Late Night Baseball


By Sam Garfield

Apr 24, 1958

(Airwaves) –If you’re a Cubs fan, you’re probably going through a lifestyle change now that the Dodgers and Giants have moved to the West Coast. That’s why I went to sleep with Jack Quinlan the other night.

I’m not really a late-night kind of person anymore. By 10 o’clock I’m thinking about going to bed. But being a card-carrying insomniac I need some help. Usually a good book helps, or some soft music. But two nights ago I realized the Cubs were just getting started in Los Angeles against the Dodgers. So I tuned in.

Quinlan, the young radio voice of the Cubs, said: “Tonight, it’s a battle of right-handers, Glen Hobbie for our Cubs against Johnny Podres for the Dodgers.”

It seemed strange to hear Quinlan’s voice late at night. And the game hadn’t even started. I took a quick shower, brushed my teeth and got into bed. After a few minutes, I was hooked. Radio, I’ve always believed, is the most romantic of mediums. It allows us to imagine, to paint our own picture. Unlike television, which can provide only so many pictures, the images that come out of a radio are as imaginative as your mind. Baseball is the perfect game for radio.

Quinlan said: “We’re going to have a major league game here in The City of Angels, in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, a football palace. It’s a massive place, more suited for the Olympics, or a Roman chariot race. But tonight it’s baseball. You’ll want to know, the left field foul line extends a mere 251-feet from home plate. They’ve build a forty-foot screen in front of the bleachers in an effort to keep the ball from leaving the park. But it’s really not a park; it’s more like a small state.”

The thing about radio is it respects baseball’s pace, understands that the crack of the bat should be heard, not seen. Radio allows baseball fans to get comfortable. And the radio wordsmiths are as welcomed as a 9th-inning grand slam when you’re down by three.

Baseball’s greatest moments –a perfectly executed squeeze play, a towering home run, a standing ovation– were created for radio. When Quinlan tells you about Banks’ wrist action, you feel the power, sense the timing, and anticipate the homer.

And isn’t that what baseball’s all about?

Where TV can only show you limited action from three or four cameras, radio delivers the future: “Well, next inning, we’ll have the heart of our lineup coming to the plate.” Your mind takes it from there.

Radio complements baseball and presents the game like no other medium can. You can start the game in your office, pick it up again in the car, or go to sleep listening to the start of a West Coast swing. There’s a certain warmth when a storekeeper or barber has the game on. Makes you feel what you’ve always believed –baseball has a comfort level that’s good for a person’s state of mind.

Radio is good for baseball because it has no intention of being the star. And when you go to the park you enjoy the game more because of radio. You settle in, check out the flags to see where the wind’s coming from, and be sure to mention that astute observation to the fan next to you. You turn around and look up at the press box, and your eyes move to the booth. Yep, he’s there, the voice from the radio, a voice of faith. You trust radio and its pros because they have this knack of keeping hope alive. Listen to Quinlan, listen to the hope in his voice. You’d think the Cubs can’t lose.

I fell asleep somewhere in the sixth inning. When I picked up my morning paper, I read the final score: Dodgers 4, Cubs 2. But there’s always another game, like tonight.

Copyright © 2011. John Theodore — All Rights Reserved. Text may not be reproduced without permission.

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