The other day while at work in Arkansas, I listened to the Minnesota Twins play the Detroit Tigers by tuning into an online feed of the Crookston, Minn., radio station and watching the Gameday feature on MLB.com.
I had instant season stats, albeit early in the baseball year, available and with a click of the mouse, I could see a player’s career totals. The Gameday feature showed where each pitch was located and included the ball’s speed – both at the release and when it crossed the plate. It provided a nice backdrop for a busy day.
I then realized how far it’s come in the realm of following a baseball team. I was in Arkansas, listening to a game played in Detroit. Later, I found an Illinois station and heard part of the Chicago Cubs’ game against Pittsburgh. Had I wanted to, I could have tuned in to games with Atlanta, New York, Boston and Oakland that day, too.
It was a vast difference half a century ago when I was a kid listening to Twins’ games on the static-filled AM radio I kept on a stand by my bed. I had no access to stats then, relying instead on my handy Official Major League Baseball Record Book published by Fawcett for $1.25. I had the 1972 edition that featured statistics for the 1971 season, team rosters for the 1972 season and all-time records. It was my sports Bible, my go-to source for any information.
I remember being the clichéd kid of that era, listening to late night games on that radio and using an earphone with a braided wire snuck under the covers so my parents wouldn’t know I was awake. Often, when Harmon Killebrew hit a long fly ball or when Wayne Granger was about to strike someone out to end the game and earn the save, the signal would fade into static. I’d have to wait, hoping the station would come back and I’d see how the play turned out.
The only updated stats we had were found in the Sunday newspapers, unless we wanted to clip box scores from the daily papers and calculate the batting averages and earned run averages ourselves. And I did that, keeping a three-ring notebook with box scores taped on pages corresponding with the days the games were played. It was tedious keeping up with them all, but the payoff was knowing that Twins’ third baseman Eric Soderholm was batting a woeful .180 during most of the season.
Now, we have instant access to all of that with the internet. I can immediately find out a batter’s average against right-handed and left-handed pitchers and during day and night games. OPS? OMG, it’s right there. The Gameday even shows a picture from the catcher’s point of view complete with the actual stadium, day or night skies, and any buildings and landmarks past the outfield walls. It leaves little for the imagination, eliminating my own thoughts of what stadiums looked like when I listened to Twins’ games on my little radio 50 years ago.
Is it a good thing, the advances in technology? Well, sure, knowledge is good anytime. It allows me to listen to my favorite team, despite sitting in a northeast Arkansas office building some 775 miles from Target Field. I can see how teams are doing any time of the day by checking sports websites and I can get updated immediate standings, rather than waiting for the next day’s paper to arrive with incomplete standings. (Remember the letter ‘n’ next to the west coast games indicating they were played too late to make press time?)
But I’m finding as I get older, I often look back in nostalgic ways. This isn’t some grumpy creed from an old-timer saying “We had it tough in those days, having to wait overnight for scores.” Instead, it’s just a thought of how things differ.
The Twins will play several upcoming day games. I’m sure I’ll find the Crookston radio station at work, click on MLB.com and “watch” the game. But part of me would rather be huddled under my covers as a youngster with the world still ahead of me, my braided earphone cord snaking beneath the sheets and bring the world of sports to me.