listening to the Dodgers

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.

Dodgers yard bannerThere 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.

Mike Christie

listening to baseball

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.

we will be fine without

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.

Dodgers yard bannerI 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:

quoteAnd 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.

it’s baseball

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.

Dodgers yard bannerThe 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 theAngels yard banner 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.

baseball 2017

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.

baseballNot that my Southern California teams are giving me any big reasons to be delighted and to look forward to the season.

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.

thank you, Vin

I can’t let the occasion of Vin Scully’s final game yesterday go by without taking time to think about how much Vin has meant to me.

Vin ScullyThe Dodgers arrived in Los Angeles in 1958. I was four at the start of the season and five when that first west coast season ended. My dad began listening to games right away, so I learned baseball from the youngest age. Here in Hemet we are about ninety miles from Los Angeles, but the games in those days were broadcast of KFI which was then a “fifty thousand watt clear channel station,” so we had no problems getting the games day or night. Even when we spent three years in Barstow, out in the high desert of San Bernardino county, the games came in clearly.

There were so many intense, exciting games. The one I most remember, however, was Vin’s call of the Sandy Koufax perfect game. That was September 9, 1965. I remember that evening well. The entire family was at home in our living room. The television was off and the radio was on. I remember the tension build as Vin Scully’s play-by-play made clear that something special was happening. I remember Vin noting the time on the scoreboard clock. I remember the excitement when the game ended. I think we were all holding our breath in the living room.

I spent many years away from Southern California and the Dodgers. And in spite having spent a number of years as a Giants fan during my Bay Area days (that’s another story) I migrated back to the Dodgers when we came back here in May of 2015.

Vin had reduced his workload to (mostly)  just home games, and a dispute over fees meant that more than half of Southern California television viewers could not see or hear Vin, except for the first three innings which were simulcast on radio. Fortunately an arrangement allowed the local station KTLA channel 5 to carry Vin’s last six games. That was a delight.

We will miss you, Vin. Enjoy your retirement.

photo credit: Floatjon. cropped. Creative Commons License 3.0.



Lon Simmons

I miss baseball broadcaster Lon Simmons. He retired some years ago and died in April 2015.

Lon SimmonsFor many years he was the partner of Giants broadcaster Ross Hodges. In the years I knew him he was partner to Oakland Athletics broadcaster Bill King. Sadly, a new ownership group failed to renew his contract. In the last few years of his career he was a part-time broadcaster for the Giants again. He retired when he realized he was no longer quick enough to keep up with the play-by-play.

What I loved most about him was his dry wit:

“If you’re keeping score, that was a 6-4-3 double play. Even if you’re not keeping score that was a 6-4-3 double play.”

I loved Lon Simmons.

a distraction

Earlier this summer I was watching a baseball game. I don’t remember who the teams were. They weren’t either of my local teams. The game was not terribly exciting and I noticed two attractive young women sitting behind home plate. They were just two or three rows back. These were certainly ultra-expensive seats – the ones where servers come and take your order for gourmet snacks.

baseballIn any case, these two women where talking to each other and seemingly not paying attention to the game at all. I could only see them when a left-handed batter was at the plate, but I became fascinated. When one of the women left her seat for a while, the other woman seemed to be looking at her smart phone rather than watching the game. When the first woman returned they resumed their conversation.

Obviously these ladies were not baseball fans. I am guessing that their tickets must have been gifts from a season ticket holder who couldn’t make that particular game.

They were definitely a distraction from the game, but an interesting insight into human nature.

it wasn’t always this way

The other day in the Sprouts grocery store parking lot I saw a car with a sign promoting a business called Passion 4 Pets in the back window. I thought it might involve dog boarding, so as Terry and I were heading over to our favorite sub shop later in the day, with Terry driving, I looked it up in the Google app on my iPhone. Not that we are planning any overnight trips anytime soon, but I was curious. Turns out the place does provide dog daycare and boarding.

No big deal, right? We do this all the time. But we forget how recent such capabilities are.

Terry and I got (back) together in 1991. I was in Silicon Valley and she was in Orange County. We spent a lot of time commuting on the weekends. One time when Terry was up visiting me, I played her the marvelous Dave Frishberg song “Dodger Blue” when ended with the words

quoteAnd Juan Marichal was a Dodger too,
Even he wore Dodger Blue,
Los Angeles Dodger Blue.

That had us both stumped because neither of us remembered the famous Giant pitcher and Dodger rival being a member of the Dodgers. So using my DOS-based personal computer I went to Prodigy, the consumer-oriented dial-up service owned by IBM which tried to emulate graphics in a pre-Windows environment. I did a search. It turns out that Marichal was a Dodger the last season of his career in 1975. (Looking him up on today I see that he started two games with the Dodgers and had a record of 0-1.)

I couldn’t email Terry to tell her this. The Internet was strictly for the government and educational institutions; there was no consumer internet email. Terry’s company email was strictly internal. My small company had no email, except for an internal kludge using a CRM (customer relationship management) system. I had dial-up CompuServe, but that was no help, as Terry was not on CompuServe. Same for my dial-up MCI Mail account. Ah, but I could send her a fax at work via my MCI Mail account.

So I did. Much to the befuddlement of Terry’s office manager.

The things we take for granted today.

baseball: the broadcaster matters

The fact that much of Southern California cannot see the Dodgers on television on account of the greed of the Dodger ownership group and Time-Warner Cable means that some fans get overly excited when a game is broadcast on ESPN or as a Fox Television Saturday game. I scratch my head at this excitement. Yes, you can see the team on the screen, but the broadcasters are the network guys, not the local announcers. To me, who is broadcasting the game is important.

baseballThe Giants have always done a fine job of employing broadcasters. I loved listening to Hank Greenwald on the radio. In 1997 Jon Miller became the lead radio broadcaster for the Giants. He is one of the very best. More recently, the Giants brought on a then young Dave Flemming and he is first class in his own right. On television, of course, Giants fans get to enjoy the marvelous team of Mike Krukow and Duane Kuiper—Kruk and Kuip.

Here in Southern California we have, of course, the legendary Vin Scully. And despite the television issue, I can hear him on home games when he simulcasts the first three innings. When Vin is doing television Charley Steiner does the radio play-by-play. I’m finding that Charley grates on me, which is odd, because I enjoyed when he did post-season baseball for ESPN. On road games when the new guy, Joe Davis, is not in the TV booth Charley does television. For those games Rick Monday does the radio play-by-play. I really do enjoy listening to Rick.

Who is broadcasting the game does make a difference to me.