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I endured one of those terrible traumas recently that I had hoped never would occur in my lifetime and pray never happens to you.
On Thursday night, I had to be in my car for about an hour in the late evening. It was a quiet night, not much traffic. No rainfall, even if the sky wasn’t clear.
And then it happened, as if the fates had reached out and grabbed me by the shirt and dragged me into a new vortex of reality.
I turned on my radio to listen to a bit of the World Series, and it wasn’t there!
I punched the buttons of the six or eight six different channels programmed because they were where I usually could find sports, figuring any second I’d hear the delightful descriptions of John Miller and Joe Morgan from ESPN. But no.
What I heard was an ad nauseam discussion of UK’s upcoming basketball season, chatter from those obnoxious guys from Fox Sports, two (ugh) hockey games, three different versions – I am not making this up – of the University of Cincinnati coach’s call-in show and more static than a liberal talk-show host would get in most Southern markets. (It seems several of those daytime sports channels were using a set of Double-A’s to power their transmitters after dark.)
But there was no World Series game.
I could tell all you wanted to know about John Wall, Tony Pike and some terrible icing calls, but nothing about the Yankees and the Phillies.
They are not prime time in central Kentucky. They are nothing.
Sadness enveloped me. The World Series has been a staple of my life since Mickey Mantle’s bloody butt kept him out of a near sweep of the Reds. I have tracked Fall Classics on radio, TV and, in the modern era, the Internet. I even have attended five.
I was there when we used to listen in school when the games were played in the glorious light of day, dash home for the last few innings on TV and then report to the barn during milking time to tell Granddaddy that he had called it right, that Sandy Koufax had shut out the Yankees again.
So for a long time on Thursday, I didn’t give up on the Series. I meticulously scrolled the AM dial, digit by digit, starting around 1200 and working my way back around from 540 and up. I would listen carefully amid static and pause for commercials that sounded like they could be part of a game.
It’s a well-practiced art form for me. Many a night I have driven over winding roads in numerous states and dialed and dialed, trying to hear a certain baseball game, a favored football game, a climactic basketball game or even a NASCAR race, discerning by tone
sometimes if what I was hearing was actually a game.
That’s a sixth sense developed from late nights with a transistor, hearing how Audie Smith fed Oscar Robertson and Jerry Lucas for the Cincinnati Royals or how Bob Pettit dropped in 30 for the St. Louis Hawks.
As a youngster I was a diehard fan of the Yankees – blame that on my mother and The Mick, a story for another day – and I would do just about anything to hear one of their games.
My grandparents had an old Philco tabletop, and I would press my ear against the speaker – some people are touchy when it comes to loud static, I’ve found – and maneuver that dial with the precision of a man trying to talk to outer space. If I heard a dulcet tone from Mel Allen or Red Barber, then I had hit my own little home run.
I heard Cassius Clay knock out Sonny Liston twice with similar effort.
And maybe I was spoiled by so many nights when I could hear WHAS bring me UK games from all over the south. Heck it was on WHAS radio that I celebrated from my fraternity house when the Kentucky Colonels won the ABA title in 1974.
I just never thought that Sport’s preeminent event, the championship that created all championships, the lexicon-developing, inaccurately-labeled, event of lore, the World Series, would not be available in a radio market as large as Louisville..
Finally, that night, after about half an hour of trying, I came up with the faint signal from Game One. The channel was 1000 on my AM dial. I have no idea where the signal originated. It might have skipped in from Dallas, for all I know.
But it was there, until it faded and faded and wasn’t so much there anymore. I think maybe I heard an inning, but I did note the Phillies scored a run on a ball hit just past Alex Rodriquez.
Weary from listening while concentrating on the radio and driving and getting repetitive-stress syndrome from all that twisting, I gave up and switched over to 93.3 FM to catch some of the Shelby County-Oldham County football game.
But what did I get? Grossly premature Christmas music on some bleed-over channel.
Like the World Series, the Rockets and Colonels were out of range.