Editor’s note: Due to a medical emergency involving Alan’s mother, we’re running a column from several years back. The good news is she’s going to be all right, and we wish her a Happy Mother’s Day nonetheless.
I mentioned my love of baseball on the radio recently, and it has come to my attention that many of those reading are unacquainted with this particular art form. Radio baseball, properly executed, reaches its absolute peak when it becomes apparent to the listener that the hosts have gotten so into their tangential discussion that they are, at best, only peripherally aware that 1) there is a baseball game going on in front of them, and 2) they are supposed to be describing the action therein. Ideally, it’s a bit like sitting with your grandpa and his friends at the VFW, listening to them talk while watching a ballgame on a tiny soundless TV over the bar.
Pat Hughes and the much-missed Ron Santo were the all-time best I’ve ever heard at this. (For a slightly different take, dial in 620AM during a Brewers game to hear the one-man band, Bob Uecker.) For those of you unacquainted with Pat & Ron, here is a fictionalized, but highly realistic, “transcript.”
Pat: We’re back on WGN Radio here at Wrigley Field on a beautiful summer afternoon in Chicago. Cub closer Jose Veras on the mound to start the top of the ninth to face Pittsburgh left-fielder Starling Marte.
Ron: Looks like Jose has a new haircut.
Pat: It sure does, Ronnie. Handsome job, too. Strike one to the hitter. Wonder who his barber is?
Ron: We had a guy in the clubhouse who did them, back when I was playing. You’d go to the locker room and get a trim between innings.
Pat: A good haircut can make you feel strike two 10 years younger.
Ron: Oh, man, that’s the truth. I had a haircut a couple of weeks ago that still makes me feel good today. My grandson went with me. He got a gumball from that machine.
Pat: Your barber has a gumball machine?
Ron: Oh, yeah. One of the old-fashioned kind, with the round top.
[modest crowd noise]
Pat: Struck him out. I haven’t seen a real old-fashioned penny gumball machine in years, Ronnie.
Ron: They’re not a penny anymore. The one at the barber is a quarter. You believe that? A quarter!
Pat: Twenty-five cents for a gumball?
[Crack of the bat, crowd noise increases]
Ron: [over the crowd] It’s a big gumball. I remember when 25 cents would’ve kept me in gum for a month.
Pat: Ruggiano makes the catch to retire Walker. Two gone and that brings up Pedro Alvarez. Twenty-five cents used to get you a lot more. I remember buying two candy bars with a quarter.
Ron: Oh, I’d’ve thought you could get more than that, but I don’t eat much candy anymore, y’know.
Pat: No you don’t, Ronnie, and it’s saved you a lot of money.
Ron: I wonder how much I’ve saved on candy in my life.
Pat: Enough to keep you in haircuts for a long time!
Ron: I wonder what Jose paid for his haircut.
Pat: Speaking of Jose, the count is two-and-two to Alvarez.
Ron: If he had it done in the clubhouse like I used to, it wouldn’t have cost him anything!
Pat: I wonder if they still do clubhouse haircuts grounder to Castro at short, the throw over to Rizzo and that’s the game. We’ll have to ask them during the postgame show, coming up next, on the Cubs radio network!
It’s like electronically transmitted Xanax. So perfect.