Major League Baseball returns next week. The Boys of Summer will be the boys of half a summer in a 60-game season condensed by the pandemic. They will play in empty ballparks. There will be no spitting, and it may be that it won’t be just the catchers who will be wearing masks.
But while there will be no fans in the stands, we fans sitting on our sofas safe at home will hear the roar of the crowd. The fake crowd that is.
The MLB has provided all its clubs will a fan soundtrack that can be played during the telecasts. The artificial crowd noise includes not only cheers, but jeers and boos as well whenever the umpire makes a bad call.
I grew up watching situation comedy TV shows in the 1950s. Whenever I watched “I Love Lucy” or “Leave It To Beaver” or “Gilligan’s Island,” I would hear audiences laughing uproariously. But there was no audience in the Ricardos’ apartment or on Gilligan’s Island. You could not fit an audience on The Minnow for a 3-hour tour. It wasn’t a real audience guffawing. It was a “laugh track,” a recording of laughter. Whenever Ricky Ricardo told Lucy “You got some ‘splaining to do,” the laugh track would make it sound like a studio audience was howling in glee.
The laugh track even featured fake applause. Each episode of “Andy of Mayberry,” ended with thunderous clapping as if the entire population of Mayberry had walked into the Sheriff’s office to cheer a curtain call by Andy and Barney.
Just as I grew up with a “laugh track,” I and all baseball fans will soon have a “fan track,” to make televised games sound like they are being attended by thousands of hotdog-consuming, cheering spectators.
And so next week I will park myself in front of the TV in my den as I watch the Braves battle the Marlins in an empty Atlanta ballpark. I won’t see the Tomahawk Chop (which will probably be banned soon) or fans high-fiving after a home run. I won’t be seeing kissing couples on the “Smooch Cam”, but I will hear the roar of the fake crowd.
And I hope that during the 7th inning stretch, I will hear a recording of a crowd singing a rousing rendition of “Take Me Out To The Ballgame.”
Let’s play ball … and hear it!