Driving into Kansas City last night, I was listening to the Royals long-time broadcaster, Denny Matthews. Matthews has that old-time Ernie Harwell type delivery, which brings back memories of my childhood, as he was one of the people I listened to on a regular basis. Baseball on the radio is something that can’t be matched by other sports. Living in the middle of America, I was able to listen to 10 different teams, which gave me a thrill, as it felt like a connection to the rest of the country. Between the games and a steady diet of sports talk shows coming from KMOX in St. Louis (young Bob Costas), 700 WLW (Bob Trumpy), and WTAM (the great Pete Franklin), I felt somewhat informed about what was happening in the sports world. Remember this was before ESPN, the USA Today, or the Internet. I know I sound like someone’s Grandpa sitting on the front porch reminiscing, but it was a different time.
Growing up in Iowa, I had no major league team to root for, which was a negative in that there was no common bond among your friends when it came to favorite teams. On the other hand, it made for more interesting playground discussions and baseball card trading was more lively, because it wasn’t all about 4 boys trying to trade for the same players.
Living in the central part of Iowa in the 1970’s, there seemed to be a pretty even split between the Royals and Twins fans, with the Cardinals and Cubs having a decent amount of market share, as well. This was before the Cubs had located their Triple A team to Des Moines. Actually, there was a fair amount of A’s fan where I lived because for a stretch Des Moines had been an Oakland farm club. I guess as a toddler, I had been to a game with Vida Blue pitching. I know when I was told this at the age of 6, I was angry, because I wished very hard that I could remember the event.
My favorite team was the Tigers (I didn’t become a White Sox fan until 1988), because I had went to my first game in Detroit. I have fond memories of playing imaginary baseball games by myself, throwing the whiffle ball up and slugging it in the air of my backyard, as I pretended I was Norm Cash, Al Kaline, or Willie Horton. Since Iowa didn’t have a Major League team, the only time a non-playoff game was on TV was when there was the NBC Saturday game of the week featuring Joe Garagiola and Tony Kubek.
Unlike major cities, which had independent channels, we had 4 stations to watch, so this one game a week was pretty much it, except for the occasional Sunday Cubs game. This was where my loathing of the Cubs began, as I was forced to feed my baseball addiction through the dismal doings taking place in Wrigley Field. Between the period of 1973-83 the Cubs never had a winning season. Add to this the incredibly boring announcing of Jack Brickhouse and Lou Boudreau and it seemed cruel this was my only choice. I seem to remember a time watching a Cubs game where Brickhouse actually fell asleep on the air. Urban Legend in my head or not, I can see why it could’ve happened, as between the announcing and the team’s pitiful offense (exception being a few years of Bill Madlock), it formed a powerful sedative. Another annoying thing was how Boudreau would frame everything into the phrase, “now all you little leaguers out there should watch how Kessinger did this or how Trillo did that.” Yeeech.
My childhood has shaped why I have a hard time just wanting to talk about only one team. Considering that Will lived a very nomadic life at a young age, as he followed his dad around from city to city, I’m guessing this is why he was never interested in covering just one team, either. While I like having a site of variety, I would be less than honest if I didn’t mention I was jealous of the large amount of comments that happen at some other Toaster sites, because of their sense of commnunity. I’m going to try to make more interactive posts, as I want to develop a more interactive feel at thejuiceblog, especially now that the Creator (Will) has left. Please do me a favor and post whenever you feel the urge. The hits we get make me feel good about the direction the site is going, but feedback through comments and email is the best way for me to know how best to connect with you.
I’m looking forward to hearing about your favorite MLB childhood memories.