clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The magic of Orioles baseball on the radio

New, 19 comments

With today's technology you can watch a crystal clear baseball game from TV or your computer, but there's something that just feels right about tuning in to the radio to hear a big call.

Rob Carr/Getty Images

I was alone, annoyed, walking to the train station. It was Game 2 of the 2014 ALDS, and after watching Wei-Yin Chen get lit up for Tiger home runs for several brief minutes, I had pretty much lost hope for that game. But I had made plans already to see my aunt and uncle, and so I couldn't watch anymore. I plugged in my headphones for the 25 minute walk to the train station, bummed.

I grew up listening to Orioles games on the radio. We didn't have HTS, and so Jon Miller and Fred Manfra really were the basis for the beginning of my Orioles fandom. Still, televisions everywhere later in life had spoiled me. It was the playoffs, damn it, and I wanted to watch the Orioles - not listen to them like I had for most of my life.

I was forgetting, though, that probably the most powerful Orioles moment I've ever had had come from the radio. The 2014 ALDS, as I would see a few minutes later, was only one of several.

***

I'll never forget the look on my dad's face as we sat, eating dinner, briefly interrupting watching Game 1 of the 1996 ALCS. He wasn't a sports fan, really, at all, but my 10 year old self was into it, and so my family was nice enough to keep the old radio on during dinner, a rare treat.

It was a few bites through salad that Jon Miller's voice elevated.

"Tarasco back...and a fan takes the ball away from him!"

We rushed downstairs to watch the argument, Davey Johnson losing his mind, Jeter horribly circling the bases, the Yankee Stadium crowd going mad. The key moment, however, had happened on the radio. Hearing Miller's voice allowed us to react to the moment in a way that we wouldn't had experienced by watching it. It allowed us to live it with someone else, not just in the prisons of our own beaten baseball minds. And it's always better, or more emotional, at least, if you live it with someone else.

I've seen that Jeffrey Maier play over and over again now, seen Tarasco pointing upward. But I'll always experience it through my dad's expression, and through me rushing downstairs to see what exactly had happened on the television.

1996, really, was the beginning of my Orioles fandom, in some ways. That season I started keeping the radio on late, ear pressed firmly to the holes on the speakers, volume low as could be so my parents wouldn't know I had it on. I heard that season through my straining ears, and I'll never forget hearing the Orioles play the Blue Jays, winning late on a sacrifice fly to cap a wild 11-10 victory, then hearing a WTOP breaking news interruption that TWA Flight 800 had crashed into the ocean. It will always stick with me - a truly scary and shellshocked moment for the tired, stayed-up-way-too-late 10 year old that I was.

I wasn't quite old enough in 1997 to stay up late to watch games, so I heard the conclusion of ALCS Game 4 while sitting upright in my bed, not bothering to keep the volume on low at that point. When I heard Sandy Alomar single in the winning run to give the Indians the victory and a 3-1 series lead, I was introduced to true despondent Orioles fandom for the first time. It was the first time I remember thinking that they had gotten this far, and it didn't look like they were going to get any further, and that I didn't know when I would experience playoff baseball or sports success this deep again. It was the beginning of being the jaded sports fan that all of us - except maybe fans from Boston in recent years - become at some point.

And I remember listening with radio on very, very low as Edgar Renteria singled in the winning run in the World Series that year, hoping that one day I could silently dance around my room, radio still on low, as the Orioles won it all and I could celebrate in secret, not letting my parents know that I was awake at midnight on a school night.

***

The radio came and went from 1998-2013. I went to school, moved away from the DC area, remained a fan after the Nationals came. I mostly listened to games on the radio since I couldn't watch them out of market. It was mostly a sad state.

But I should have appreciated it a bit more when I put in my headphones and was able to walk down the street, listening to the eighth inning of Game 2 in 2014. I should have known that this was something that was deeply bringing me back to my childhood.

The hope built slowly. Once Steve Pearce singled in Adam Jones to make it a three run game, I somehow believed a little bit. I had some time before myt rain left, and so I walked to a nearby bar to see if I could see any TVs from outside, but to no avail. But it was OK. It was right for me to listen to that game on the radio, now far away from my childhood bedroom, but still having the same experiences and feelings I had as a 10 year old.

It was 6-4, and the Tigers made a pitching change. I had five minutes until my train. I walked into the bathroom. Delmon Young came up.

"Line drive down the left field line!" I remember, Joe Angel making the call. I stared at the bathroom walls, not moving, almost not believing what was coming into my ears. I honestly don't remember the entire call. I just remember it playing out in my head, a thousand thoughts a moment coming through, somehow my young self willing on the runners who existed only for myself, not on some pixelated screen in front of me. And then the final call, about JJ Hardy. "Safe!"

I got on the train, and it began to whisk me away to New York. Of course, I was still listening, but everything was perfect from that point on. Zach Britton came on, and he got the three outs, but after that hit that felt like a foregone conclusion. It was a cathartic party for all of us O's fans.

I'll always treasure, though, that the greatest Orioles moment of the past 18 years, for sure, was a private moment for me. And through a stroke of fate, it was connected to my beginnings as an Orioles fan.

I'll be listening to the radio this season. I'll jump up and down in my house when Chris Davis hits a no-doubter, and I'll be on the edge of my seat as the rotation tries to muddle through. I'll watch games when I get the chance. But for me, and probably for a lot of us, baseball started on the radio, and it remains there in a very powerful sort of way.

If the Orioles ever win it all in my lifetime, you can bet I'll get a recording of the final out, and I'll be 10 again, silent in my bedroom, dancing around quietly at night.

The stories presented as part of the 2016 Camden Chat Opening Day Marathon are written by members of our community. To add your voice to the site please consider writing a FanPost.