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The Baseball-Radio Relationship In The Digital Age

San Diego Padres players high-five after beating the Chicago Cubs 2-0 in a baseball game at Petco Park on August 6, 2012 in San Diego, California.
Denis Poroy
San Diego Padres players high-five after beating the Chicago Cubs 2-0 in a baseball game at Petco Park on August 6, 2012 in San Diego, California.
The Baseball-Radio Relationship In The Digital Age
GUESTLee "Hacksaw" Hamilton, co-host of Hacksaw and Hayworth on The Mighty 1090.

CAVANAUGH: Well, what we heard there was the late, great Chicago cubs announcer, leading fans at Wrigley Field in his trademark rendition of "take me out to the ball game" with a little -- could you call it help? HAMILTON: Help, yes. CAVANAUGH: Help from us. It's the home opener for the Padres today. We're talking baseball! Specifically the enduring and very special magic that listening to baseball takes on the radio provides. Lee Hacksaw Hamilton, welcome! HAMILTON: Great to be with you on KPBS. And yes, we talk a lot of baseball. But you hit the nail on the head, Maureen and mark by talking about the history of baseball, baseball on radio, what it meant back in the day. There's just a tremendous tradition of baseball on radio, and baseball on radio in the market that is it San Diego Padres baseball. CAVANAUGH: I want to introduce too KPBS senior editor Mark Sauer. SAUER: Great to be here. CAVANAUGH: Lee makes a good point. In this wireless age, we have high definition, large flat-screen TVs that we can watch baseball on, we have smart phones, iPad, computer tablets, yet many fans still listen to the games, even refer to listen on radio as they have for more than 80 years! And Lee, maybe you can talk a little bit about baseball as theatre of the mind on the radio. Why do so many people still love following the game that way? HAMILTON: Well, understand it's a very mobile society. And I think baseball on radio is still really special because people travel. And the Padres when they play home, and on the east coast, someone is somewhere in some parking lot at 4:00 in the afternoon. Our world has not been forever ESPN and the thousand channels, etc. Baseball on radio was the fabric of the game, the linkage, the liaison from the public. Baseballa radio has been special from 1920 till probably about the 1990s when technology exploded. But baseball is still historically special, especially in a mobile society that we live in. CAVANAUGH: You point out the fans. Now, there's a kind of intimacy, even sometimes a love, even a love/hate relationship between the fans and the announcer that radio delivers. Talk to us about how that play by play works between the fans and announcers. HAMILTON: Well, baseball is theatre on radio. You paint a color, you draw a picture, you get the analysis. On our Padres broadcast, Ted Leitner has been in this role for more than three decades. Jerry Coleman is a however, and we've added a new voice, bob scan Lynn, who I just think hits a home run every time he's on the air because of what he brings in terms of his expertise and knowledge, and he's young and hip. So baseball is theatre. It's really special. I think most announcers are very well beloved in each of their respective communities. Now, a Padres fan might hate the Giants and the Dodgers. But I think that the voice of the team is the liaison, the linkage to the fan. And it's like back in the day, pull up a chair, sit on the back patio and listen to baseball on radio. And that was prior to the thousand channels on TV. I still think that happens. SAUER: So Maureen, there is as Lee mentioned there a very special announcer here in San Diego, Jerry Coleman. Jerry turns 90 next year he want spent 70 years in baseball, a star player and then an announcer the '50s and '60s, and he remains on the air today. He shared his thoughts about baseball on radio during a chat the other day. NEW SPEAKER: I think it's amazing because on radio, you go any place, be anywhere, and you can pick up the ball game. Even driving a car. You can't do that on television, quite obviously. But I think there's a relationship that develops through the year, you get the pregame, the postgame, the play by play in between. And I was very lucky. I broke in with a guy by the name of Mel Allen and Red Barber. Those are two of the greatest broadcasters in the '30s and '40s of anybody in baseball and in the United States. And I always felt what was good about broadcasting baseball on radio is you could tell the people that's happening. On television, you got to wait for it to happen before you can tell them. SAUER: Absolutely. They can't see it, so you have to tell them. NEW SPEAKER: Absolutely. There's a drag to right field, on television, you know where the ball is going half the time anyway. You just wait to see whether they're going to catch it or not catch it. And frankly, I think radio is a gem, is perfect for baseball all the way. SAUER: Now, baseball on radio is just starting to mature in the 1930s and '40s when you were young. Did you listen to the games growing up? NEW SPEAKER: When I grew up, we had different broadcasters with the team. We were part of the team, really. And when I got to the big league, I said we have