First Person

For those of you just tuning in

Why baseball is best on the radio

You can go to a baseball game and sit in the stands, and you can watch it on television, and you can now watch it on a small electric toy in your hand, or have your toy chirp the game to you, but you can also still blessedly listen to baseball on the radio, which seems to me the most pleasant, apt, relaxed, and gracious way to savor a baseball game. I mean, it’s great to be at a game, although the lower the league and the sparser the assembly the better, I think, but baseball on the radio can be a mysteriously joyful experience.

The quiet mutter of the announcer among the many slow moments of the game; the occasional wandering rambling anecdote that takes up a whole pitching change; the lovely plethora of tiny details on the batter (“from lovely Galt, Iowa, population 32!”) and the pitcher (“once pitched two innings of relief for the Wichita Wingnuts with his other arm and only gave up one hit, and that a dribbler!”) and the catcher (“spent two years as a logger in Kitimat, British Colum­bia, and recently donated bats for the entire Little League there!”) and the home-plate umpire (“a renowned Hindu scholar in the off-season!”) and the teams’ long colorful pained entertaining histories.

The satisfying whap of a pitch landing in the catcher’s mitt, a familiar sound, a sound you have heard since you were five years old, but here it is on the radio, as you drive along trying to discern between the foomp of a fastball and the thwick of a slider. The firm inarguable sound of the bat driving the ball somewhere, and the only way you can tell it’s a homer is by the rising thunder of the crowd and the rising excitement in the announcer’s voice; and bless the an­nouncer who does not try for a signature call, a trademark, a hallmark, a catchphrase, but simply unadornedly shouts back back back gone!