Baseball on the Radio….
Last week I rambled on and on about places I have lived. I chose this subject because it was something I knew about (you would think) and because it wasn’t about COPD. I will continue my other rambling about COPD and COPD related issues as they come to my attention or when I feel I have something to share, and of course I will be doing “How I feel today …. “ at least once a week. The key I found in writing about COPD is that I found I enjoy writing and the act of writing.
So I have decided to branch off into other areas that strike my fancy, anyway here I am. In last week’s ramble I spoke to listening to baseball on the radio, and how that started on my Grandfathers farm in Kentucky. For those that didn’t read last week’s ramble (and to increase the word count) here is an edited version.
The next stop Waynesburg KY. My grandfather’s farm. We lived here while my father transitioned between jobs. I have a ton of fond memories and no real negative memories at all. The farmhouse was warm and inviting, thunderstorms on the tin roof, the outhouse was far enough away, the food was great, and we could explore and explore. We also went berry picking with mom and grandma, we churned butter, we hand grinded ice cream, learn to listen to baseball on a radio (which to this day is still my favorite way to be involved in baseball), and most importantly learned I didn’t want to grow up to be a farmer. And while I learned I didn’t want to be a farmer, my understanding of its’ importance grew and grew, and to the day I have nothing but the utmost admiration for farmers and farming…..
So on with the blog. I think to understand my enjoyment of baseball on the radio you need to first understand that when I was born TV was an infant, not much older than me. Radio had been around a long time, and was well established during my youth. And if memory serves of the many documentaries I’ve seen about TV is correct, most of the original TV shows got their start as long playing radio shows. All I am saying is as a kid listening to the radio was almost as important as watching TV.
As long as I can remember there was a radio in the house, heck there were at least 2 or 3 radios in any given house, kinda like TV’s today. I remember Dad liking country music, and “talk” radio. I don’t recall what Mom liked but I don’t remember her ever changing the station, from what Dad listened to. I do remember hearing the “The Ballad of Davy Crocket” and the polka dot bikini song on the radio as child. Music didn’t become important to me until I was in the 7th grade in Shelbyville KY. Anyway I have a lot of history with the radio.
Finally on to the jest of the subject. Grandpa was a farmer, and from the time I have any memories at all until I was in the 10th grade, it was mandatory that anytime the family visited the farm I went. The entire family went, during the summer we would go for at least 2 weeks, at a stretch. When we lived in Shelbyville and Louisville we came in mass to the farm for weekends. The key is that most of our visits were during the spring and summer months, prime time for baseball. Grandpa was, well to do, as farmers went, but his house didn’t have indoor plumbing, it didn’t have TV, it didn’t have AC, yes it did have electricity, but they used the wood burning stove more often than the electric one. Each room in the farm house had 1 electric outlet (as I remember) and there was a lamp plugged into it. In grandpa and grandma’s room they had the coal stove, and the radio. Grandpa had control, only grandpa could change the channel, and we listened to what he wanted to hear. In the morning it was crop reports and weather, and in the evening it was news and BASEBALL, on the weekends it was radio preachers, but never music. Being in south central Kentucky, the team of choice was the Cincinnati Reds. I was born in Baltimore MD, so the Orioles are my choice (though the Rays are trying to become my #1 team). This was back in the day when there was only regional radio, there wasn’t a national game of the week, ESPN wasn’t even a single cell, and teams didn’t have TV deals, but teams had radio deals and regional advertising. While we listened to a Reds game also every night, I don’t have any memories of listening to specific games, so I can say I heard that homerun on the radio. You also need to understand there wasn’t any distractions, no blaring music, no bright lights, yes you could hear the crickets, but in the country the sound of the radio could carry a long way even with the volume set low. While I don’t have memories of any particular game, but I have specific memories of the event of listening to a game with grandpa. We (those listening to the game) sat with grandpa, if he sat on the porch we sat on the porch, if he listened in the bedroom we joined him there. No matter where, grandpa rocked in his chair. He had a porch chair and a bedroom chair, and we sat on the floor as he rocked. Sitting there on the darken porch, with lightening bugs twinkling before you as the announcer described the action was cool. It was kinda like a Field of Dreams moment, sitting in the bleachers looking at an empty baseball field, but in your mind’s eye, you could see every player, every catch, and every swing of the bat. You could close your eyes and have 20/20 vision, you could open your ears and hear the ball hit the glove, or slam off the bat. The announcer told you who was on what base, if he was fast or not, and if the pitcher had a good pickoff move. You could hear the crowds in the background, and every couple inning (if you were lucky) the announcer would tell you who was winning other games being played that night. You had to pay attention too, because there was no replay.
