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.
I grew up listening to baseball on the radio. Those familiar voices of Vin Scully and Jerry Doggett were an integral part of my summers. In those days we saw maybe a half dozen games on television. Certainly no more than ten or so. It was via the radio that I learned about baseball and learned to love the game.
These days Terry and I can watch the Angels on television, but our provider does not offer the channel that carries the Dodgers. (That’s a long-standing issue and sore point here in Southern California.) We don’t like to watch TV in the evenings anyway. When we are sitting with our feet up we like to listen to jazz.
I do, however, have the MLB At Bat app on both my iPhone and my iPad, and I have my iPad in front of me each evening after I have read the paper. That means that I can check the score of Dodger game at any time. If it’s getting close to the end of the game and the Dodgers are leading sometimes we’ll turn off the music and I’ll pull up the game on At Bat. We will listen to Charlie Steiner along with Rick Monday call the last couple of innings.
Just like listening to baseball on the radio.
I have written about the limited number of households that are able to see the Dodgers on television. And I have written about how we could have chosen the provider that offers the Dodgers, but we didn’t, for a variety of reasons.
I have therefore not been able to listen to Dodger broadcaster Joe Davis. Joe did the majority of road games for the Dodgers on television last year. This year he will be doing the majority of games, period on TV. This due, of course, to the retirement of Vin Scully. Charter Communications, operating under the Spectrum brand, broadcasts the Dodger games and owns the distribution rights. They decided to allow KTLA channel 5 to broadcast ten games in April and May, mostly to convince viewers to drop their provider and switch to Spectrum. So I got hear Joe Davis a few times during the past week.
I agree with Los Angeles Times baseball writer Bill Shaikin who stated, “Davis delivers a clean broadcast.” True, as far as it goes. But Shaikin goes on to write:
And yet, we couldn’t help thinking there was something generic about it all. Scully was the last master of the one-man booth. He talked to us, not to a broadcast partner, regaling us with stories of ice skating with Jackie Robinson, and the history of beards, and did you know that Uggla was Swedish for owl?
Absolutely. Davis is not Scully. He shouldn’t and he won’t try to be. As Shaikin pointed out, Davis works will with color commentator and Dodger pitching great Orel Hershiser. But the two have very similar voices, and it was sometimes hard to tell who was talking, although if it was a game call it was obviously Davis.
Shaikin wrote, “The Dodgers broadcast sounded good Monday, and at the same time it sounded just like that of every other team.” Exactly. (Except for the Giants. They have Jon Miller on the radio and Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow on television.)
Terry and I will be fine without the Dodgers on TV. We can listen to Charlie Steiner and Rick Monday on the radio, and I personally think that they are the more enjoyable team to listen to.
That will work.
The 2017 baseball season opened yesterday and I am delighted. The Dodgers opened their season at home this afternoon and the Angels are opening this evening on the road against Oakland.
The Dodgers have a strong starting rotation and a good bullpen. They seem to have improved their ability to hit left-handed pitching. We shall see. The Angels had a pretty good spring, and we can hope that it translates into a better regular season than the past couple.
Both teams have very likeable managers whom you want to support. Dave Roberts is in his second year with the Dodgers and Mike Soscia has been with the Angels for a very long time. He managed the 2002 team that beat my San Francisco Giants in Dusty Baker’s last year managing that team. But that’s another story entirely.
The point is: it is spring. It is April. We have baseball. And whatever is happening in Washington can be forgotten temporarily while we enjoy following the Dodgers and the Angels.
That’s all good.
The pitchers and catchers for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim reported today. Pitchers and catchers for the Dodgers report tomorrow. The Super Bowl is over and we can start thinking about baseball.
The Angels have a limited budget, and they did not even try to sign their former pitching ace, Jared Weaver. Are you kidding? Perhaps he was past his prime, but he was still solid in 2016. It’s not like he got a lot of run support.
The Dodgers have pitching galore, but have made only a few moves to improve their performance against left-handed pitching. The television situation is unchanged and Terry and I are unlikely to be able to see the Dodgers on TV this season.
But it’s baseball. It’s spring training. The Dodgers play their first spring training game on 25 February. The Angels first game is the same day.
Baseball being back atones for a multitude of unpleasantries on the national political stage, even if I am slightly irked with our local teams. It’s still baseball and they’re still my teams.