Technology tunes fan into games
May 14, 2013
Through crackle, static and fading radio signals I listened to my favorite baseball team when I was a boy.
Ear close to the speaker, I imagined Forbes Field in faraway Pittsburgh. The faces of the players were vivid from baseball cards.
At bedtime, I begged God to let me play for the Pirates.
Louisiana was a baseball wasteland with no big league team. Even the Astros were yet to be born in Houston. The Rangers were still the Washington Senators.
The only way to watch a game was on Saturday TV as Dizzy Dean spun his yarns.
A fan of underdogs, I latched onto the Pirates in their David versus Goliath struggle against the Yankees in the 1960 World Series.
I took my transistor radio to school everyday. Yankee fans taunted me when Mickey Mantle’s Bronx Bombers rang up high scoring wins. But in Game 7, as we stood under a pecan tree in the school yard, Bill Mazeroski, drove a ball over the fence.
That walk-off homer, which I’ve since seen 99 times on replays, set off as much excitement under that tree as it did in the Steel City.
From that day — 52 years ago — I’ve been a Pirate fan.
When they played St. Louis, I listened to Cardinal broadcasts. On other nights I’d try to pick up KDKA from Pittsburgh after 9 p.m.
I rigged an antenna and lay next to our combination radio and record player. Through static I’d hear Bob Prince describe a hit to load the bases with Roberto Clemente coming to the plate. Then I’d lose the signal. I wouldn’t know who won until I opened the morning paper.
Being a distant fan slowly grew easier. After Houston got a team, I’d sit in the relative cool of our screen porch at night and listen to the Colt 45s broadcasts when they played the Pirates.
Radio, an occasional TV game and the newspaper remained the only way to follow a team during the regular season, but I watched on TV as the Pirates won the playoffs and World Series in 1971 and 1979 when Willie Stargell and Steve Blass led the “We Are Family” team.
Seeing my team grew easier as friends got cable TV and agreed to record games for me every time the Pirates played the Cubs or Braves.
When my kids got old enough to wear Pirate caps we went to see every Pirate game in Houston. Those were memorable trips in which we caught batting practice balls and players spent time talking to the kids before the games.
We got a big dish receiver and looked for Pirate games.
Later we traveled to Spring Training even when the Pirates had begun 19 losing seasons in a row.
In the decades since I listened through the static, technology has made it easy to keep up with any team.
In my car, I tune in Pirate games on satellite radio. At home, I watch their games on the Internet.
I’ve almost given up my dream of playing for the Pirates, but watching them play is now a daily pleasure.
Contact Bob Anderson at banderson@the advocate.com.