I’ve spent my life listening to baseball. Not watching it. Listening to it.
When I was a child, one of my prized possessions was a small transistor radio. I spent many wonderful summer nights lying in my bed with that transistor radio on my chest as I listened to Harry Carey broadcast the Cardinals’ baseball games on KMOX Radio from St. Louis.
I remember those broadcasts as if they were tape recordings in my mind, which in a sense, they are. To this day, I can recite to you by memory the entire starting lineup of the Cardinals in the early 1960s. Bill White was at first base. Julian Javier was at second, with Dick Groat at short and Ken Boyer at third.
In the outfield were Lou Brock, Curt Flood and Stan “The Man” Musial.
My fellow Memphian (and all-time favorite Cardinal) Tim McCarver was behind the plate, and the legendary Bob Gibson was on the mound.
I remember Harry Carey describing a home run: “There’s a long fly ball to left center … Way back! It might be! It could be! It is! Home run, Stan Musial!”
Often I did not hear the entire game. I would fall asleep in the late innings, literally taking a 7th inning stretch.
When I would awaken the next morning, I would quickly run to the family kitchen to read the sports page of the Commercial Appeal while I ate a bowl of Rice Krispies. I would then check the box scores to see if my Cardinals had prevailed.
The Cardinals were (and still are) my favorite team, but they are not the only team I listened to on the radio. I would turn that transistor radio dial as if I were a safecracker robbing a bank vault. With a little luck, I could pick up the Cincinnati Reds on WLW or Milo Hamilton broadcasting the Braves over WSB in Atlanta.
Over a half century has passed since I was that little boy listening to baseball on my transistor radio. But my love affair of listening to the national pastime continues to this day. I now have satellite radio that enables me to hear every MLB game broadcast each night from Fenway Park in Boston to AT&T Park in San Francisco.
Radio is the perfect medium for baseball. While I love being at the ballpark, there is something even more relaxing and enjoyable to hear a fine broadcaster describe the action, or in the case of baseball, the often-time wonderful lack of action.
A critic of baseball once cynically described it as “a game in which 30 minutes of action is crammed into 3 and a half hours!” And I say thank God for that! In this ridiculously fast-paced world of deadlines and frenetic activity, it is wonderful to have a game without shot clocks or sudden death overtime. And the very best radio broadcasters can describe the excitement of a walk-off home run or an intentional walk with the same colorful and wonderful excellence.
Over the last few months, I have taken the time to listen to one particular radio baseball broadcaster, Vin Scully, who will drop the mic this weekend after 67 seasons as the voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Vin Scully has the greatest voice I’ve ever heard. It’s as smooth as a Ted Williams’ swing or a Sandy Koufax fast ball.
I will miss his voice, just as I miss the voices of Harry Carey and Jack Buck and Milo Hamilton and so many wonderful broadcasters who have brought baseball into my home or my car over the years.
There’s a part of me that will always be that little boy safe at home with that transistor radio on my chest listening to Harry Carey tell me that it might be … it could be … a home run!