(…except that it is)
As I’ve noted before, I have loved and followed baseball since I was five years old. And like many, I have a purist streak. I can tolerate the designated hitter in the American League, but please do not ever bring it to the National League.
So there are some recent trends that annoy me. One is position players pitching an inning near the end of a game where the outcome has been deemed to be not consequential. It’s bad enough to see other teams do it, but to have catcher Russell Martin of the Dodgers pitch an inning is aggravating. I’m not a big football fan, but I know enough about it to follow a game when I choose to watch (which is not often). I know that only certain players are eligible to receive a pass, and that their uniform number must be within a certain range. Baseball needs a similar rule.
Then there’s the “opener,” as opposed to starting pitcher. The opener only pitches an inning or two before being replaced by a pitcher in long relief. A team may announce that a certain left-handed pitcher is starting a game so as to influence the opposing team’s starting lineup. Except the opposing manager is frequently on to this ruse so it is often ineffective. The Angels did this the other day. Again, aggravating.
Then there’s the fact that intentional walks are now signaled by the manager, rather than having the pitcher throw four pitches off the plate. Not’s not how the game should be played.
OK. End of rant. Back to enjoying baseball.
Terry was surfing on her iPhone one evening last week when she showed me an item conveying news of the passing of long-time San Francisco Giants broadcaster Hank Greenwald.
You perhaps know that I grew up a Dodgers fan and I am today a Dodgers fan. But there was an interim period when Terry and I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area that I was a Giants fan. Hank Greenwald had everything to do with that.
Terry and I had rented a house in Mountain View, in the heart of Silicon Valley. The house had a lot of foliage that needed attention. I don’t mind doing yard work, in fact I rather enjoy it. At the same time I need something to listen to when I’m doing yard work. The nice thing about the Giants broadcast station KNBR is that it has a strong, clear signal and baseball is a great companion for yard work.
I immediately loved Hank’s wry witty style. He not only called the game, but he had great stories and his wry humor was a delight. My engagement with Hank developed into a full-fledged Giants fanship until Terry and I moved south and childhood loyalties won the day.
Hank brought a lot of pleasure to a lot of people and he will be greatly missed.
The Dodgers have had an up and down year. They have had key players on the disabled list and have had a long list of starting pitchers. At one point near the end of the season they were in sole possession of first place in the National League West. They lost that lead, but swept the Giants in San Francisco and ended the season tied with the Rockies for first in the NL West. They beat the Rockies in the NL West tie-breaker, which means they go straight to the Division Series against Atlanta in Los Angeles on Thursday. They avoided having to deal with the whole wildcard thing.
We have a couple of days to catch our breath, and whatever happens from here on out, it was an enjoyable season.
The Dodgers came to Los Angeles in 1958. I was four years old when the season started. I have been following baseball from that point on. I know a little bit about the game.
In those early days and for many years after that the Dodgers were on the radio on KFI (50,000 watt clear channel station, Earl C. Anthony Incorporated). Wherever you were in the West or the Southwest you could hear KFI and the Dodger games. And, of course, we had Vin Scully. Who better to teach us the game.
Today we have almost every game on TV. Joe Davis is a competent play-by-play guy and Orel Hershiser is a good color man, though he could stand to talk less. On the radio we have Charlie Steiner and Rick Monday, an enjoyable team. But the day of the single broadcaster calling the game on his own is over. Vin was the last of those.
Which is my point here. Too much chatter and too much information these days. Call the game and describe it, but skip the excess commentary. The Angels games (as well as ESPN Sunday Night Baseball and the games on Fox) outline the strike zone for you on the screen. Stop it. Please! I have been following baseball since I was four. (I said that, didn’t I?) I know the strike zone, even if it has shifted a bit over time. And as for ESPN Sunday Night Baseball, they seem at times to forget that there is a game on the field that they are supposed to be describing.
But it is still baseball. And I still love watching it.
Last baseball season we didn’t have the Dodgers on TV as we had Frontier Communications. I wrote that we didn’t need the Dodgers on television as we had the MLB at Bat app and could listen to the radio broadcast with Charlie Steiner and Rick Monday.
That was then. This is now. And I have to admit to at least a bit of sour grapes. Because now we have Spectrum and we get the Dodgers on television. I like having the Dodgers on television. Joe Davis is not as bad as I made out. He’s a pretty decent game caller. He’s not Vin Scully, but nobody is except for Vin.
Charlie and Rick are an excellent broadcast team in the finest baseball tradition, and there’s a great baseball tradition in radio broadcasts, but yeah, really, it’s nice to be able to see the Dodgers on TV.
A year ago at this time I wrote that I was happy with Frontier Communications because at the end of my two year term I got a lower rate and more channels. This year that’s not the case.
What turned out to be a two-year term was only one year. When I asked them for some kind of rate accommodation I was told nothing was possible. That was it. It was time for a change.
I had been thinking about changing to Spectrum for a while. They have the Dodgers on TV and they have the Weather Channel. Frontier has neither. This, and Frontier’s inflexibility with respect to our rate, prompted me to make the change.
