Yesterday afternoon I was preparing for the start of the game between the A’s and White Sox when I began internally debating if I wanted to watch the game online (I refuse to pay for cable) and lie around in my bed or listen on the radio in my car while I cruised around. With the price of a gallon of gas being similar to the price of a small beer at a ball game these days, it seemed like the answer was clear. However, lately I find myself listening to ball games on the radio like an old-timer in his rocking chair on the back porch.
Unfortunately for me, my apartment building doesn’t offer any place to chill out with a little radio and listen to game, and even if it did I don’t have a hand-held radio, so if I want to listen to the game I have to get in my car. Fortunately, those of you who know me know I have a penchant for driving around aimlessly so it’s a non-issue. I had to run downtown to run some errands anyway, so I climbed in my car and tuned in.
One of the main reasons I enjoy listening to games on the radio is to hear play-by-play man Ken Korach handle the broadcast. I’m obviously biased, but many people regard him as one of the best in business. Besides his breadth of baseball knowledge, Korach is unmatched at describing the atmosphere of the game and painting a vivid picture for the listener. Although I grew up listening to Bill King, I can’t imagine thinking of the voice of the A’s and not hearing Korach excitedly yelling, “He is gonna watch it fly!”
However, if you’ve tuned in any time in the last week, you’d know that Korach is on vacation until Tuesday and Cal Bears men’s basketball broadcaster Roxy Bernstein is subbing. I had actually never heard of Bernstein before this stint, but he’s done a sensational job of filling in so far. He covers the pace of the game very well and is quick with clever quips that will elicit a chuckle or two.
I’ve listened to plenty of games while driving around over the years, but something about being a resident of Oakland and driving around this city while listening to yesterday’s game really established a visceral connection with this community I hadn’t quite experienced before. As the beaming sun slowly began its descent beyond the horizon and a soft summer breeze pushed its way around the cabin of my coupe, I felt as though there was nothing else in this world that could make me feel more content.
It’s interesting in that as a kid I hated listening to radio broadcasts because there was no picture. Now, I find myself gravitating to radio more and more since I get a kick out of visualizing the scene based on the description I’m being given. It also changes the experience dramatically since all you have to go on is the words, tone, and inflection of the announcers, making for a roller coaster for emotion that adds to the action.
For example, with the bases loaded and one out in the top of the sixth of last night’s game, the A’s were down 3-0. Josh Donaldson hit a high drive to right field that looked like a fly out, but just kept carrying. Vince Cotroneo, the number two announcer for A’s broadcasts, was calling the play and at first simply said Donaldson hit a high drive to right, seeming as though it would be an out. Immediately I said, “Shit!” and started thinking about at least getting a run in on the sac fly.
However, Cotroneo’s voice began to rise with elation as the ball hung up in the air and eventually cleared the fence, turning my dejection into pure ecstasy and giving the A’s a 4-3 advantage that they held for the victory. With his call, Cotroneo was able to perfectly capture the essence and emotion of that play.
After the game, White Sox starter Chris Sale lamented, “‘Off the bat I figured it was going to be a sac fly or something. It just kept going.”
Even though I was merely listening thousands of miles away, I had the exact same feeling as the man who actually threw the pitch and saw the flight of the ball. That’s great announcing, and part of the magic of listening to a game on the radio that makes baseball such an enjoyable game.