Baseball Radio Days: A Follow-Up

img_0052I want to thank JR Robertson for letting me know the Cubs’ playoff games can be heard on Chicago station 670 on AM radio (this in the wake of my previous conniption fit related to televised sports).

So on Tuesday I was all set for game four of the series. Comfy desk chair was ready, as was the desk upon which my feet would be for the next three hours except when moving to the refrigerator for a beer. And on the desk was my Phillips radio/I-pod station. I clicked its input source button. FM. Click. I-pod. Click. FM. Click. I-pod. Click. FM, I-pod, FM, I-pod, FM-I-pod, FMIpod-FMIpod-FMIpod–There is no AM radio on this thing!? Are you kidding me! Are you kidding me!

Deep breaths, deep breaths, om, deep breaths.

So I went downstairs to the kitchen where the “bi-frequency” radio was, which is not a term I ever thought would need to be invented but apparently I was wrong. And though not as comfortable sitting on the linoleum floor, with my feet propped up on the linoleum floor, at least now I was closer to the refrigerator.

I really was hoping the game would be on WGN, which is who used to broadcast the Cub games, because WGN is the most powerful radio station in the country, and so even if you’re far away you get a good signal. It operates on 50,000 watts. This is a lot of watts. Neil Armstrong even said that when he and the crew of Apollo 11 were on the moon they could still pull in WGN. He also said they were attacked by a praying mantis the size of a bus, so, you know, you might want to take the other thing with a grain of salt. But no one denies that WGN is powerful and has more watts than any other station. And I’ll tell you why: Back in the late 1890’s gold was discovered in the Yukon up in Alaska. All sorts of people went up there. They were hoping to find gold, but one thing they were really amazed by–along with the bounty of flora and fauna–was that there were watts all over the place. Hearing of this, the original owner of WGN (Jack Brickhouse) hired people to go to Alaska and bring back all the watts they could find. This of course brought watts to the edge of extinction in Alaska–not that Brickhouse cared, which was typical of the robber barons of that period. But consequently today you can hear WGN pretty much anywhere on Earth. If you actually live in Chicago you can listen to it twenty-four hours a day and you don’t even have to turn your radio on because it comes through your dental fillings.

Unfortunately the game was not on WGN. It was on WFUD 670 AM radio. This station uses way fewer watts than WGN. They do have an efficient way of broadcasting, though. What they do is pump the broadcasting signal from the studio up to the top of the broadcasting tower where the radio waves squirt up into the air about a foot. Then a 20-inch box fan on top of the tower blows the radio waves towards your house.

So the signal was kind of noisy. And I couldn’t quite get all of what was being transmitted because it kept coming in and out. In a nutshell it went like “Here’s the 0-2 pitch. No, Rizzo backs out now bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz a likely shoo-in for prime minister. This has been BBC 1 in the Hebrides bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz and now Rizzo steps back in. He’s ready. Now Giant’s catcher Posey goes for a visit to the mound bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz San Francisco at night don’t you think, Al? Uh huh, bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz Don’t open that door, McGee. This door? bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz I can’t believe what I just saw! What a play! What a play! bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.”

But the game was on and that’s all that mattered. The Cubs were up first. The Giant’s pitcher threw 18 pitches. No Cub was able to put the ball in play. If you’re not familiar with baseball, 18 pitches is a really long time for something to not happen because in professional baseball pitchers are allowed to check their email between pitches. The third batter grounded out to the second baseman. And with the Giants coming up to bat in their half of the inning I thought, “Wow. This is really boring.” Yes, for some reason I had forgotten that listening to baseball on the radio is interesting only if you happen to be doing something else interesting at the same time. Like watching a movie.

I finally gave up and did some intensive music collection updating. Later I checked in with my I-pad and saw the game was in the top of the 9th and the Cubs were losing 5-2. The Giants’ pitcher had allowed them only two hits and two walks for the whole game up to that point. I was glad I hadn’t wasted my time trying to hear the play by play for a game where the loss was imminent and nothing of any interest had happened.

With the Cubs loss it meant we’d be going back to Wrigley Field in Chicago on Thursday for a final deciding game. Wednesday morning I checked the Internet for the game time. Oddly I couldn’t find it. All I could find was an update that said “Cubs score four runs in 9th inning for most dramatic post-season comeback victory of all time, eliminating the Giants, and moving onto the National League Championship series, and you missed it.”

Are you kidding me! Are you kidding me! Am I in the Twilight Zone AGAIN???? Are you kidding me!

Deep breaths, deep breaths, om, deep breaths.

Well, at least they won. It’s now onto the Championship Series. Hopefully I’ll have better luck with the next group of games. I will continue to report on how things progress. Go Cubs!*

*(Footnote: I’ve been very recently advised that this ongoing subject may hold little interest for most people. This includes people who actually like baseball, but are now suffering from agonizing depression since their home teams have been eliminated from the playoff competition, and therefore don’t wish to hear about the ongoing prosperity of some other team, namely the Cubs. It also includes people who don’t like baseball because it’s dumb. I’m willing to acknowledge most if not all of these points. Therefore going forward, in order that the ensuing pieces on this subject have a more universal appeal for both baseball fans and non-fans alike, all references to “the Cubs” will be replaced with “the cats.” My next update will be this Sunday, October 16th, the day following their first game of the Championship Series when they play the Los Angeles…Baby Pandas, so please stop back then and check out my post. Thanks!)

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