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Baseball and Radio: It's an Art

Dave Randall

Posted on June 17, 2018 20:02

2 users

Like all art, the interpretation of baseball announcing on radio is subjective, but there should be norms--especially when there's no TV.

Those of us who bleed Dodger blue are subjected to a widespread TV blackout, now in its fifth year. An $8.3 billion deal with Time Warner created SportsnetLA, exclusive home of Dodger baseball, after the 2013 season. Since then, Direct-TV, Dish, Frontier, AT&T, Cox, and others have consistently rejected carrying the channel because of its steep fees.

A merger with Charter improved the number slightly, but as of now only 30% of viewers in metropolitan Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside or Ventura Counties, can see the Dodgers on TV. There are exceptions, of course-national telecasts on ESPN, or Fox, and Fox Sports West telecasts of Dodger-Angel inter-league games. Other than that, it's the radio or nothing. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is a task that calls for the patience of Job.

We're less than four years away from the 100th anniversary of the first broadcast of baseball on radio, and as the power of this theater of the mind wanes, it's as if the quality of the radio-only announcers is circling the drain faster than the medium itself. 

Like all baseball fans, especially Dodger faithful, I've been spoiled by that second wave of sports announcers, schooled in radio and TV, who've now grown elderly, passed on, or retired. In So Cal, we are truly fortunate to have had Vin Scully do something no one else will do: call the games of one team for 67 years and maintain an excellence in the booth that has never been rivaled. Listening to him all my life was an education and a joy. There will never be anyone to replace what we lost when he finally called it quits after the 2016 season to celebrate the rest of his life and good health with his family.

That doesn't mean guys should coast through a game. Listening to Charley Steiner and Rick Monday call a game on radio is an exercise if frustration. The art of describing a game for those who cannot see it, is absent from the broadcasts. That stands to reason. You can't describe it so listeners can see it if you can't see it, yourself--I've been told Charley's vision is dim, and that explains why you hear pauses and the roar of the crowd, before what's happened on the diamond is related over the air. It's maddening, especially in the car. Rick is humorous as an analyst, and a Dodger hero, but bends the language into a pretzel trying to call play-by-play, which has made me actually look at the radio and say, "Whuh??"

My angst about this reminds me of Tina Fey's description of her father listening to Phillies games in the 1970's, cursing at the radio and berating Andy Musser for not telling him what's happened during the game. Bossypants was a fine memoir, but I remember that anecdote most. It reminded me of ME.

Baseball announcing is an art. It shouldn't be paint by numbers.

Dave Randall

Posted on June 17, 2018 20:02

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Source: MLB.com
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Spend enough time talking to Nationals manager Dusty Baker about baseball and he is bound to make references to a number...

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