Friday, July 27, 2007

Radio Daze

My girlfriend and I were in Providence earlier this summer. We walked into a candy store, and while perusing the oversized Millhouse Pez dispensers, we heard a deejay's voice coming from the stereo. "That was the Arctic Monkeys with...." I expected the usual banter from her, which we've all grown so used to: "It's __ degrees in [town you're in], we got that wacky beach festival down at [local venue where people all go to get wasted] comin' up..."

But no. This is the age of satellite radio. Modern technology can be fun and helpful and great and whatnot, but what I really fear, as we become a "global community," is the complete loss of local identity. This woman wasn't "with us" in Providence, she was in New York City, and her voice was being heard all over the world. How utterly depressing.

Everywhere is becoming the same as everywhere else. I don't need to tell you about strip-mall America. (On this theme, thanks to those who made comments about the movie Idiocracy. We actually rented it last night and watched it once the Sox were up big (the second time). And I thought it was good. Lots of great moments, great commentary on today's America (Judge could've set it in 2050 instead of 2505), and good to see some classic characters, like Milton, Michael Bolton, and an older, larger "Bob" from Bottle Rocket, who I'm sure was brought in by Luke Wilson.)

But getting back to radio, I'm about to kick it "glory days"-style, so you can stop reading here if you don't want to go down Memory Ave.

I was recently talking to someone who brought up how he'd pull in all these other cities on his AM radio. Having grown up fighting to get 1080-WTIC out of Hartford through layers of static, I also knew of the vast landscape that is (soon to be "was," I guess) AM radio. I picked up games from almost every team east of the Mississippi. Here's the rundown, from memory, then I'll look up anything I have trouble with, and fill in at the end.

The AL East:

1. Boston Red Sox. The classic WTIC-AM 1080 Hartford. For over 50 years now, they've played every Sox game that isn't on during a weekday afternoon, a UConn football game, or the Greater Hartford Open golf tournament. (Because you know everyone loves to tune into golf on the radio.) Was hard to get much of the time, due to either the hills of the Waterbury, CT area (which my dad always called "the mountains of Meriden,"--then again, he was from Meriden) being between me and Hartford OR Steinbrenner messing with the airwaves in his lifelong quest to keep any mention of the Red Sox out of Fairfield County, Connecticut. (read the first answer in this FAQ.)

Evetually we got the Sox in Danbury on WLAD-AM 800. But after a few years, they gave up and switched to carrying the Yanks. But even from the town next to Danbury, I sometimes got the Hartford station even clearer. If you fine-tuned hard enough, you could also hear the Sox on 1240 and 1420, one being out of Old Saybrook, I think 1420. I also picked up WPRO 630 out of Providence once while driving on 1st Avenue in Manhattan. I always used to marvel at the Red Sox yearbook's list of stations that carried the games. We'd come up with possible jingles for the stations in Bath, Maine, or whatever. But the above are the stations I could get from Ridgefield, CT. (The last few seasons have seen the addition of New Haven and Greenwich stations as well.)

2. New York Yankees aka Dunbar. WABC 770. But this was never needed, as literally every Yankee game played in my lifetime up until a few months ago was available on my TV set. The Ridgefield radio station (ha!), WREF 850 (it started in 1985-- REF=Ridgefield Eighty Five) picked up the Yanks at one point, as did WLAD, mentioned above. I know they also have a vast network of stations, including one in Worcester! TJ by that station.

3. Baltimore Orioles. Do you know how many O's games I listened to growing up? Way more than someone who never tried to listen to them should have. They were on WBAL 1090. Which, despite the fact that it was four times farther from me than Hartford was, came in about four times clearer. Jon Miller, loud and clear, almost every night. Sometimes it would cycle in and out. Two minutes of Castiglione, then faaade over to Miller for an Oriole batter or two, then baaaack to the Sox game. I'd let that happen when I was sick of sitting there finely tuning or if I was doing homework or something.

4. Cleveland Indians. Just to the other side of the O's was the Indians broadcast on WWWE 1100. They called it 3WE. Thinking back, if there were any Indians fans in Fairfield County, they had the same problem as I did: the Orioles game interfering with their own.

5. Toronto Blue Jays. I think I used to pull them in, too. And I think it even might have been 1070 AM. If so, what a crazy baseball corridor that was 1070, 1080, 1090, and 1100, each with an AL East team.

6. Detroit Tigers. I could usually barely get 760 WJR out of Detroit, but not without the Yanks on 770 drowning most of it out.

7. Milwaukee Brewers. Can't say I remember ever getting the Brew Crew.

And that's your AL East. Or should I say, my AL East, from the early 70s til the mid-90s.

NL East:

1. New York Mets. WHN 1050, which became WFAN, and later took over WNBC's 660 spot, where it still is today, still playing the Mets. Again, never needed to listen to Bob Murphy, as the Mets were also always on TV where I lived.

2. Pittsburgh Pirates. KDKA. Can't remember the number. I'll never forget getting it in for the first time, and thinking it was some west coast station. But no, there is a station in an east coast that starts with a "K."

3. Philadelphia Phillies. I vaguely remember getting a Philly station, maybe 1300 or 1400.

4. Chicago Cubs, Montreal Expos, St. Louis Cardinals. Never got any of these, although maybe I got some Montreal action occasionally. And I know KMOX had a strong signal, but I think it pointed west of of St. Louis. I never picked it up in CT.

As for the west teams in both leagues: I got the Chicago White Sox, but can't remember the station. And I got the Cincinnati Reds somewhere around 850. The only other team anywhere near me would've been the Braves, but nothing there (although all their stupid games were on TV, too, on TBS-Superstation.)

Okay, that was all from memory. Here are some updates and corrections: 1420 is still there, in Old Saybrook. It's WLIS. WWWE is now WTAM. They changed in 1996. I was right on 1070 for the Jays--it's CHOK. Not the call letters you want if you're a sports team. (You wouldn't want people to think it's a Yankees station.) Was right about the Tigers, but they moved in 2000 to WXYT. Looks like the Brewers have been on 620 for a long time. I'd say I never got that one in. KDKA is 1020, and carried the Pirates for over 50 years, but stopped last season. I guess the Philly station is 1210 WPHT. Was way off on the number. Also way off on the Reds number. It was 700 WLW.

You couldn't get Montreal? I always could, and I'd listen to it in French because I thought it was hilarious to hear how many meters Andre Dawson hit the ball.
Is golf on the radio even possible? I'm trying to imagine such a thing, and my mind is (perhaps mercifully) coming up blank.

See, I can hardly imagine all that radio these days. Ann Arbor is some kind of strange radio dead zone; most of the time I can't even get LOCAL DETROIT STATIONS, let alone stations from elsewhere in the country (or Canada).
Sam, be careful in that Dead never know WHAT will happen. And Jere, 'TIC 1080 will always be the Red Sox voice for so many of us. Have a great Sunday.

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Location: Rhode Island, United States