The Lost Appreciation of Baseball on the Radio

December 9, 2009   ·     ·   Jump to comments
Article Source: Bleacher Report - New York Yankees

“The pitch- swung on and hit in the air to deep right-center field, that ball is high, it is far, it is GONE! It’s a GRAND SLAM! Ballgame over! Yankees win! THE YANKEES WIN!

The unmistakable voice of the New York Yankees, John Sterling, is the source of this booming home run call. He made this call on May 17, 2002, when Jason Giambi hit a walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the 14th inning against the Minnesota Twins during a massive, hours-long downpour of rain.

As the play unfolded on the television broadcast of the game, it was clear that it was one of the more dramatic home runs in recent memory. If you were listening on the radio, however, that drama was magnified tenfold.

Most people prefer to watch the games on television, and rightfully so. That said, there is much to be appreciated when it comes to radio broadcasting.

In a recent AP article, John Sterling was quoted as saying “You have to be yourself, you have to be who you are, and for every home run call, there’s hours of pure, straight play-by-play. It’s an art form, and any art form—singing, dancing, writing, sculpting—some people like it and some people don’t.”

Hearing a home run call on the radio is far more dramatic than simply watching a ball touch down in the stands on television. The drama is increased because, as a listener, we really have no idea if the ball has a chance to clear the fence.

On television, we can rely on our vision and experience of past home runs to determine fairly quickly if the ball has a chance or not. On the radio, it is up to the announcer to convey to the listener what the ball is doing. There is a brief moment right after the ball hits the bat when the announcer must decide if he should break into his home run call, or simply describe the play as a long fly ball.

For instance, if one is listening to a Yankee game and hears John Sterling start his “That ball is high, it is far…” call, odds are that the ball is leaving the playing field. But it is never a certainty; sometimes the call ends with “…and is CAUGHT at the wall.” And for those seconds that feel like hours in between the time he starts the call and ends it, the tension is immeasurable.

As a listener, we wait with bated breath to hear if the ball cleared the wall or sailed safely into a waiting glove. Most of that drama is lost on television, because it’s much easier to judge for yourself if the ball is gone.

Another great thing about listening to a game on the radio is the fact that the announcers are confined to broadcasting what is happening on the field of play, and nothing else. More often than not, the announcers will be telling a boring story or make some unfunny joke instead of analyzing the actions on the field.

There is a lot down time on a television broadcast because they don’t need to describe every detail. On the radio, the announcing team must keep the listener informed about everything, leaving little time for incessant chatter. Most of the time on television, the broadcasters seem to be under the impression that we want them to talk about other games or focus on one player or story the entire time, which is the farthest thing from the truth.

When I listen to a game on the radio, I don’t have to deal with any nonsense from the broadcasters; I get the count, a play-by-play of what transpires, and a brief but informative analysis of the play from the color commentator.

Radio broadcasts are renowned for their simplicity and their directness. Announcers like Vin Scully, Red Barber, Mel Allen, Harry Kalas, and Ernie Harwell all made themselves legendary in their field for being concise while employing richly descriptive terms to describe the action on the field. They didn’t need gimmicks and over the top home run calls like the television broadcasters of today. Their styles pioneered the baseball radio broadcast field and paved the way for announcers today.

Why not appreciate what the fathers of baseball broadcast contributed and tune into the radio? Next time you sit down for a game, put down the remote and pick up a transistor radio to tune into your teams station. Kick back, relax, and allow yourself to transport back to a time when the radio was the only way to listen.

And as John Sterling breaks into his home run call, it will be impossible not to feel the drama. “It is high, it is far, it is …”

Read more New York Yankees news on BleacherReport.com

readers comments

Yankee Tickets

Yankee Tickets

Shop Yankee

Shop Yankee