In the late 1970's, as a young child, I learned about a baseball team called The New York Yankees.These Yankees seem to win a lot of games, important games. I learned of this powerhouse team because my dad was a fan, and he had a little radio. He would take the radio out into his garden, and while he worked, he would listen to Phil Rizzuto, Frank Messer and Bill White call the games. "Holy Cow!" Rizzuto would exclaim, and my dad would mumble something in agreement. I quickly started to recognize the names of the players. My dad would ask me to name as many players as I could remember: Ron Guidry, Thurman Munson, Willie Randolph and Reggie Jackson were my favorites, although I did appreciate the unique names of Goose Gossage, Catfish Hunter, and Sparky Lyle (little did I know that Sparky Lyle would autograph my daughter's baseball at an independent league game in 2016).Those moments in the garden with that little radio became indelible memories which sustain me in times like these.
According to a Baseball Hall of Fame article (https://baseballhall.org/discover-more/stories/baseball-history/voices-of-the-game), the first radio broadcast of a baseball game occured on August 5th, 1921 at a Pirates and Phillies game. The announcer was Harold Arlin, who was only 25 at the time. While Arlin called the game from a seat at the field level, many clubs went on to re-create games, using a person at the game to feed information to broadcasters at a station, according to Pat Hughes, who wrote the article for the Baseball Hall of Fame (Hughes is the radio voice for the Chicago Cubs). Hughes states that clubs were weary of radio broadcasts because they thought they would lose ticket sales; however, by 1939 all 16 major league clubs had agreed to radio broadcasts, with the New York City clubs being the last ones to present the games over the radio.Almost immediately, a rising star named Red Barber forever changed the way games would be broadcast over the radio. In his piece, Hughes writes about the power of radio broadcasts, saying, "Despite the widespread proliferation of televised baseball coverage, the love affair between baseball and radio continues to flourish. Every ballclub has a regional network of 40 to 50 radio stations, or more, and it remains a hot business commodity. Hundreds of millions of dollars exchange hands each year in radio rights fees and sponsorships. TV hasn't vanquished radio yet, and it doesn't look like it'll happen any time soon."
In recent years, I have found myself relying once again on the radio to keep up with the games. After teaching graduate classes in the early evenings, I could enjoy the game on the commute home or while I was chauffeuring my daughter to various activities. The afternoon games were always a treat; I could grade papers in my office while quietly turning on the broadcast (much to the consternation of my colleagues who were Mets and Red Sox fans). Nowadays, I find myself marooned abroad and missing some of the comforts of home, like those giant tubs of peanut butter one finds at Costco. Thanks to WFAN, John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman, however, my homesickness is partially alleviated. When the game times permit listening at a reasonable hour, I put in my ear buds and listen to the broadcast. I could get the televised game through the MLB app, too, but there's something about listening that makes me appreciate the game a bit more. Perhaps John Sterling's spontaneous homerun calls remind me of Phil Rizzuto's enthusiasm I heard as a child. Perhaps it is the chance to take my eyes off of a screen and hearken back to a by-gone era in which we were not fixated on devices. Or perhaps, more simply, it's like being in the garden in 1978 with my dad, sharing a game, and looking forward to the time when we can share one together again.