Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

The Crowd Sounds Happy

Illustration for article titled The Crowd Sounds Happy

Baseball lends itself to radio, this much we know. Hasn't changed much through the years either. The game still sounds good on the radio. But let's go back some, and hear about Nicholas Dawidoff's experiences listening to Ned Martin call Red Sox games in the 1970s:

I acquired a clock radio of my own. It was a Realistic Chronomatic 9 model, low-built and squared-off at the corners like a shoe box, with a faux-oak plastic cabinet, chrome and clear-plastic control dials, and rounded hour and minute hands that in the dark were backlit a dim lunar orange. These features had aspirations toward sleekness, but only a few months of ownership made clear that my radio was drab in the way the design ideas dominating mainstream consumer electronics in the mid-1970s were all drab. It was a look that was somehow between looks, one in which everything resembled everything else and nothing so much as the dashboard on the clumsy, rowboat-like LTD station wagons Ford was then producing. But if I stared at my Chronomatic 9 long enough, in the right mood it could seem, if not beautiful, almost handsome. My attachment to what came out of the clock radio quickly grew so intense I wanted an appearance to match.

What I was listening to in my room were Boston Red Sox baseball games. I hadn’t been able to get the Boston games on my old transistor, and to discover now that reception was possible on the Chronomatic 9 was joy. By game time I would have spread my homework along my bed, distributing the books and papers lengthwise, so that when I positioned myself on the floor, knees to the rug, chest pressed against the edge of the mattress, head bent over my books, to Sally and my mother passing behind me, it must have looked as though I was supplicating myself to physics and Lord Jim. The radio was to my left, on the night table, and, as I worked, the team broadcaster, Ned Martin, said, “Welcome to Fenway Park in Boston,” and right then a part of me zoomed down the I-91 highway entrance ramp and lifted out of New Haven. Martin and his commentating partner would discuss the game to come, building the anticipation until Martin cried, “Here come the Red Sox!” As he introduced the players position by position—”Jim Rice left field, Fred Lynn center field”—it was like having the cast of characters read aloud to you from the beginning of a Russian novel. All quieted as the crowd rose to listen while an organist played the National Anthem, and I stood too, put my hand to my heart, and with no flag in the room to gaze upon, instead stared fixedly at a red, white, and blue book spine on my shelf for the duration of the song. My mother began to come in and watch me standing there in still, patriotic tribute. At first I wished she would just leave me alone, but over time I began to like her observance of my observance, and when the door didn’t open, I’d reach toward the radio and raise the volume to let her know she was missing the Anthem.

From Dawidoff's memoir, The Crowd Sounds Happy.

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