Seems Like Old Times

That’s Harold Arlin behind the Pirates broadcast mike at Forbes Field in 1972. Arlin did the first radio baseball game broadcast over KDKA in Pittsburgh on August 5, 1921. To Arlin’s right is Hall of Fame broadcaster Bob Prince, who entertained Arlin that early 70s night on his sentimental short-stint return  for the evening.

Seems like old times. Every time I fix a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to tide me through lunch, a part of my brain gets the idea that I will be back on the sandlot in no time for Round Two of our All Summer, All Day, Everyday Baseball Sandlot Slugfest. I can even pick up the chatter of the morning’s early ramblings from “Eagle Field” at the Pecan Park intersection of Japonica @ Myrtle. The voices of my friends and their cries for justice and equity on our self-governed game calls in the morning segment are as clear today as they were sixty plus years ago. Then I take a step or two away from the kitchen table and the reality of things lands with hard certainty. There won’t be any new sandlot games for me this afternoon. Or any other day soon. I’ll have to get my baseball fix as per always these days watching the Astros, Skeeters, and our ever-loving closest thing to sandlot Houston Babies vintage base ball club play. And I’m fine with that settlement for as long as I can be near the sound of a baseball popping either leather – or flying off its impact of its collision with a wooden bat on its way to some fenced-in distant horizon.

It’s funny how the sounds of the game so dominate my most primal memories of how baseball came into my life. And, for me, like for many of you, it came into my life on the sonorous sounds of radio baseball game broadcasts from the 1940s and 1950s. In fairness to the wonderful media people we enjoy in Houston, I think many things have happened to take away the descriptive poetry and character that some of those early radio broadcasters both had and used.

For one thing, many of them worked alone, whereas, today, all broadcasters work as members of teams over the air. Solitude invites the poetic expression; team work invites interaction with your partner. Take the simple example of the high pop fly. Ours here is handled by the third base man:

Red Barber Type Might Say: “Irvin swings hard … and there’s a very high pop fly to the left side … apparently floating up into the Robin’s egg blue sky and headed for the stratosphere near third base … Cox dances onto the balance wheel … looking straight up in pure hunger for the Law of Gravity to make its latest ruling … and here comes the descent … and Cox snuggles the long distance popper into his glove for the second out in the top of the sixth. …. and he flips it over to Reese for a celebratory trip around the Dodger infield.”

2012 Type Mike Might Say: “Irvin swings … and there’s a high pop to the left side … Cox settles under it. … and he … takes it for the out. What do you think of that one, Pat? That one was really up there, wasn’t it?”

2012 Partner Pat Says: “Yep. … It sure was, Mike. …. It reminds me of the ball I almost caught in Omaha once.”

2012 Mike Says: “Actually, Pat, that ball went far enough to remind me how far the fans can also stretch their baseball ticket dollars if they want to take advantage of the club’s new Second Half Mini Season Ticket Package. …”

I’m being a little unfair. In Houston, we have some of the finest broadcasters in the nation calling Astros games over both radio and television. Bill Brown and Jim DeShaies, with considerable help from the “columns” that Greg Lucas writes within the body of each game he works are nothing less than the best at what they each do. Brown has no superior when it comes to the art of mindful description that never looses touch with the fact that viewers do not need a telecaster to describe for them what they can already see for themselves. Instead of over-polishing the already shining apple, Bill Brown interjects historical reference that helps keep the game from stumbling over its own quiet visual inertia. He keeps the score and the game situation intact – and he brings out the best in his creative, articulate, and very funny partner,  jim Deshaies. As a partner who brings two loaves of fresh bread to the broadcast breakfast table, nobody does it  better than “JD, the Baker of Baseball Perspective.”

On the Houston radio side, my favorite guy is Dave Raymond, the only Stanford Tree in the Houston Baseball Broadcast. Raymond is bright, an excellent communicator, a poet in his own right, and the kind of guy who would have been a great radio broadcaster in any era. Until the near future local broadcasting air clears, we can only hope that Dave Raymond will be a long time member of the Houston media contingent.

Seems like we’ve got a few reminders in our midst of how blessed we are in Houston to have so many really excellent broadcast people serving our needs for information, drama, and entertainment about and from – the game of baseball.

Seems like old times? All I have to do is think of the latest Jim DeShaies over-the-air story to be taken there.

For example, on the Astros last trip to Los Angeles, several members of pitcher Bud Norris family were there to watch him pitch against the Dodgers.At one point in the game, Norris came to bat and lifted a lazy can-of-corn fly ball out to left field. It wasn’t much of swing or play, but it was enough to bring Bud’s sister leaping to her feet and smiling and applauding all the while.

Noting the picture of Bud’s sister’s inexplicable actions on-screen, broadcaster Bill Brown expressed his wonder over the reasons for her joy.

Jim DeShaies quickly added, “Maybe she just had ‘fly out to left’ in the family pool.”

Just like old times, that kind of line is still funny today.

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One Response to “Seems Like Old Times”

  1. Bob Hulsey Says:

    Bill, the Norris anecdote was in San Francisco recently, not L.A. but I agree with the overall sentiment. Having been out of work this baseball season, I’ve watched more Astros baseball than I should but I am impressed with the work Brownie and JD do on a regular basis for a team that most of the country simply ignores.

    When you watch MLB Extra Innings telecasts from around the country you realize how few baseball broadcasters seem to rise above the Harry Doyle cookie-cutter stereotype mold. It’s great when I get a chance to listen to Vin Scully’s one-man act but most other baseball broadcasts, aside from JD and Brownie, are diffivult to stay engaged in.

    And, yes, there are way too many segues to marketing situations but you can’t blame that on the broadcasters, It’s just the cost of doing business in today’s high-dollar broadcast rights world.

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