Red Barber, Mel Allen, and it was great because we could jabber back and forth and get so much more in the game than if you were watching on television. Because on television, you got to look and see before you can talk about it. SAUER: You're famous for several phrases. Notably this famous moment in Padres history. LEF3: Back at 3rd, Wig at the second, Garvey behind the rubber at first. Here's the duce. The 1-1 pitch. A 1-hopper to nettels. And the Padres have the National League pennant! Oh, doctor! You can hang a star on that baby! SAUER: We got a twofer on that one, oh, doctor and you can hang a star on that baby! NEW SPEAKER: Well, ib got carried away. SAUER: I'm sure you remember that moment. Tell us where those phrases came from. NEW SPEAKER: Well, oh, doctor, you ever hear of a guy named Casey Single? SAUER: Oh, yeah. NEW SPEAKER: I play forward him for ten years. And he would say, you got me, doctor? All the time. SAUER: So that became oh, doctor? NEW SPEAKER: That's where it came from. I wasn't original. But I was original on you can hang a star on that baby. When I was in junior high school, the spelling test at the end of the week, if you got all 20 questions right, you got a gold star. I never got a gold star! I thought that was the epitome of excellent. Of course a lot of people say, that wasn't a star. Well, you called it didn't you! SAUER: There was the 500th home run by Mickey Mantle, a hit by Tony Gwynn. Do you plan for such moments or just call them as you see them? NEW SPEAKER: Well, how can you plan for a home run when you never know when it's going to happen? It might be a month before it comes up. And when he hit it, I don't know what I said, but for me it was a magic moment in baseball. Especially for Mickey Mantle who was the most dominant player in baseball at the time. And a 3000th base hit, what do you say? We thought it would happen at home, but it happened in Montreal, unfortunately. And I just let happened what happened. Most of what I said and have done just came from nowhere. I said what I thought. CAVANAUGH: That's Mark Sauer talking with Jerry Coleman. And Coleman, back in the booth again today when the Padres take on the dodgers in their home opener. Lee Hacksaw Hamilton, let me ask about the pace of baseball games. Doesn't that lend itself to radio? HAMILTON: Bingo. Maureen, you hit it right on the head. CAVANAUGH: Out of the park. [ LAUGHTER ] HAMILTON: It's a three hour 15 minute painting. That's how long the games are, it's three hours and 15 minutes to write an essay, to tell a story, to add color to the painting. There's so much to talk about. It's not just balls and strikes and where did that play take place, and what happened on the play. It's the background of the players. And what he did in spring training. And he used to be with the Oakland athletics, and what do you think about the umpire's call on the Cincinnati and Washington game last night? There's so many things that you can weave into the fabric. It takes skill to coexist with color analysts. Some don't work so well together because there's always a fight over air time. S that's not the case in San Diego. Because it's a canvas that covers three hours and 15 minutes. I just think it's a spectacular place to tell story and paint pictures. CAVANAUGH: When talking about beloved baseball announcers, San Diego has Jerry Coleman, and Los Angeles has Vince Scully who has a special place amongst the baseball announcers in the hall of fame in Copperstown. SAUER: It's in two parts, the second of which gave me chills when I read it in an LA Times of Scully a few years back. The writer led with the vintage of Scully's soliloquy you're about to hear. The occasion is the September 1965 perfect game by sandy Koufax. NEW SPEAKER: It is 9:46 PM. 2-2 to Harvey Keen. One strike away. Sandy into his windup. Here's the pitch. Swung out and missed! A perfect game! SAUER: He let the crowd roar roll, and then this unscripted observation. NEW SPEAKER: Scored into right field, it is 9:46 PM in the city of the angels, Los Angeles, California. And a crowd of 29,139. Just sitting here 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 capped 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 flourish. He struck out the last six consecutive batters. When he wrote his name in capital letters in the record book, the K stands out more than the O-U-F-A-X. CAVANAUGH: That's hard to will if. We'll close out our opening day segment with what many feel is the most home run call in radio history. It's from October 1951, Russ Hodges, announcer for the New York Giants, calling Bobby Thompson's shock heard round the world that sunk the Dodgers. NEW SPEAKER: Bobby Thompson, out there swinging. Bobby Thompson takes it back on the inside corner. Bobby hitting at 2.92. Brooklyn leads it 4-2. Not taking any chances. Thompson with a lead at 2nd. Throws, the Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! And they're going crazy! [ CROWD NOISE ] CAVANAUGH: And that wraps up our trip down memory lane for baseball and radio. I want to thank my guests, thanks guys. SAUER: You bet. HAMILTON: Enjoy the artistry, enjoy opening day.

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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