My television watching on a weekly basis has to be running 250 percent above the norm in the 110 days since this pandemic changed North America, as well as five other continents. Antarctica hadn’t had a case, last I checked.
Dang near anything Amazon, Hulu or Netflix has had to offer, I’ve been willing to give it a shot. I’ve watched movies from Belgium in French, German and Flemish, and as long as there are subtitles, who cares?
What I haven’t watched is sports. For months, the lone options were replays, and I don’t do replays. Maybe 10 minutes of Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series, in glorious black-and-white, but that’s about it.
The only true replay I’ve done was being in the vehicle for an aimless weekend drive several weeks ago, and checking my first column of presets – Outlaw Country, Soul Town, MLB Network, KFAN-FM, 1500 AM and 830 AM – and discovering Game 1 of the 1987 World Series on the Big Neighbor.
I added considerable mileage to the aimlessness and listened for 90 minutes. Herb Carneal and John Gordon shared the play-by-play, and a joyful Harmon Killebrew was a guest analyst for several innings.
When I found the game, Frank Viola was giving up a leadoff double to Jim Lindeman – Jim Lindeman! – in the second, and the Cardinals were taking a 1-0 lead. It became a requirement to drive on until the Twins put up the 7-spot in the bottom of the fourth, on the way to a 10-1 victory.
The background noise was wonderfully loud as the Twins scored the first three runs, and then came Dan Gladden’s grand slam off Bob Forsch to make it 7-1. It sounded as if the radio booth was shaking.
It was a slam that guaranteed the first of eight wins inside the Metrodome that would win two World Series, this one and 1991. I had this thought as Harmon was celebrating Gladden’s heroics:
Gladden started the madness with the slam, and ended it by jogging home on Geno Larkin’s pinch-hit single in Game 7 of 1991 – and it’s a pandemic, dummy, and you need stuff, so go talk to Gladdy.
Which happened. And we got a long, enjoyable piece out of it, so baseball on the radio comes through again.
Baseball is the only sport that holds my interest on radio. Albie Shaver would get me for 10-minute hunks on North Stars games. I used to enjoy turning on Ray Christensen’s play-by-play and being able to approximate a Gophers score within seconds by the level of joy or melancholy in his voice.
Note: Beyond that gentlemanly exterior, Ray was an underrated ragger of officials, particularly when the Gophers were losing a basketball game.
Joe McConnell and Paul Hornung once made a great Vikings’ radio team, but that was long ago and never duplicated. I listen to bits of Alan Horton on Timberwolves’ games, empathizing with the poor fellow, and hoping Ed Malloy is officiating.
Baseball, though – I got hooked by carefully tuning the AM dial as darkness approached on summer nights as a 8-, 9-year-old kid … trying to find ballgames from as far east as Pittsburgh (Bob Prince), usually Detroit, and always KMOX in St. Louis.
Harry Caray and Joe Garagiola, with Jack Buck as the backup. How’s that for greatness?
The Twins and their fans have been mostly blessed in the radio booth, starting from Year 2, when Herb Carneal came in to join Ray Scott as the tandem. The third wheel was Halsey Hall, offering … well, whatever it was Halsey was offering, we loved it and him.
Another note: Halsey not being in the Twins Hall of Fame is a sin against the team's history as grievous as Cesar Tovar not being in the Twins Hall of Fame.
Baseball on the radio can be sport at its best. And the current tandem of Cory Provus and the aforementioned Gladden, with Kris Atteberry as the backup, is excellent.
Provus knows his ball, does thorough homework and has great delivery. Gladden isn’t Ernie Harwell with the play-by-play, but his observation and analysis is terrific. Many former players rely on institutional knowledge; Gladden digs in, and analyzes by thinking with players across the entire field.
And when something gets to him -- the sudden rash of Twins' hitters carrying their bat to first base was a fine example in 2019 -- the Dazzle Man is great.
When Provus and Gladden are on together and involved in a tight ballgame ... I enjoy being in the vehicle at those moments and not distracted by television.
Thus, it was with considerable melancholy – almost Ray-like, when Eddie Hightower wouldn’t give the Gophers a call – that I read on Monday morning it was official:
Provus and Gladden won’t be going on the road with the Twins. They will be calling games by watching TV monitors. It’s a policy being pushed by Major League Baseball.
There was a suggestion it's an attempt to reduce the traveling party, but these guys aren't flying on Sun Country with a plane ffull of revelers who will then be going on to Las Vegas. They are flying in spacious charters, with plenty of distancing available for three more from the radio team.
League-wide, it seems more like an overzealous attempt to keep numbers down in press boxes.
Bottom line: We’re going to be missing out as radio listeners with Provus and Gladden relaying a Twins’ game off a TV monitor -- not being able to take in the game-changing subtleties that can be taking place among players spread across 2 ½ acres.
“It’s going to be very different without being able to see out on the field,’’ Gladden responded to a text. “We are asking for multiple monitors, and different views.’’
To this, I say “Boo’’ once again to MLB..
Keeping Provus, Gladden and engineer Kyle Hammer away from the press box won't make the return of baseball safer by more than a fraction of an iota, and it is certain to make Twins radio listeners less entertained and informed.