While this could be about Chase Utley, Roy Halladay, or Robert Redford (as Roy Hobbs), it’s about baseball itself. With the Phillies enjoying their most successful period in 130 years, baseball is having quite a renaissance in Philly – and it’s rebirth has me thinking about the early days of the game.
While I enjoy watching in HD and simultaneously having access to every stat imaginable online, I sometimes like to experience baseball the way my grandfather did for most of his life (before he watched some games on color TV and cable) – on the radio in the back yard on a warm summer evening. The purest experience is a day game at the ballpark (and college and minor league can be even more authentic than the majors thanks to their lack of amenities and fancy audio-visual systems). When I was at Tulane, beer and hot dogs were a couple bucks, and we sat in the empty corporate seats behind the catcher on many spring Fridays catching sun and watching a good college team which featured a lot of Latin American players.
For me “radio al fresco” is a close second, because it takes you back to a time where almost everyone sat outside before air conditioning was widely available. There’s the voices of the announcers, muffled by a bit of static, and the noises of either the city or the country – both of which have been the starting point for countless ballplayers, who made their youthful debut on surfaces ranging from ash lots to lush grasses.
In addition, while I’m a bit of a beer snob (to be honest, an unrepentant beer facist), American lagers actually taste right while listening to a game on a hot summer night. I’m also a big believer of peanuts in the shell, and outside there’s no reason to worry about making a mess. At some point I’ll get a grill for hot dogs to complete the trifecta, but in the meantime, beer and peanuts will have to do.
So while all of us are going to take advantage of technology most of the time, I encourage you to hop a time machine once in a while and enjoy our national pastime the way your grandparents and great grandparents experienced baseball. You may break a sweat if it’s humid and you may miss your fancy Belgian beer for a couple of hours if you go with Yeungling or Coors for the game, but it will give your imagination a work out and take you back to an era that wasn’t necessarily easy or simple, but you’ll experience baseball in a way that provided comfort to millions during two world wars and a great depression, and brought entire families together for at least a couple of hours every summer night.
For Oswalt’s Phillies debut, I’m thinking about visiting my parents (who are long-time fans), but there’s a good change I’ll be in the back yard with an American beer and a portable radio – if the signal is too clear I can always turn the knob a bit to the left of right to get the proper amount of static 😉