My friends always ask me how I know all the words to every song on the radio. I explain to them that I was raised on the radio. I have spent an incredible amount of time in my life either in a tractor or in the barn, where whatever radio station comes in basically waged a war of attrition on my ears.
It has also led me to a conclusion: Baseball was made for the radio—more specifically, postseason baseball was made for the radio.
See, for a few days every fall, during harvest on the farm, I get really excited. No longer am I a slave to replayed cookie cutter country music or more commercials than songs that only leave me wondering how much more time I have to spend in the tractor.
Instead, I get to listen to playoff baseball and wonder how much more time I get to spend in the tractor.
Think about it, when you are watching a game on TV, your eyes and ears are processing information, between every pitch, every foul ball, your eyes are able to see that after every pitch nothing happens.
There are no gaps, nothing that you can’t process from sitting there idly by while the game keeps moving without any participation from you the viewer. You can lose focus for a while and return to the game to find information about score, balls, and strikes, basically anything in the top right or left corners of the TV. Thus the speed of the game is slowed, and the flow is disrupted.
The radio has blanks, and it’s what makes listening so great. You only get to hear and only know what the announcer is telling you, it’s up to you and your mind to fill in the blanks. The radio requires that you become an active participant in the broadcast. You get to interpret what the announcer is saying and thus you and the game move together. You have to pay attention, by the time an announcer describes the last pitch, it’s time for the next one. If you miss it, there are no idiot boxes in the corners of the screen to answer your questions.
I can’t turn on the TV and watch a random baseball game—it just doesn’t hold my interest if I have nothing invested in it. But give me a radio, and I could listen to any baseball game, doesn’t matter who is playing.
It’s not even all about just being an active participant. Baseball has by far the best vernacular of any sport. There are literally hundreds of different ways to describe a play or a pitch—each one unique to the announcer and his listener.
Two people could listen to the same game with different announcers. One could describe a double as a dying quail, while the other could describe it as a Texas leaguer, but the final decision of what it looks like is solely up to what the listener imagines in his or her head.
I could probably make a pretty good argument for a book about the rise in baseball’s popularity in the twenties and thirties and relate it to the rise to prominence of the radio. I’m pretty sure someday I just might well do that, but for the next couple weeks, I am just going to enjoy my reprieve from contemporary radio, sit back, and listen.