When I was a kid in the 1970s, I would tune in out-of-town baseball broadcasts on my trusty AM transistor radio. From our home in eastern Wisconsin, it was easy to catch Merle Harmon and Bob Uecker covering the hapless Brewers on WTMJ in Milwaukee, but when the Brewers fell behind the Orioles 7-2 in the 4th inning, my mind would wander.
I found the alternatives; I also listened to Vince Lloyd covering the Cubs on WGN in Chicago, but only if the Cubs were on the road, and on other nights I might catch the White Sox with Harry Caray and Jimmy Piersall on WMAQ. If I were feeling more ambitious, I could catch the gentlemanly Ernie Harwell on WJR in Detroit, or feisty Jack Buck on KMOX out of St. Louis. Sometimes, but not always, I could catch Herb Carneal on WCCO.
It’s difficult to explain to younger people, but on weeknights you couldn’t watch a game unless you lived in a big city. Writing for the Athletic (paywall, unfortunately), Jon Greenberg and Stephen J. Nesbitt detail what’s been a pastime for 100 years now:
The beauty of baseball on the radio is in its simplicity. It’s theatre of the mind. Even younger broadcasters, who were raised in the TV age, say radio was the sound of their summers, conjuring images of car rides, sifting through static, and listening from a fishing boat in the middle of a lake.
It was the sound of discovery, in the same way that postwar Brits looking for the new sounds would tune in Radio Luxembourg. Those faraway voices suggested there was something more out there, beyond the city limits of wherever you happened to be. If you have an IP today, you can see the world and hear every voice imaginable. While I appreciate the choices arrayed before me, I do miss the thrill of listening to Ernie Harwell through the static on a still August evening.