Baseball on the Radio

By Susan DeBow

I used to think double header baseball games were God’s gift to summer. My dad and I used to spend hours in Crosley Field drinking lemonade, eating hot dogs and peanuts and watching the game. Well, my dad watched the game. With his transistor radio planted firmly by his ear, dad focused on the game, while I spent a lot of my time walking back and forth from one end of the park to the other.

“Cold beer here,” a vendor would shout. “Hot dogs, get your hot dogs here.” I am not sure I can spell the word “here” like they pronounced it. Somehow the vendors artfully made it into a two-syllable word. And Pete Rose wasn’t the only one to hustle. Those hot dog and beer guys took those steps like they had springs in their shoes.

The good natured ushers left me alone as I walked around like a vendor with nothing to sell. I felt free, yet safe, in my world of baseball.

If we weren’t at a game, often we had the game on the radio. Listening to Waite Hoyt was like having my grandpa, a baseball devotee, near. On hot, sunny days dad would work among his rose bushes spraying his ménage of pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides. My mother would be in the house, often at the kitchen window, washing dishes. I would paddle around our swimming pool doing back dolphins and seeing if I could hold my breath while swimming the entire length of the pool. And coming out of the two rusty speakers screwed into the brick wall was the Reds baseball game.

I would hear the roar of the crowd if a player got a hit. And I could feel the lull between batters. Waite Hoyt didn’t fill every second with chatter. There was actually a certain peacefulness throughout the game, interspersed with periods of excitement. Just having the game on meant all was well with the world.

But then I grew up, and the babies came and money was scarce. Going to Reds games was not on the docket for us. My husband worked second shift, and those were lonely hours for me. Late at night, I would be nervous in our apartment, taking care of a baby and feeling like sometimes we were alone against the world. When I felt like that, I would turn on the radio and listen to the baseball game. And I didn’t feel alone.

It was a special treat when the Reds played on the west coast and were on late. If they were on the television it was an extra treat. I would feed and rock the baby while watching Johnny Bench and Tony Perez take to the field of dreams.

As the years went by, my interest in the Reds was replaced by interest in Little League. The radio was silent. And I didn’t know one player from the next. If someone asked me now who was manager of the Reds, I’d probably say Sparky Anderson, because that is where my memory stopped.

But the other day while my husband and I were coming home from our grandson’s first birthday, I turned on the radio. I had heard spring training had started. I went to the AM station where I used to listen to the games and sure enough, the Reds game was on. And I felt at home.

There were years when I resented professional sports for sullying our fantasy of honesty, integrity and for the love of the game agendas. But, maybe I am past that. As I write this now, I have the radio on. I’m listening to the Reds. And I am feeling that, just maybe with the Reds, I will be able to go home again.

About this writer

  • Susan Hipkins DeBow Susan Hipkins DeBow is a writer and artist. A hobby of hers is watching Law and Order reruns and then going around telling people she wants to make a “collar on the perps,” and demands a “remand.” She got hooked on Law and Order reruns after seeing Seinfeld reruns 20 times. You can read Susan’s work and see her art, photography and miscellaneous miscellany at www.ohiowritergirl.com If you are nice, she’d like to be your friend on facebook. Go to her Facebook page, Ohio Writer Girl.

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