With the exception of a few Bach toccatas played by Glenn Gould, I haven’t barely listened to music at all for the past two weeks or so.
(I continue to download Grateful Dead shows as if they were gonna be illegal, but I haven’t listened to any of them yet. I conclude that a library of Dead shows soothes my proto-Asperger’s personality, the same way a library of baseball cards used to soothe it when I was a kid.)
I haven’t turned my ears off; I’ve just found something a little different to feed them.
I discovered the Old Time Radio Researchers’ Group Library a few weeks ago. It’s a library of old radio programs, available for listening and download.
I’m sure there are treasures scattered throughout the collection … but what hooked me is in the “B” part of the library.
Under the heading “Baseball Game Broadcasts, The” are two or three dozen old radio broadcasts of baseball games spanning 1934 to 1966. Most are World Series games or All-Star games, while some are just average regular-season contests.
I don’t know of any other site like this. Most historical sports broadcasts you find online are being offered for sale, usually at a healthy price.
But these, you can enjoy for free … and I have thrown myself into the library with a vengeance. I’ve shelved music entirely during my commutes, in favor of old baseball broadcasts I’ve burned to CD.
(I’ve stubbornly refused to look up the results of the games, preferring to let them unfold as they did in real life.)
The first game I listened to was a Phillies-Mets matchup from Sept. 4, 1966 — a rainy Camera Day at Shea Stadium.
I didn’t live-blog it (though I might yet do that for another game, if I get the time.)
I can’t resist sharing a couple of observations, though:
- It’s charming to hear Lindsey Nelson rattle off a list of bricks-and-mortar places where Mets fans could buy tickets, including Grand Central Station; Macy’s in Huntington, Long Island, at the Walt Whitman Shopping Center; and any Manufacturers Hanover Trust Co. bank office.
I’m too lazy to check, but I wonder if the Mets still go to that length in the age of the Internet. I’m guessing probably not.
- The Mets’ long-running broadcast trio of Nelson, Ralph Kiner and Bob Murphy is on the job, but we only hear one at a time. Presumably two of them were doing the TV call while the third handled radio.
- We hear very little color about the players.
Maybe I’ve been spoiled by today’s commentators, who seem to throw in all kinds of details — especially ones that support whatever narratives they’ve decided to load down the ballgame with.
But Nelson, Kiner and Murphy don’t really tell you much about the ballplayers, who are left in the listener’s mind as one-dimensional shadows wearing Mets uniforms.
They don’t mention that Bill Hepler and Billy Murphy were Rule 5 draft pickups from the Senators and Yankees … or that Hawk Taylor’s real full name was Robert Dale Taylor … or that Bob Friend, at various times, had led the National League in wins, losses, games started and innings pitched.
Maybe they were saving the details for the TV call.
Or, maybe by that point in the year, they figured Mets listeners already knew the team, and didn’t need to be told again that Jerry Grote was a hothead and Tug McGraw a prankster and Cleon Jones a native of Mobile, Alabama.
- One thing Murphy, Nelson and Kiner do well is to keep the audience up to date on out-of-town scores, especially those involving pennant races. It captures the bustle of the baseball world, even though it subtly reminds Mets fans that their team is nowhere near contention.
- I’m incapable of seeing, reading or hearing a nostalgic beer ad without trying to taste the beer in my mind.
This broadcast is brought to us by New York’s long-gone Rheingold Dry. I wonder if what Rheingold called “dry” was the same thing as the “dry beer” that was briefly the rage 15 years ago?
- It seems like every new Met who comes to the plate or is substituted into the ballgame is greeted by boos. Either the fans were sick of futility, or a handful of grumblebunnies were seated near the broadcast booth.
- This particular broadcast was taped off WGY-AM in Schenectady, N.Y., and local programming occasionally intrudes.
At one point, a local voice briefly cuts into the broadcast to announce that the phone lines are down to a local fire company, and that listeners will need to call elsewhere to report emergencies. (There is no subsequent notice that the problem was fixed.)
At another point, WGY spends a 30-second break extolling the size and reach of its news department. It sounds like bragging, until you realize how much smaller that news department probably is now — if it even still exists at all.
- The Phils’ Chris Short pitches a 10-hit shutout — something we would almost certainly not see today, now that managers have deeper bullpens and quicker hooks than they did in 1966.
I could go on but that’s more than enough. Since this game ended, I’ve moved on to Braves-Dodgers 1950 and Indians-Senators 1939, which might also get commented on in this space at some point.
Or maybe I’ll get back to music someday.