Last night I watched my first live Mets game of the season. Johan Santana pitched three good innings and the boys in Orange and Blue seemed to have their collective acts together and even Jason Bay got his first hit of the season. I was pretty thrilled to see the game live via internet stream but my preference, at least when I can’t attend the games in person, is to listen to it on the radio.
I know that sounds like a foreign concept for those of you who haven’t lived in an era where all 162 games of your favorite team are televised.
It’s ok to laugh if you don’t remember how we did it back in the day but please allow me and those of us who still remember falling asleep with our little transistor radios hidden beneath our pillows a chance to stroll down memory lane.
Ah, baseball on the radio.
Baseball was made for the radio and baseball became America’s pastime because of the radio.
Visit just about any neighborhood during the summertime and chances are you’d hear the crackling sounds of the various radios listened to by die hard baseball fans trying to keep up with the day to day exploits of their favorite teams.
There was also a very good chance you’d see make shift antennas made out of all sorts of contraptions designed specifically to make that sound just a little bit clearer.
And of course there would be the groups of people surrounding those radios leaning in as close as they could to hear men like Vin Scully or Ernie Harwell or Red Barber or Russ Hodges describe the game in such a way that it felt like they were in the park watching the game with their own two eyeballs.
Sometimes you could even hear the the shouts “hey you, you’re blocking the reception” whenever some unfortunate soul was standing in front of the antenna. That was life as we knew it back in the day.
For me growing up listening to Ralph Kiner, Bob Murphy and Lindsey Nelson was an absolute treat and whenever I felt like punishing myself Phil Rizzuto could be entertaining but the best announcer I ever heard, and probably ever will, was the legendary Detroit Tigers play by play man, the late great Ernie Harwell.
My Grandpa introduced me to Ernie Harwell when I was a wee lad while spending time with him at his summer home in Mid- Michigan. Grandpa trusted Ernie and because I trusted Grandpa I also trusted Ernie.
Up at the cabin in the boondocks my Grandpa had a little black transistor radio. You remember, right? Those were the ones where the antenna collapsed inside the radio and if you pushed down too hard you bent the antenna. On a clear night in Mid- Michigan that little baby could pick up all kinds of stuff. To say I was impressed was an understatement.
Our summer days were always planned around Ernie, the little black transistor radio and the Tigers (and Grandma’s fried chicken). I couldn’t think of a better way to spend time in the boondocks then with my best friend, the radio, Ernie and the Tigers.
Ernie had so many one liners but my favorite line of his was “he stood there like the house by the side of the road”. I loved that line so much it’s part of the opening to my sports show.
I still remember the day when my Grandpa died. I was just 15 years old and obviously was pretty distraught. No one could console me except for Ernie and fortunately for me the Tigers were playing a Grapefruit League game in Lakeland and Ernie was on the air.
Ernie sounded a little sad that day….I wonder if he knew?
Pretty soon it will be the 32nd anniversary of my best friend’s death and last night, while watching the Mets on a contraption my Grandfather wouldn’t have believed could ever possibly exist, I thought about Ernie, the radio and of course my best friend. I wondered what they would think about me watching a Mets game from Greece and I longed for the good old days….with my best friend, the radio and Ernie.
At least no one blocked my reception!