There was a magic about listening to the game with grandpa, a calming affect after a busy or hectic day, and a sense of wisdom. Listening to the game was an emotional event. While I am 1000 pct sure there were constant interruptions by my brothers, or maybe my sister, even my parents, I do not remember a single one. I don’t remember a single detail from those games, but when I close my eyes, I hear every sound from the radio. I hear the balls and strike count, the batters stats, where he played minor league ball and on and on, yet I don’t remember a single detail. The game wasn’t slowed down so TV could run a million commercials, back then there were only brief commercials between innings, maybe no more that 15 or 20 seconds, and you would only get 2 or 3 between innings. Also depending on the time the game started really made a big difference. Grandpa worked his farm, so when he went to bed, the radio was turned off. See grandpa wasn’t such a big fan that he had to stay up until the last out. When it was time for bed it was time for bed. I don’t even remember being frustrated by this, because I knew that the next night would bring the next game. And the journey would begin again. In hindsight maybe Grandpa wasn’t as big a fan as I thought, maybe he listened to the balls games for my benefit, to teach me something, to maybe instill a level of calmness, to give me direction, or give me an appreciation for things that would come in the future.
When we lived in Shelbyville KY, I had my own radio in my room. The love I had for listening to sports on the radio had grown because of the time with grandpa, and it carried over for the rest of my life. Anyway I discovered Univ of Kentucky basketball. I very clearly remember laying in the bed listening to UofK games, and in particular Cotton Nash. UofK was a monster in college basketball even back then, and for 2 years during basketball season I would listen to UofK. So now I had summer and winter taken care of with sports radio. But also by this time more and more sports were being televised, and TV’s had become nicer, but there were still only 3 channels and UHF. So the radio was taking a back seat. Also around this time I found music.
But the key event was moving to Louisville KY. I immediately became a fan of UofL. Two events made this happen, Dad took me to a UofL basketball game, and I met Wes Unsel. I played a sandlot basketball game against him (ONCE) and had the nerve to try and (try is the important word here) post him up under the board. He knock my ass into the next county, did it cleanly, and he only had to do it twice for me to get the message. Wes Unsel went on to become an All-America at the University of Louisville, a number 1 draft pick in the NBA, and a NBA Hall of Fame member. Those two events led me to become a Univ of Louisville fan, in all sports, PERIOD. I am also a fan of the Baltimore Orioles, the Washington Redskins, Tampa Bay Rays, and for the period when Wes played pro ball I was a fan of the Baltimore/Washington Bullets.
As I grew older I started to rely more and more on television for my sports. But I have also maintained my fondness for listening to Baseball on the radio. I remember summers in each home I have lived in as an adult, to times when I would sit on the deck or porch or whatever and listen to a baseball game. Usually it has been a solitary thing, with a smoke and a drink. I quit smoking almost 25 years ago, but the joy of sitting in the darkening evening listening to a game still makes me smile. When we lived in Alexandria VA we had a wonderful deck off the back sliding doors, and we had stereo speakers that were for the deck and the game would be on them. Sometimes my wife would join me, sometimes not. But I didn’t need company to enjoy the game. It was like being on grandpa porch once again, only now the team was the Baltimore Orioles, and I did listen until the last out.
Still more on me, enjoying baseball on the radio. As I have said, my team of choice is the Orioles, but I can and will listen to whatever game I have on the radio. When my Mom was ill, I would drive from Tampa to Louisville on a regular basis (of course it is a round trip). I would grow tired of music, be it Blues, Hard Rock, Country, whatever. I would also get tired of talk radio, you hear one nut on the radio you have heard them all, and there is only so much NPR one can listen to at any given time, and there are only so many spins you can put to describing the color red. But I didn’t get tired of Baseball, I could and can drive for hours and listen, again it is solitary thing, and you don’t have to play real real close attention. You can miss an at bat or 5, and generally not a lot has gone on, sure there are times you’re not paying attention and 7 runs have been scored. Oh well, that baseball. It goes back to sitting on the porch on Grandpa’s farm and quietly listening to the Reds play, your mind can drift, your mind can visualize the game, and you feel it in the heart, you can see the lightening bugs. Thanks for letting me share.