By Mark Paulette
With last night’s Red Sox game on the evasive NESN Plus, due to the flagship channel airing the Bruins hopeless quest of Lord Stanley’s Cup, it presented an opportunity to sit back and listen to the game on the old, crackly AM radio airwaves.
The game itself failed to conjure much interest as Steven Wright’s knuckleball failed to emulate its normal Peyton Manning wounded-duck flutter and resulted in four quick home runs and eight men plated for the Birds from Chesapeake Bay. Though, while sitting in my recliner and listening to Joe Costiglione’s defeated voice track the path of every ball launched into the stratosphere over Fenway, I realized how truly important this archaic form of broadcasting is to the game of baseball and its role as America’s Pastime. (Reminder, I make said statement as someone who is very happily employed in the radio industry.)
Hearing the pop of a catcher’s mitt and the crack of a ball striking a bat resonating through a radio’s speakers is an experience shared by literally every living generation in this country. August 5th, 1921 was the date of the first baseball game broadcasted on radio. The Pirates defeated the Phillies, 8-5, in that contest. A man by the name of Possum Whitted was the cleanup hitter for Pittsburgh, while Jimmy Zinn picked up the win, tossing six innings of one-run ball in relief. (Let me take this time to give a shout-out to my 96-year-old great grandmother who was five months old at the time of that game.)
Baseball was one of the first sports broadcast in the United States, and of the four major, remains the sole sport which translates as seamlessly to radio as it does to TV. The microphone is a canvas for the announcer to paint a picture with which we can all perceive in our mind. It’s an interactive, conversational game which best shines through on radio, yet a game that can also be background noise to other functions.
As the pair nears its centennial anniversary, I encourage everyone to sit down, turn off the TV, and tune into the radio broadcast of a game, as it will resonate with you in a much different way than watching it on TV. It goes beyond the game being played, evoking memories of family BBQ’s, summer nights by the fire and falling asleep as a child in rural New England with a handheld radio by the bedside.
So, stop and listen the next time the Sox toss out the first pitch, and take yourself on a sentimental trip down memory lane thanks to something we often take for granted.
In lieu of a sappier conclusion, let me use this space to wish an early happy 12th birthday to Peter, the best little brother in the world! There’s shout-outs to be had everywhere in this post.
Mark Paulette is the senior producer of The Drive, weekdays 4pm to 6pm on 92.9fm The Ticket and streaming live at DriveShowMaine.com. Follow us on Twitter, @DriveShowMaine and “Like Us” on Facebook, Drive Show Maine.