A Distant World Series: What About the *Radio*?

Note: This post has been updated to reflect that I heard bits and random pieces of the radio broadcast of game 5, but mostly ESPN program notices. 

This became my plan for doing more than just reading recaps on the World Series games on a Chinese afternoon, that is, after I caught the best bits of the Cardinals’ game two World Series win on ESPN Radio. This solution never occurred to me in my ridiculous struggles to catch Game One or the first six innings of the second, more compelling game. Ortiz’s two-run shot for the Sox, followed next inning by the Cardinals running and daring themselves back into the lead. Epiphany! A return to yesteryear! Nostalgia becomes the solution to a technical problem! Mum and Dad had followed the Cleveland Indians this way in the ‘40s and ‘50s, and why not now? (Well, my bride did have to wave her hands in front of my face during that stretch of Game 2 – she wasn’t even hearing what had me day-dreaming of Fenway Park – as she tried to engage in a curious exercise she calls “planning”. That was Friday morning.) My iffy Internet connection had no trouble pulling down some good old-fashioned audio.

The added bit of sentimental pleasantness was the rich voice and baseball clarity of Dan Shulman doing the play-by-play, and not only because he’s a Canadian. He and Orel Hershiser (the former Dodgers ace with the funny name, accountant’s build and a “bulldog” reputation for toughness that belied his thin, pasty face) had to do the obligatory shilling for various sponsors, and for the American military presence in the world – we remember our servicemen and women listening on Armed Forces Radio, without whose heroic service we would not enjoy the freedom we do to obsess madly about children’s games and treat strong performers as moral agents of heroism until they’re indicted [not a direct quotation] – but they make a very listenable and interesting team. I have long said baseball is the only game that it’s more interesting to talk about afterward than it is to play, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, and it’s the only game I’ve ever really listened to much on the radio (mainly Tom Cheek and Jerry Howarth for the Blue Jays while driving in my car in southern Ontario). I can’t imagine another sport being so engaging by ear.

I missed most of Game 3 Sunday morning, but I did get to my radio laptop in time for pulsating, U.N.-Security-Council serious discussion on “a play that will be talked about for years and years and years”: the Cardinals scoring the winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning on an umpire’s call of baserunner interference. I’d never heard of such a thing. Shulman put it into historical context, he and Hershiser painted the picture – the focus it laid on one of the men in blue to decide the game, the berserk reaction of the Boston players to his call, the impossible situation of the Boston fielder who interfered, the painful chugging of the injured St. Louis player who was granted the winning run, and the (maybe) final justice of the fateful call.

Another bottom-o’-the-ninth oddity ended Game 4, as a Boston pitcher picked off a startled rookie Cardinal on first base with a star hitter at the plate in a tight game. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that, either, and I didn’t even hear it: a more-than-welcome ringing from Son One in Canada pre-empted that bit of long-distance, vicarious, corner-of-my-ears participation in a festival of baseball that, aside from the first match, has given all the tension and drama that grand old game can provide. I read about it later, and maybe it’s a sign of long-overdue maturity that this was enough for me. Or perhaps China is helping me to learn some resignation, maybe even a little detachment. Hmm.

It’s Tuesday morning. I’m off to an 8 o’clock class in Oral English. Do I dare to use ESPN Radio as my lesson plan for this morning? (Will the Internet be available in my teaching room, or in the foreign teachers’ office after 10?) Probably not, but with my ever-faithful sportsfan’s heart having declared, through its reaction to voices exclaiming from afar, that I’m pulling for the Cardinals, I’ll do my best to tune in at least a little. And if you’ve arrived here, dear reader, then you know the pleasure that can come from words, even mine, without the need for pictures.

[Yes, and the Bostons won 3-1, good and well-pitched and tense game, and it’s home to Fenway with two chances to close out at home. Go, Cards? Maybe I can get a better on-line radio feed at home for Game 6. What a silly experience I had with the Interwebs after class today.]

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