The little boy dreams of being a baseball player in the 1950s, but doesn’t think first of appearing confined inside a television set.
He thinks of being at bat, and then being in the field of play—shortstop or center field, rarely as a catcher.
Not the game winning homer, but that well placed double down the right field line. He thinks of backhanded plays to his right and a whipped throw to first.
He thinks of roaming the expanse of center field and tracking a ball just before it’s going out, and leaping, his arm outreached, pulling the ball back from the wall.
He doesn’t imagine people watching, he thinks of people hearing—listening to the play by play, the intimate, compelling voice over the radio. He hears his name being called, “Now batting. . .”
The broadcast carries the words that transport him anywhere: St. Louis, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, anywhere he goes, because the audience travels wherever the radio broadcast goes. The narrative of the game, inning by inning, top half and in-between, and bottom half, isn’t limited by where the TV antenna is located. It’s not in the apartment. It’s in the air. You “find” the “station” on the “dial” you’re delicately tuning, like cracking a safe. It’s what’s carrying you along, wafting the disembodied voice to you that captures the action.
The 9 inning drama, the three act mystery: it’s here in his ear, in his heart, the image is created aurally not visually. He can hear the crack of the bat, the roar of the crowd, the scream of the line drive. And that’s all he needs to be inserted into the everlasting.
Baseball is not governed by anything except the strength of the signal, the message that can even reach across states, across chasms, beyond geography where his rivals lurk. Across eternity.
The first inning preliminaries are as important as getting to a theatre before the movie starts. You want to hear everything, who’s starting, who’s batting clean-up–and sometimes you even learn that someone was called up or somebody unexpected was let go, and that explains everything about what’s different today than yesterday.
The score is important if you are coming in-media-res, and should be shared so that no matter the entry point in the narration, within 45 seconds, he should be brought up to date, who’s up, where the base runners are, who’s pitching.
The drama depends on the voice of the broadcaster, the drama comes from the dispassionate description of the game itself, the circumstances, the real dilemmas. How will they get out of this!? And no matter what the stage of the game, the standings, or the season, each game is a portrait in miniature of the entire season. Hearing the 162nd game is as delightful as the one on opening day!
Listening on the radio is different than watching a game; though each has its delights, in some ways the radio broadcast is the more natural, more organic, more authentic.
Few people would seek to bring a TV set to a baseball field game to watch, but lots of fans bring the radio to a game–and listen simultaneously. Why? Because it has become part of the game for them, the omniscient narrator who shapes the whole experience.
It’s what made baseball the national pastime. It’s what made me, me.
“Baseball is not the stuff dreams are made of. Dreams are the stuff baseball is made of.” Justin Edwards