We did drop to a lower tier of service without the movie channels, but on the streaming side we have Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and movie services via our Roku.
We don’t get Cooking Channel, but we have Food Network. And I have Genius Kitchen on the Roku, which comes from the Food Network folks. I don’t get Decades with its Dick Cavett reruns, but I still have PBS Create.
Our savings is $60 a month. That doesn’t take into account the rate when our Frontier $30 a month loyalty discount was to expire.
And most importantly we get the Dodgers. We get to have the Dodgers on TV. That goes for a lot. We’re going to thoroughly enjoy that.
I wrote on Valentine’s Day that it was also Ash Wednesday and that the Dodgers pitchers and catchers had their first workout after reporting the day before. The full squad is now in camp (actually I read that most of the position players showed up with the pitchers and catchers), and the first spring training game was on Friday.
We have baseball. With all the issues and concerns in our world today, having baseball back is a Good Thing.
This is one of those years. Today is Valentine’s Day. It is also Ash Wednesday. This year Easter falls on April Fools Day. It is the sort of cosmic goof that Tom Robbins wrote about in Another Roadside Attraction. I never knew that the time between Ash Wednesday and Easter matched the time between Valentine’s Day and April Fool’s Day. There’s got to be some significance there, though I’m not sure what it is.
To add another layer, after reporting to training camp yesterday the Dodgers pitchers and catchers had their first workout today.
I’m not sure what it’s all about, Alfie, but maybe we can figure it out. Or maybe we don’t need to.
I have to say something about the Dodgers making it to the World Series this year. The last time they were there, after all, was 1988.
In 1988 I was living in San Jose and was still a Dodger fan. I didn’t develop a fondness for the Giants until Terry and I were renting a house in Mountain View in the mid-1990’s and I listened to Hank Greenwald’s marvelous play-by-play on the radio when I was outside doing yard work. But during that famous game 1 in 1988 I turned the television on and saw that the Dodgers were behind. I turned the TV off. I missed Kirk Gibson’s famous walk-off home run that won the game for the Dodgers. Gibson, who was in a great deal of pain, and spent most of the game on the trainer’s table in the clubhouse, pulled on his uniform and came into the dugout. Tommy Lasorda sent him in to pinch hit and Gibson came through. And I missed it.
Terry and I returned to Southern California in 2015, and despite my years as a Bay Area snob and a Giants fan, could not help but return to rooting for the team that I grew up loving. The Dodgers moved to Los Angeles in 1958 when I was five and my dad and I began following them from the very beginning.
Now, 29 years later, the Dodgers are back in the World Series. It’s an exciting time.
I wrote about this not long ago, but a recent column by Bill Plaschke in the Los Angeles Times caused me to compose a more complete reflection. He asked how Dodger fans who didn’t have Charter Spectrum followed the team. This is my response, lightly edited.
Regarding your column in today’s [Thursday 24 August] paper:
When I returned to Southern California in 2015 after 41 years away my wife and I had to decide on our communications provider: Time-Warner Cable or Verizon. We chose Verizon because we had them in Santa Clara County and because TW had a reputation for awful service. We made this decision knowing full well that we would not get the Dodger games.
There were times last year, Vin Scully’s last in the booth, when I momentarily regretted the decision, but then Vin was only doing home games. This year (Verizon having become Frontier and TW having become Charter Spectrum) my regrets are minimal. Seeing the game on KTLA on Tuesday [22 August] reminded me that I don’t like Joe Davis all that much, and I don’t terribly enjoy the Joe Davis – Orel Hershiser team. I would much rather listen to Charlie Steiner and Rick Monday on the radio. I also love listening to Rick doing play-by-play with Kevin Kennedy doing color.
KLAC doesn’t come in terribly well here in Hemet unless I’m in my car, but I have my MLB At Bat subscription. My wife and I listen to jazz in the evening, but I follow the game on my iPad app, and if the Dodgers are about to pull out a victory I’ll punch up the audio and listen to Charlie call the ninth. It reminds me of listening to Dodger games on the radio with Vin Scully when I was a youngster.
When I was growing up maybe half a dozen games a year were broadcast on TV. Otherwise all we had was Vin Scully and Jerry Doggett on the radio. My family and I listened to Vin call Sandy Koufax’s perfect game on the radio on a hot evening in our living room. Nothing could have been more dramatic or exciting.
In my Bay Area years I listened to Hank Greenwald and later Jon Miller call Giants games on the radio, while I had Bill King and Lon Simmons for the A’s. With their marvelous word pictures I didn’t miss seeing the game on television at all.
Back here in SoCal I’m more than happy to listen to Charlie and Rick on the radio (even if it is via the internet). If Charlie is not making the road trip or doing television, I am content listening to Rick and Kevin. (And, by the way, Terry Smith is pretty darn good on the Angels radio broadcasts.)
Baseball is a sport very well suited to be followed on the radio. I don’t need TV to enjoy the game.