Sunday, August 20, 2017

Still Gaga Over Radio


Today is National Radio Day.

Or is it #NationalRadioDay?

It's confusing.

Anyway, while the "everything gets a day" concept can be a little much, and mind-numbing for sure, I still can't help but note today in honor of my old friend, the wireless.

Don't get me wrong. I love TV and enjoyed working on it very much. But I'm always in a panic about my appearance -- too fat, not stylish enough, hair looks dumb, face looks dumb, and my God how many times have I been told that I "have a face for radio"?

So I suppose I'm a radio man at heart. From Dan Ingram, Ron Lundy, and the 77 WABC guys to (duh) John Donald Imus to Scott Shannon on Z-100 to Joe O'Brien and "Music From The Terrace" on WHUD, I had the foundation of my inner DJ, which would grow as I got older with Scott Muni and many others.

Naturally, there were other facets of my radio upbringing, with news and so on. But let's not bury the lede (or lead) here. It was sports, for sure. Frank Messer, Bill White, and Phil Rizzuto began that education, spinning into the work of myriad others (Vin Scully -- again, duh).

But as age made me -- whatever it made me -- I dug deeper into the vast archives that can be found to discover the greats of all genres. The proliferation of "old time radio" allowed me the ability to hear the shows and events that made the medium so fascinating.
Graham McNamee
Radio was king once. From it's humble beginnings to assist ships at sea (and thus the number of wireless stations built on the Atlantic coast), to becoming commercial radio with KDKA, radio would help bring news and more to the world.

It's still a great way to hear whatever you want in the car -- now, more than ever with satellite radio.

Of course, there is still the terrestrial station (WGCH, folks!) and it's the best way to enjoy sports.

So please, on this National Radio Day, take a moment and listen to what it is today, and find an old broadcast to hear what it once was. Just Google "old time radio" and you should be all set.

From Majic 105 through WREF to WGCH to WLNA, WBNR, HAN Radio, Greenwich Sentinel Radio, Robcasting Radio, and the many other places my voice has appeared, it is still a thrill. It is still exciting to find important historical audio. It's still a hope that many more great days can be found.

Radio, someone still loves you.



Thursday, August 17, 2017

Eleven Years of Something

Not too many better 11's than this guy. The Messiah.
I'll be honest: this post is purely to recognize 11 years of this blog. I'm not sure I have too much more to add without venturing into dangerous territory.

If there's anything that's changed in 11 years, it's that. I don't write the same anymore. Too much scrutiny, I suppose. Not that I mind it. It's just, well.

It has been both a personal and professional issue. So I'm more careful. I try to be less vague.

Or I just don't write at all.

And that's sad.

Still, this is post number 2299. Where has the time gone over 11 years?

But enough about that. We're one effed up place, no?

Charlottesville sickened me. Hatred and racism sickens me.  Simple to say, isn't it? There's no talking about "sides." Just make the statement: hate sucks. Racism blows. Three people dead. One hit by a -- what's the word? -- person?...no...scum?...too nice...whatever. A car ran a young woman over.

Because she has a different ideology than the driver of the car, who wants...ugh. It's too much.

What's so funny 'bout peace, love, and understanding?

Just condemn it all and that's that. Be presidential.

To quote the 1995 movie The American President (spoken by Michael J. Fox):
People want leadership, Mr. President, and in the absence of genuine leadership, they'll listen to anyone who steps up to the microphone. They want leadership. They're so thirsty for it they'll crawl through the desert toward a mirage, and when they discover there's no water, they'll drink the sand.
And nobody is willing to hear what anyone else has to say. We're all correct. If you disagree, you're a (insert hurtful term here).

Anyway, it's way too serious of a topic for the anniversary post. Sadly, that's all I've got.

Year 12 begins. Thanks to everyone who has supported me and those who have inspired me.

Thanks, as always, for reading.

But no, really. What's so funny 'bout peace, love, and understanding?

Saturday, August 05, 2017

Thank you, Mr. Arlin


Harold Arlin
On this day -- August 5, 1921 -- a 25-year-old electrical engineer and foreman from Westinghouse named Harold Arlin went to Forbes Field in Pittsburgh.

He wasn't just there to take in a ballgame, as the Pirates hosted the Philadelphia Phillies. We can tell you, courtesy of Baseball Reference, that the Buccos won the game, 8-5. Cy Williams, who Baseball Reference says compares most favorably to Bobby Murcer (of all people) homered that day in the loss.

