KMOX or KTRS?

Many Questions – Darn Few Answers

The game of baseball and its relationship with fans is hidebound in tradition. Can anyone imagine not singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" before the home half of the seventh inning? Who could imagine not tuning in to KMOX on a warm summer night to listen to a crystal clear broadcast of the Cardinals? "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" is secure. KMOX may be another story.

Cardinal management is in the closing days of consideration of a deal that could transfer broadcast rights from KMOX-AM, "The Mighty Mox", to KTRS-AM, a talk radio station found on at 550 on the dial. Moving Cardinal radio broadcasts from KMOX is a watershed event in the history of this storied franchise. No one will be surprised to learn that money and control of telecast rights is at stake and that listening to Cardinal games in the future could become a more expensive proposition for Cardinal Nation.

One of the most beautiful aspects of being a Cardinal fan is accessibility. As sure as the sun rises and sets, every Cardinal fan knows that their favorite team's exploits can be heard throughout the Midwest on KMOX. This AM superstation can, under the right atmospheric conditions, reach almost anywhere in the lower 48. Cards fans get close to their radios so as not to miss a call. Kids take headsets to bed to listen to the end of games unbeknownst to suspecting and understanding parents.

The flagship station of the team with a huge coverage area has kept fans on the edge of their seats as Harry Caray teased us with "It might be! It could be!" – Pause – "IT IS – A HOME RUN!" Fifty-somethings like me grew up with the dulcet tones and unswerving honesty of Jack Buck. We chuckled at the Mike Shannonisms until we realized we really liked his homey expertise that sometimes got jumbled with an occasional departure from the best of the king's English.

That Cardinal ownership would consider relocating flagship status to little-known and lower-powered KTRS may seem blasphemous to the purists of the Red Planet. It's difficult to believe that KMOX wouldn't carry the Cardinals, but it could happen as early as the 2006 station. Why would ownership consider changing such a long and storied relationship? Obviously the issue comes down to money and increasing the return to the team through tighter control of broadcast rights and increased distribution of the broadcasts to paying listeners who subscribe to satellite radio.

Before you start cursing and swearing at ownership that they would be motivated to match such a decision based on filthy lucre, consider this. The current ownership has worked wonders restoring this franchise to greatness. They have kept two baseball geniuses – Walt Jocketty and Tony La Russa – on the payroll and putting up winning numbers. They essentially rebuilt dilapidated Busch Stadium into a warm and fan-friendly venue for enjoying games. Now they are building a gorgeous new stadium that will change the face of baseball in St. Louis and revitalize the downtown district. In other words, they have done a magnificent job and deserve our gratitude and respect.

That said, the potential switch to KTRS is fraught with worries for those of us who don't live right in St. Louis. I live in Du Quoin, Illinois, which is about 70 miles east southeast of St. Louis. KMOX explodes out of my radio. KTRS (www.ktrs.com) is barely audible. Will they upgrade their signal? Will we still hear Mike and Wayne or will there be new announcers? What about those who live in Indiana, Iowa, Arkansas, Kentucky, and all the other states populated by Cardinal fans? How will they receive broadcasts? Will we have to pay to hear Cardinal games in the future?

There are so many unanswered questions associated with the possible switch. To that end, I offer two thoughts. The first is that before a decision is made, I urge a representative from the Cardinals to field these questions and others that fans may have – perhaps right here at The Birdhouse. Ray Mileur and Brian Walton do a terrific job of providing such forums for dishing fan questions to Cardinal officials. Ownership would be wise to consider the feelings of their fans before a decision is made.

The second thought is that, whether or not ownership would choose to avail themselves of fan reaction, fans should not sit idly by. I encourage all Cardinal fans to write to the Cardinals to share their concerns. Cardinal ownership has done too much good and deserves to receive respectful comments on the potential swap of radio stations, so don't write with anger or disrespect. Write as good Cardinal fans would, with intelligence, courtesy, and consideration. Such comments offered in this light will receive much greater consideration.

As Cardinal ownership considers the implications of changing radio stations, they must be firmly in touch with the feelings of Cardinal Nation – the fans and customers – as to how this change might affect them and their ability to remain in touch with their favorite baseball team. I don't fault management for considering a switch and recognize that business considerations drive the fiscal health of the team. I will be more inclined to fault them if their decision is made without the input of the greatest fans in baseball who must now be heard from.

Rex Duncan can be reached via email at rdunc221@yahoo.com.


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