I am decidedly old school in my habits. From my decidedly vintage style of dress to the 1940s to the 1940s music I listen to and movies I watch, my life seemingly revolves around things that went out of fashion a long time ago. Hell, I even listen to Old Time Radio programs from the 40s and 50s (Dragnet and Tales of the Texas Rangers are my favorites). When it comes to sports, well, I listen to them on the radio rather than watch them on TV, though I will watch the highlights after the games are over. There is something special about picturing what is going on in your mind as it is described by a voice coming through the airwaves rather than looking at a picture coming from a box.
I was born in 1978 and thus my early years were spent in the pre-cable era. We did not have cable at my house until 1990 or 1991. Even then, it was nowhere near the 250 channels I get via Dish Network today. As a kid, I listened to as many major sporting events on the radio as I watched. I remember listening to baseball games on the radio with my grandfather and of smuggling a small battery operated radio to bed with me so I could catch the end of the New York Football Giants victory in the Super Bowl in 1986 and again in 1990. Today, when you can order packages that allow you to see any NFL game or any MLB game, I still prefer to listen on the radio which, courtesy of Sirius XM radio, is an easy thing. I can get the home feeds for any team either on the radio I have set up in the bedroom or, even better, via the app on my phone.
I live in the Houston media market but I am not a fan of any of the Houston teams. There are a few reasons for this. First of all, and perhaps most simply, I am not from Houston. I grew up on the Texas/Louisiana border though I’ve lived in and around Houston since 1990. (Presently I reside in La Porte, a great town that reminds me of my native Port Arthur.) Second, in my opinion, Houston has the worst sports fans of any city. They only like their teams if they are winning. For example, when the Astros went to the World Series in 04 or 05, everywhere you went people wore Astros gear and talked about the team as if they were suddenly baseball experts. People I’d known for years who never expressed any interest in baseball were suddenly rabid fans and baseball experts. A few years later, after a few 100 loss seasons, all the fans disappeared. They have not been heard from again, though if the Astros go to the World Series this year, rest assured they will come out of the woodwork. For the final reason, I’ll have to explain why I intensely dislike the Astros and the Texans (the Rockets don’t rate on my radar as I am not an NBA fan). As a kid we lived just on the edge of the Houston market and so we got the Astros games on TV. I did not like the Astros, I liked the Braves for some reason I cannot recall. Anyway, my mother would send me to my room when the games came on because I refused to cheer for the Astros. Thus I hate them with a passion. And as for the Texans, it isn’t the team I hate so much as it is their fans who show a shocking ignorance of football. At the beginning of every season they go on and on about how they are going to win the Super Bowl that year with the latest washed up quarterback they sign. When the Oilers were in town, I followed them and even liked a few of their players. But boy do I hate the Texans. (I’m a Saints fan and have been since Bum Phillips, who grew up in the same area as I did, coached them.)
Forgive the long digression. The Saints rarely play on television in the Houston area, maybe a couple of games a year. So I listen to all their games on WWL Radio. Before I got my satellite radio, I listened via the computer, but now I usually listen via my XM app. The roar of the Super Dome crowd comes through loud and clear and it is as if you were there. I sincerely wish they’d do boxing matches on the radio too. Sirius inked a deal to broadcast some Premiere Boxing Championship bouts and since 2015 have carried exactly one. So much for that deal. I even get my news courtesy of the BBC World Service. They do a much better job with international news than our American equivalents. Just saying.
During baseball season, I follow the Red Sox and listen to as many of their games as I can. There is something decidedly historical about baseball on the radio. Officially the first MLB game broadcast on the radio was a contest between the Pirates and the Phillies carried by KDKA Pittsburgh in August of 1921. A slight dispute exists, however, as WWJ Detroit claims to have broadcast the 1920 World Series. What would baseball be without a little controversy! The merger of the newfangled radio machines with the sport created a true match made in heaven. Whereas football with its pace of action is more suited to television, baseball is made for the radio. When you hear the crack of the bat, you can almost see the ball leaving the park. All the clubs have their regular radio guys and quite a few have become legends, such as the Dodger’s Vin Scully. Even Harry Caray started out as a radio guy with the Cardinals. Though for reasons stated above, I dislike the Astros, their long term radio broadcaster Milo Hamilton was excellent. Since his retirement (and death), the replacement team just isn’t as good. His catchphrase, and all radio guys have them, was “Holy Toledo! What a play!” Joe Castiglione of the Red Sox uses “Can you believe it?” which he used during the final out of the 2004 World Series.
To get a feel for baseball’s history with the radio, check out this YouTube page which has tons of vintage radio broadcasts of games from the 30s through the 70s. The Golden Age of Radio coincided with the Golden Age of Baseball, and on this page you can listen to the legends of the diamond play games called by the legends of the broadcast booth.
If you are a baseball fan, I would urge you to pick one game this season played by your local team and rather than watch it on television, listen to it on the radio. In so doing, you’ll have a connection with the history of the game which television lacks. I even know people who go to games with small radios and listen while they watch! That’s dedication to the radio that even I lack. Also try picking out a vintage game on that YouTube page and give it a listen. You won’t be sorry.
“Swing and a ground ball stabbed by Foulke. He has it. He underhands to first. And the Boston Red Sox are the World Champions! For the first time in 86 years, the Red Sox have won baseball’s world championship! Can you believe it!”
Joe Castiglione on WEEI Boston, Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2004