Baseball has a pace made for radio. The ebb and flow of action on and off the field affords listeners the luxury of tuning in and out with the rise and fall of an announcer’s inflection. A man can work with one ear cocked toward the radio and both eyes focused on whatever task is at hand.
Because only baseball has a language all its own.
Sage announcers with easy voices translate cracks and grunts into six-four-three double plays and a long fly ball that’s back-back-back, outta here! And when the action stalls or moves in fits and starts, these auditory guides dig deep into their pockets filled with anecdotes and pull out a story that just so happens to build upon the one we’re listening to right then and there.
We follow the action because the action is easy to follow.
I began following baseball in the land of Dave Niehaus, an announcer who would never give you the score, but reeled you in with his unbridled enthusiasm. MY, OH MY indeed.
Then I moved a place dominated for decades by the boozy wanderings of Mike Shannon, an announcer with a voice for radio and, um, a way with words. Often the wrong way.
But regardless of which announcer is or was leading the way, I have a confession to make: when it comes to watching the game on TV, I’d rather have no guide at all.
Heresy, I know.
But hear me out. When baseball is on the radio, I can do other things, like drive long distances or work on a home improvement project, because the announcer tells me when to pay attention.
When the game is on TV, I don’t need the announcer to tell me anything because I can see it all for myself. If TV announcers realized this and stuck with only speaking when there was a break in the action or during a call that needed clarification, I’d be fine with them hanging out and watching the game with me. But they’re constant chatter. They become noise. And, really, when it comes down to it, the only noises I want to hear during a baseball game are the crack of the bat, the organ piping away and the crowd going wild.