Nothing Up My Sleeve
I know John Ring has a lock on the Zephyr Sports Department, but I’m gonna sneak over into his domain for just a moment because the four words I’ve been waiting all winter to hear have finally been uttered.
PITCHERS AND CATCHERS REPORT!
I can’t remember NOT being a big baseball fan. I’ve been following the Dodgers since somewhere in the early 60s when Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale were terrorizing National League hitters.
The trouble with being a Dodger fan in central Illinois is the simple fact that I’m here in Illinois, and they are based out of Los Angeles. When I was a kid, the Journal Star never carried their scores because games in Los Angeles always started at 10 PM our time and by the time the games were completed, the Journal Star was already being printed. I got used to seeing the words “Late game not included” whenever I turned to the sports section of the Peoria newspaper.
The Register Mail wasn’t much better. As far as they were concerned, there were only six major league teams: The Cubs, the Cardinals, the White Sox, and whoever they were playing.
Galesburg radio stations were only a tad bit better. Announcers there would give their baseball results by announcing the winners of the previous night’s games, but not giving either the losing teams nor the scores. That made following pennant races a little challenging since you had to know who everyone was playing to know who got beat.
Impetuous as I was at a young age, I took it upon myself to call the newspaper and express my concern for the lack of Dodger coverage. More times than not, I was met with a gruff “Yeah, sure kid,” and a receiver being slammed down in my ear. The same went for the radio stations.
I found a few ways to follow the Dodgers while I was growing up. I actually spent a summer subscribing to the LA Times. The trouble with that was that it took about a week for the paper to find its way from Los Angeles to Knoxville, and by then it was old news. It was still fun to read about my heroes, even if the news was a week old. But that was expensive and the folks at the post office hated me for having to heft that large newspaper to my house.
Once in high school on a band trip, we went to Wrigley Field to see the Cubs play the Dodgers. I was ecstatic at the thought of seeing the Dodgers play live (they ended up losing). After the game, we were all on the bus waiting to go home. The entire left side of the bus erupted in shouts of “JACK! JACK!” I looked out and saw legendary Cubs broadcaster Jack Brickhouse standing outside the stadium talking to a colleague. Jack waved at us and the commotion died down enough so I could get a better look. Then it was my turn to go nuts.
“VIN! VIN!” I started yelling. Jack was talking to even more legendary Dodger announcer Vin Scully. Both Jack and Vin got a good chuckle out of a crowded bus with a solitary soul yelling to get Vin’s attention.
To follow the Dodgers more closely, I often used an AM radio. Since AM signals bounce all over the country late at night, and since the Dodgers played on the west coast, I could listen to a lot of their games using the opponents’ announcers. The Cardinals and Cubs were easy to find on the radio dial, but it got to be more of a challenge to find the Reds (WLW), the Pirates (KDKA), the Phillies (WCAU), the Braves (WSB), and the Astros (I don’t remember their station). Sometimes I could pull in the Mets and on a really good night, I could listen as the Montreal Expos played in Los Angeles.
There was a slight problem listening to the Expos-Dodgers games; the games were broadcast in French. Now you know the real reason why I took two years of high school French and two and a half years of college French. I just wanted to be able to understand the broadcasts (et oui, aujourd’hui, je parle Francais). I could have saved a lot of time by just learning the numbers in French.
The reception of these games left a lot to be desired. There was a lot of crackling and static, and sometimes other stations bled through. Still, I needed to hear my Dodgers and I’d put up with hearing every fifteenth word just in case it was an important word.
The last few years have been heaven. The internet has brought Dodger baseball into my front room. I can get up to the minute details on every facet of the game. I can listen in to live broadcasts from the internet. I can get complete boxscores including pitch by pitch results. I no longer have to depend on the whims of the sports editors of either the Journal Star or the Register Mail to follow my games (and it was a pleasure to tell both places to “cancel my subscription” after the abuse I’d received from their sports editors over the years).
I no longer have to listen through static to hear radio broadcasts. Both my car and my home are equipped with XM-Radio which broadcasts every single game for every single team in the major leagues. I can pay for MLB-TV on the internet and watch most of the games on my computer. Or I can pay mega-bucks and get Direct-TV to send them to me.
I may be the only Dodger fan in the world who has never seen a game at Dodger Stadium. The closest I got was back in 2002. My wife and I were in Las Vegas and decided to rent a car and drive to California (so we could say we’d been there). On the way, she asked if I wanted to drive the rest of the way into California and catch a Dodger game that night.
I could hardly contain my excitement. We didn’t get far though. An hour into the trip the radio station we were listening to announced that the game that night versus the rival Giants was a sell out. We went back to Vegas and caught an Elvis imitator instead.
One of these days I’ll live my dream. I’ll be seated behind the third base dugout, Dodger-Dog in hand, Dodger hat on head, watching the boys in blue lose again (I’ve only seen them win once in person). In the meantime, I won’t have to chase them around the AM dial or wait for them to play one of the area teams to find out if they won or not.