The Baseball-Radio Relationship In The Digital Age
Tuesday, April 9, 2013
Aired 4/9/13 on KPBS Midday Edition.
It's the home opener for The Padres today.
In the Wireless Age, we can watch baseball in high-definition on smart phones and computer tablets, not to mention large, flat-screen TV's. Yet many fans still listen to the games, even prefer to listen, on radio, as they have for more than 80 years.
"There's just such a tremendous tradition that is baseball on the radio," said Lee "Hacksaw" Hamilton, co-host of "Hacksaw and Hayworth on The Mighty 1090.
He said baseball on radio was really the link to the fan beginning in 1921, when baseball was first broadcast on Pittsburgh's KDKA, with Harold Arlin announcing for the Pirates.
Baseball is theater of the mind on radio, engendering a relationship between announcer and fan.
San Diego Padres's hall-of-fame announcer, Jerry Coleman, who turns 90 next year, has spent 70 years in baseball: First as a star player, then announcer, with the New York Yankees in the 1950s and 60s; and for decades after that as voice of the San Diego Padres. He remains on the air today as a kind of "announcer emeritus."
Coleman coined several phrases as a broadcaster including, "oh doctor!" and "you can hang a star on that baby!" When the Padres won the National League Pennant in 1984, he slipped both into his now-legendary play-by-play of the final out.
Coleman said he doesn't plan for those moments, you never know when they're going to happen.
"Most of what I said came from nowhere, when it happened, I said what I thought," he said.
When talking about beloved baseball announcers, San Diego has Jerry Coleman, and Los Angeles has Vin Scully. Scully has a special place among the great announcers enshrined in baseball's Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, New York.
Listening to Scully's call of the September 1965 perfect game by the legendary Dodgers' left-hander Sandy Koufax makes you feel like you're at Dodgers Stadium alongside 29,139 screaming fans.
That night, after calling the game, Scully let the crowd roar and then he said, "On the scoreboard in right field it is 9:46 p.m. in the City of the Angels, Los Angeles, California. And a crowd of 29,139 just sitting in to see the only pitcher in baseball history to hurl four no-hit, no-run games. He has done it four straight years, and now he caps it. On his fourth no-hitter he made it a perfect game. And Sandy Koufax, whose name will always remind you of strikeouts, did it with a flurry. He struck out the last six consecutive batters. So when he wrote his name in capital letters in the record books, that "K" stands out even more than the O-U-F-A-X." The "K" he refers to, of course, is the notation for a strikeout, for those keeping score at home.
What's considered the most famous home-run call in radio history happened in October 1951. Russ Hodges, announcer for the New York Giants, called Bobby Thomson's "shot heard round the world" that sunk the Dodgers.
Overcome with excitment, Hodges bellowed: "The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant, and they're goin' crazy, they're goin' crazy, wa-hoo. I don't believe it, I don't believe it, Bobby Thompson hit a line drive into the lower decks of the left-field stands and the place is goin' crazy ... The Giants won it by a score of 5 to 4 and they're pickin' Bobby Thompson up and carrying him off the field."
If that doesn't get you excited for baseball, nothing will.
The Padres home opener against the Dodgers at Petco Park begins at 3:40 this afternoon.
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