Possum Whitted (yes, you read that correctly) had two hits to pace the Pirates, and Max Carey and Rabbit Maranville were hall of famers on the Pittsburgh roster that day.

We know the game took 1:57, but don't know the weather conditions.

But back to Harold Arlin, who sat down behind home plate that day. Working for KDKA, considered by many to be the first radio station in history (or at least the first commercial radio station), he took a bold step for the nascent outlet.

Arlin had previously read news headlines, and was said to be at the mic when KDKA went on the air in Nov, 1920, as he read the returns of the Harding-Cox Presidential Election.

On this day, Arlin gave birth to baseball play-by-play.

According to ExplorePAHistory:
"We were looking for programming," Arlin recalled years later, "and baseball seemed a natural. I went to Forbes Field and set up shop." The operation, a hand-held telephone connected to a transmitter in a box behind home plate, had a few glitches, though. "Nobody told me I had to talk between pitches," he conceded, and when he did, his distinctive deep voice did not always come through. "Sometimes the transmitter didn't work. Often the crowd noise would drown us out. We didn't know whether we'd talk into a total vacuum or whether somebody would hear us."
Other sports broadcasts were attempted in one form or another prior to 1921 (including a boxing match on KDKA earlier that year), but this was the first time baseball had been attempted. More than any sport, the country became hooked.

Eventually.

Arlin would also call a Davis Cup tennis match (another first) a day later, but thought the baseball game was a one-time thing. Further baseball broadcast efforts were made with the 1921 World Series in New York (over KDKA, WJZ - Newark, and WBZ - Springfield). He'd also add college football to the list of firsts with the broadcast of the Backyard Brawl -- Pitt hosting West Virginia. Pitt won the game, 21-13.

The attempts to broadcast baseball continued through the 1920's, with Graham McNamee eventually assuming the position of "voice" of the World Series in 1923. By 1927, the World Series was coast-to-coast via the nearly one-year-old NBC.

Individual teams began to make deals to either broadcast games live or via recreation, complete with sound effects. The last holdouts were the three New York teams, who had a gentlemen's agreement to not broadcast games due to the fear of losing ticket sales. That ended in 1939.

Oh it's a long-winded story that we can tell at great length, but the main point remains that, on this very day -- August 5, 1921 -- Harold Arlin called the first baseball game.

Certainly, I feel a large amount of debt to him, McNamee, and the many other pioneers who got us to where we are today.


Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Comfort

Taken at Trumbull High School during the Babe Ruth 14U New England Regional
I just posted the above picture over on the evil that is Facebook.

I was messing around (I think with my iPad) and that was the result.

I know that there's comfort in that picture.

Truthfully, I'm an uncomfortable person. I have my hangups, issues, fears, etc. Some rational. Some not.

Damage.

But best to not get too personal. The last time I did so, the sound from the crickets was...well...there was no sound. If a post hits and no one hears it, is it really a post?

Anyway, that's my happy place. There's a reason I volunteered to call 16* baseball games over four days in the Babe Ruth New England Regional Tournament: I love it. I'm happy there. I'm comfortable.

* In the end, thanks to Mother Nature, I did 12 games. So it goes.

But it's also the chance to work with friends, who also volunteered their time. You might know them: Jake Zimmer, Dan Gardella, Shawn Sailer. Josh Somma also volunteered for a game, but the rain canceled that.

It was a joy. Thanks to Dan, Jake, and Shawn, my throat survived. Dan and Jake both took some of the PBP innings off my hands, and that was a good thing. I was fired up to call the four games on Monday, but it didn't happen.

Beyond that, it was a lot of the great interaction. People from all across New England and beyond found our little nascent "Robcasting Radio/Greenwich Sentinel Radio" Mixlr site and listened to us, or watched what we could give them via Facebook live.

This happened with zero promotion, except for what we cranked out via social media.

It wasn't perfect. It never is. But I strive for a quality play-by-play broadcast. One that is long on reporting and solid sports journalism. One that tells stories that I hope will interest the listener.

One that makes the game the story, and us the storytellers.

For my money, we accomplished that. I didn't have to say a whole lot to the crew. We put the headsets on, and away we went.

I'm hoping August won't be as quiet as I fear it will be, but we'll be fired up for another year of Greenwich and Brunswick football. The Bruins want me around to do more, and I'm happy about that.

We'll see what's next. That's all I can do.