Ron Santo: Yeah, I think he might.

Official Scorer (in background): I’m not gonna change it.

That’s why I listen to the Cubs even when they’re 48-67.

The Giants win the p–

What would be a very bad time for your microphone to go out? If Barry Bonds makes it to

755, I bet KNBR will be putting a few extra

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microphones in the booth for every game.

Notes on a gray Saturday

1) On the broadcast of today’s Cubs/Padres game:

Pat Hughes: Be careful with this guy, Ron: he spells his name Cla–no “y,” but it’s pronounced “Clay.” I thought it was a mistake. It disturbed me. I couldn’t sleep last night. These things are important.

Ron Santo: You’re bothered a lot of the time, aren’t you?

Pat Hughes: Can’t you tell?

2) Cardnilly heard two people in the stands at Busch Stadium talking about Juan Encarnacion:

Inmate-looking guy [re-emerging from the concourse]: Say, who hit that last home run?
Mildly frightened bystander: Oh, one of the new guys. I forget his name…
ILG: Was it Incarceration?
MFB: Yep. That was the guy.

3) Operation Shutdown may be over, unless Derek Bell can talk the judicial system into letting him continue his workless protest.

4) Pedro has a green thumb. Now if only he’d grow out his hair again, I could wholeheartedly root for him.

5) Congratulations to Jim, who made the 600th post to this blog earlier in the week.

Radio daze

Remember, the Cardinals are no longer on KMOX. Now

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it’s also possible that the Pirates may be leaving their longtime radio home, KDKA.

Radio from space

On Tuesday, DirecTV replaced their Music Choice audio-only channels with a selection of channels from XM Radio. They’re carrying many of XM’s music channels, but only two talk channels — so no Bob Edwards, no BBC World Service, and no old-time radio (although I’m sure Chuck Schaden does a better job than XM).

However, one of the XM talk channels that is on DirecTV is MLB Home Plate — just in time for it to not be baseball season! When I tuned in briefly this morning to research this post, what I heard was a woman talking via phone about putting up sun shades for elementary school playgrounds because it’s 115 degrees during the day in Arizona. Guess they can only talk so much about steroids and/or Ned Colletti. Helpfully, DirecTV’s on-screen display said, “You are listening to Sports talk.” (The other talk channel available on DirecTV features some people apparently named “Opie & Anthony” and “Ron & Fez” — just thinking about it makes my ears hurt.)

On the other hand, listening to the XM ’60s channel is surprisingly similar to listening to my iPod, except that there’s probably no chance of a They Might Be Giants song popping up, and all the jingles are for XM — well, and there’s a DJ who actually does things like talking during the part of the jingle where a DJ is supposed to talk, which I have not managed to duplicate on my iPod. (Also, while I’m sure DirecTV’s numbering system for the XM channels makes sense to someone, it seems a little strange to have “The ’60s on 6” on Channel 803 instead of, say, 806 — and “Highway 16” on 814, and “Top 20 on 20” on 816.)