Listening to the Ball Game

Image22BMaleFan.jpg When I was a kid and REALLY into baseball, not all of the games were televised as they are today. Most games were played during daylight hours (which gives you an idea why so many of those guys in the stands in old film clips of baseball games are wearing white shirts and ties - they were playing hooky from work) and the networks didnít see much value in televising games when most men werenít around to watch them. That meant that you listened to the game on the radio. It was a completely different experience from what we are used to today. allen_mel.jpg

Youíd sit near the tabletop radio or hold the transistor to your ear. Youíd hear the crack of the bat or the roar of the crowd but you focused on the announcer and his skill at describing what was happening. Yankee fans were blessed. They had Mel Allen and Red Barber. Red Barber practically invented modern sports announcing. With his southern drawl and encyclopedic knowledge of the game, he breathed true baseball life into every pitch.


I canít get my Yankees on cable here in Vermont without subscribing to one of those services that let you watch every single game being played every day on 8 channels all at the same time. Itís a mere $40 a month or so - the cost of a nice meal out at a local restaurant. Iíll take the meal. Who is dying to see the Milwaukee vs. Montreal? Not even the folks in Montreal want to watch their own team. So I try to listen on the radio.

The Yankees are carried on WCBS 880 AM in New York, a 50,000 watt station whose signal reaches almost 200 miles. Unfortunately, Iím about 250 miles from their tower. If I get in the car and drive to a high spot, the game might come through in a fade-in/fade-out comedy that almost always times the fade-out with the action. After a bit of searching, I discovered that there are three stations within 100 miles that are part of the Yankees Radio Network. One is in Albany, another in Pittsfield Massachusetts, and the last in Burlington.

Reception for all is pretty dismal. AM stations have to drop their transmitting power at night because of ionospheric conditions that cause signals to bounce off and land all over the place, causing interference with stations outside their licensed area. These stations are not 50,000 watt behemoths like WCBS. They are either 5,000 or 1,000 watt punies. At night their signal strength drops by 50% or more. Theyíre lucky if anyone can hear them. But through the static I can just make out my Yankees.

So I sit next to my radio with my special AM antenna plugged in. One hand is on the antenna tuning dial. One ear is cocked near the speaker. I hear the crack of the bat and the roar of the crowd. I can almost hear Red and Mel. Iím 10 years old again and somehow the games seem better.


I do not consider myself a fan of any baseball team and generally just grouse when the Mariner's have a home game (lots more yayhoos on the ferry). I do, however, share your fondness for listening to baseball on the radio. For me it is more a conforting background noise than a play-by-play attention grabber, but it brings back the smell of a fresh mown lawn and the sounds of our father's gentle raspy cussing to me. It is the quintessential sound of summer.

Can you find the Yankees streaming on the Information Highway anywhere?

no, Boss George has limted Yankee access very effectively in order to drive revenue to the YES network on cable. No streaming coverage except by subscrription in ESPN's web site.

Reminds me of how I feel about NPR, which was writing about for a future blog piece...

I feel your pain bro'. Except with the fact I am a Met Fan and even of thaey were available, they stink. I don't know if satellite radio like XM or Sirius would have it. I know XM is only $10 a month.

nope, satellite radio doesn't carry it. i actually get a fair number of Mets games here. but that's like sitting down for a root canal.

...and to think, I get YES and I don't even want it.

even worse, I get NESN (Red Sox...)

How about WVTM 620 AM (Burlington VT)?
It's supposed to be part of the "Yankee Network".
I enjoy listening to the Yankee games on the radio, too.
Dad would have that game on whether he was sitting relaxing, working on the upstairs bedrooms or cooking up a storm.
No coincidence Christine is a Yankee fan.
She spent a lot of time with dad when she was knee high to a grasshopper. Was that last week??

Hi Gang: As a dyed in the wool Brooklyn fan, when the Dodgers left for the West coast I and many others were devestated. But hope arrived with the Mets. Up or down there is nothing like a Met fan. If a game is on TV I don't care if the President is speaking [especially if he speaking]
Iwill watch th Met game Win or Lose. Your father
would turn off the Yankees in the 6th inning if
they were losing. I remember some Come from behind
games which were great! When I was a kid Iwould keep score listening to the radio, when my Mother
would send me to the store during a game I would show her how to keep score while I was gone.
You can say what you want about my Mets but they're my team and I love them!


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This page contains a single entry by published on May 20, 2004 1:05 AM.

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