Visuals are Overrated
I grew up listening to baseball on the radio. I first discovered it as a nine year old in 1976 when I stumbled upon KDKA carrying the rhythmic, ritualistic broadcasts of the Pittsburgh Pirates. When I started playing baseball in the spring of 1977, I became completely hooked on the calls of Milo Hamilton and the young Lanny Frattare. Radio is, admittedly, my third choice for following a baseball game. Attending the game is first, no doubt, followed by watching it on TV. Radio brings up the rear.
And yet, as I am currently sitting in the evening breeze of the western NY countryside, sitting by a mellow fire, listening the delightful verbal jaunts of Greg Brown and Bob Walk while I write this blog post, I cannot imagine that I would rather be watching it on TV or even in person.
Tonight I don’t have a choice. Radio is my only option, and boy am I glad.
The visual compels us. The imagination takes us away.
Baseball already has a slow, deliberate pace—perfect for gabbing, laughing, eating, and drinking. Baseball allows one to breathe, using boredom as an art form to build tension and unsurpassed drama when the game is on the line. Baseball eschews time, allows fate to be fulfilled no matter how preposterous. Radio heightens all of this.
Baseball on radio allows you to paint your own picture while working on something else. Baseball on radio is a story, many stories, highlighted by announcers who can fill in the dead air with anecdotes, silliness, and in-depth analysis. It’s a series of crescendos—nine of them actually. Voices are magnified, great plays become improbable plays in your mind, homeruns are always Ruthian, and hard hit balls have a beautiful crack of the bat—a literal crack, that historically relevant sound of wound wool and leather on ash. Each pitch is measured, each move accounted for, each run emphasized by the natural excitement of the announcer.
I love baseball on the radio. I miss it.
Why don’t I always listen?
Because, when the visuals are available, I will always choose them. Always.
I just wish they weren’t available so often.
So thank you, stupid MLB blackout rules.