Baseball on the Radio
The other night, I listened to an entire baseball game on the radio. It was seventy degrees outside, so I turned off the television and sat by myself outside on my stoop. It was amazing. Since then, I have decided I was born in the wrong era.
My dad always tells stories about listening to ballgames on his radio. His mother would put the speakers in the window, and he would listen to Ralph Kiner’s voice while he was playing stickball, box baseball, or stoopball. Back then, baseball was still America’s pastime. It was still the same game that remained constant through wars, depressions, and more wars. Players still played to win, pitchers still finished what they started, and hometown fans were still die-hards. The game was still beautiful.
World series games were played in the afternoon at places called Yankee Stadium, Ebbets’ Field, and Polo Grounds. Wrigley Field still didn’t have lights. Doubleheaders still existed, and fans were only charged the price of one ticket. Hot dogs were a dollar, there were no advertisements on the outfield wall, and most players stayed on the same team, allowing fans to fall in love with them.
Little kids would grow up playing pick-up games at abandoned baseball fields. They’d pretend to be their favorite players and stay on the field until the streetlights came on.
Not anymore. It’s changed. Corporations and greed have come very close to ruining it for everyone. Today, instead of playing for a ring, athletes are playing for a contract. Instead of dreaming of donning their childhood team’s uniform, they’re thinking about money and fame by the time they’re in high school and realize how much talent they have.
Stadium names have changed. Comiskey Park became US Cellular Field. Veteran’s Stadium became Citizen’s Bank Park, and Shea Stadium turned into Citi Field. And remember those neighborhood sandlots, those patches of dirt where kids across America grew up, learned how to play a game, and formed relationships? Well, I don’t remember them. They’re gone, closed off by fences and locks that only open for people with money and guarded by cameras and security guards, because God forbid a kid has unorganized fun that his parents didn’t have to pay for.
This is why I loved listening to the game on the radio as much as I did. It brought me back to an era that I’ve never even been to, which is a very interesting thought. Before I commit to my earlier of statement of wanting to be born in a different era, let me admit to something.
I love technology. I love it so much that I don’t think a living is room is complete without at least two televisions. I can’t remember the last time I’ve gone a day without using my computer; honestly, I can’t remember the last time I turned off my computer. I love technology so much that I am a strong advocate for the invention of a couch that also functions as a toilet and a refrigerator, making it possible to go an entire day without standing up. The ReCouchaFlusher. Patent pending.
But I would give all of that up for a chance to go see a doubleheader at Ebbets’ Field or Polo Grounds, or watch Sandy Koufax gritting his way through complete game on three days’ rest even though his left arm was falling apart more and more after every pitch he threw. I want to play a game of pick-up with my friends without a Parks and Recreation Rent-a-Cop breaking it up in the second inning, and then after the game, I want to go to the corner store to a five-cent coke in the old glass bottle.
Of course, the game still flashes the occasional amazing and pure beauty it once possessed. There are some things corporate greed will never be able to get their hands on. 6-4-3 double plays will be sponsored or tarnished. Neither will stand-up doubles, suicide squeezes, or walk-off home runs. I’m glad we still have these things.
Thank God for Yankee pinstripes, Dodger Blue, and the fact that the White Sox still wear black socks. Thank God for Carlton Fisk, Roy Campanella, and the immortal image of a baseball rolling through Billy Buckner’s legs.
You can keep the ReCouchaFlusher, 21st century. I don’t need it. I want to go back..