Phillies Baseball and Radio; The Good Old Days

Radio and baseball have a long history. Before the days of television and internet, fans had pictures of their favorite stars painted for them by broadcasters like Mel Allen who gave the game life and put action to the stars of the day. Then, a new medium, television became a part of the game and now, there's internet and satellites, but there is still a special bond between America's pastime and radio.

For some reason, I distinctly remember a time long ago, riding in the family car with my parents listening to the Mets and the 1973 World Series. I can still recall how the announcer – even though I don't know who it was – described every detail. From how the wind was blowing to the color of the uniforms and how the game seemed to be the most important thing in my little world. It had to be important for me to remember it 30 years later. The drive home from my grandparents never seemed to go so fast and I remember running into the house and up to my room to continue listening. Sure, we had television, but for some reason, I was drawn to that radio. In those days, because of the influence of my mom's uncle, who lived just down the street, I was a Mets fan. I hate to admit it, but I was and radio helped to fuel that fire.

Before long, I saw the light and fell in love with the Phillies, my dad's favorite team. In those days, the Phillies were on KYW-1060 and it was great. The station came in crystal clear and every game was there. Sure, there was the occasional game on TV, but every night, the radio was home to the Phillies. I remember being a 16 year old kid working in a restaurant and huddling around a radio in the kitchen listening to the 1980 World Series. Then, one season, the Phillies weren't on KYW anymore. They had moved to WCAU, just up the dial and still as crystal clear. The same familiar voices were there, so everything seemed right with the world.

As I grew up, my fascination for radio continued and led me to work in the industry for 17 years. At one point, I interviewed for a job as the Phillies radio producer. I didn't get the job, but still remember being shown around WCAU's studios. My career shifted a little to television production and Richie Ashburn was a guest on a TV talk show that the station produced. Meeting him was like meeting the president or royalty. The picture that I asked him to autograph is hung right near my computer, allowing me to look at it as I work. I had shifted back to radio and was working on the air when the news of Richie's passing came over the wire. I'll never forget calling my parents, who were both big Phillies and Richie Ashburn fans and telling them. It was as if a friend of the family – a very close friend – had passed away.

Eventually, my career led to working for an all-sports radio station in Allentown, about an hour outside of Philly. I still have my very first press credentials and remember my first meeting Harry Kalas. I was a very small fish in a huge media pond and perhaps, Kalas sensed that and made a point of introducing himself. Somehow, I expected him to sound different, but that voice rang out as clearly as ever just standing and talking to him about the team and baseball in general. Eventually, a few springs later, I got up the nerve to ask him to autograph a ball for me during spring training. That day, the Tigers were in Clearwater and Ernie Harwell was there and walked up just as Kalas had finished signing the ball. Kalas took the time to introduce me and Harwell put his name right near Kalas' on what is now a greatly prized possession.

These days, WPEN is home to the Phillies and there's no chance of hearing the station in Allentown. Of course, with nearly every game on TV, it's not quite as important anymore although there are more than a few summer nights when sitting outside with a transistor radio listening to a game just can't be beat. For those nights, the Allentown affiliate will do, but for some reason it just doesn't feel quite the same as the good old days of KYW and WCAU. Times change and radio's relationship to the game has changed as well. Now, kids can't imagine a time when baseball wasn't on TV. Of course, many of them don't realize that you can operate the TV without a remote, either. Baseball, radio and summertime. Is it any wonder the game is truly America's pastime?


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