The New Internet Meets That Old Baseball

‘Tis the season.

As this is written, “my” supposedly weakened Pittsburgh Pirates are a delightful 6-1, jump-started by a season-opening series sweep against the even more weakened Detroit Tigers.

“My” supposedly unstoppable New York Yankees are a worrisome 4-4, their best-that-can-be-bought pitching bullpen looking a lot like the pro basketball Cleveland Cavaliers on defense and their roster wracked by nearly a full lineup nursing injuries.

I know these things because of a newly discovered Internet wrinkle. I can listen to Major League Baseball games via my newly acquired smartphone.

For some years, my wife and I have juggled subscriptions to SiriusXM on our vehicle radios. She subscribes to get country music, because she cannot stand to listen to what sounds to her like crows cawing during baseball radio broadcasts. I subscribe to get baseball games. I do not detest country music per se, but I draw my listening line at those pre-recorded “countdown” shows that replay the same three-hour segments eight times each day, complete with the same lame ad-libs.

Before this year, when we both had “dumb” cell phones that allowed telephone calls and text messages but little else, it was an either-or situation during trips taken together. One of us got to listen. The other got to sulk.

But this year, I discovered that I could also get those baseball games via my smartphone – which is equipped with an earphone jack. I have ear buds. I also have over-the-ear headphones that cancel a lot of other noise.

Of course, I would not break the law and endanger others or us by donning earphones while driving. So if she desires to listen to country music, she drives while I ensconce myself in the passenger seat, encased in my “surround sound” of baseball blather.

Yes, baseball broadcasts these days include a lot of blather: “Supermarket” home run contests, “Internet” speed updates on stolen base totals, “pay your medical bills” summaries of scores of other games. Everything except (and perhaps including) the announcers’ sneezes seems to be sponsored by some company wanting me to spend my money with them.

Ha-ha on them.

I can tune out that commercialism with the same adaptive listening that my father employed 60 years and more ago. In that pre-Internet age of the 1940s and 1950s, Dad could catch a well-earned snooze on the living room couch. At his head was a tabletop, fake-brown plasticized Emerson radio, tuned to one game. Across the room, our hutch-sized Philco upright radio was tuned to a second game. At Dad’s feet, the snow-screened black-and-white Sylvania tabletop TV, complete with a fluorescent “Halolight” surrounding the screen, vainly attempted to shove a clear picture through the snowy feed from our rooftop antenna.

Woe unto me if I attempted to sneak another station onto any of them.

“Don’t touch that dial!” Dad would exclaim. “It’s 6-6 in the fifth inning!”

The man would have been snoring, loudly. Yet he could hear the scores and the bursts of action through his sleep, ignoring the unimportant.

Happily for me, I inherited the tendency. It has grown stronger as my hearing has grown weaker, disappointing the commercial sponsors but keeping me informed.

I have had a lifelong love affair with Yankees baseball and a lifelong like affair with Pirates baseball. Pittsburgh was always the closest pro baseball city to where I lived in western Pennsylvania or eastern Ohio. Because the Pirates and Yankees play in two different leagues and rarely meet during the regular season, my two-teams fandom rarely conflicted.

Four years ago, we gave up our TV satellite dish subscription, reserving our two TV sets for watching movies or, when grandchildren visit, their parents’ Netflix, Hulu, etc., subscription shows.

I used my computer to subscribe to baseball games on it via the Internet, even though the Pirates were blacked out. But I discovered that it was more enjoyable to read a book and listen to the audio feed, looking up only to view the instant replays.

Then, prodded by my oldest son’s delight in radio-only listening while enjoying outdoor campfires on summer evenings, I went to mostly audio last year. The feed through the computer kept me chained to being inside the house.

This year, Aha! The smartphone can pick up the Sirius satellite feed from near our own campfire ring. Listening to ballgames revives the imagination. Instead of watching Aaron Judge rip a wall-denting double, I can imagine it, in much the same way as I imagined what heroics were performed by DiMaggio, Mantle and Berra or, for the Pirates, Virdon, Clemente or Mazeroski.

I like that.

I also like the “happy wife, happy life” mood as we travel together, she humming to Luke Bryan while I hear John Sterling or Steve Blass.

The technology is modern, but the pleasure is as old school as it gets.


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