Premature air loss
Temporarily lost in the sting of the 4-0 loss to the Rays a couple weeks back in the Indians’ one-and-done playoff appearance was the realization that it wouldn’t be until next spring that I would hear another Tribe game on the radio. I wasn’t ready for that – I hadn’t prepared myself, as I was too caught up in playoff fever to think about what tomorrow might (not) bring.
For many out there who no-doubt merely turn to something else to fill their entertainment needs when baseball season ends, my comments are probably met with a shrug, and/or a simple “So what?” Particularly for those who only turn to radio when the cable is out or when bracing for nasty weather, my comments may seem somewhat extreme, so I’ll try to explain.
The Indians on the radio – or "on the air", as they say – became part of my life in the early '60s, when I was barely ten. I remember borrowing my Dad’s old transistor radio (space-age stuff, or so I thought at the time) at night and listening to the Tribe on WEOL, via the voices of Bob Neal and Jimmy Dudley. I always enjoyed it more when Neal did the play-by-play, as he had a very dry sense of humor. And since the Indians – stop me if you’ve heard this – weren’t very good, it was entertaining radio, no matter the score.
There was something magical about the radio; which I liken to reading a story as opposed to seeing a movie. With radio, and assuming a competent announcer, of course, everything described is portrayed as your imagination allows; there are no limiting features; only those imposed by one’s brain. Keep in mind that television broadcasts back in the day consisted of only a couple of cameras, and the quality wasn’t even close to what we have today, so I preferred radio anyway. I sometimes wonder if I preferred radio because, generally speaking, the Indians from the mid-'60s to the mid-'90s were usually pretty awful, and radio allowed the most "creative license" for broadcasters.
In the late '60s, Herb Score replaced the retiring Jimmy Dudley, and prior to the 1972 season, Bob Neal retired, much to my chagrin. The sadness was short-lived, however, as his replacement was the acid-tongued Joe Tait, already a favorite as the Cavs play-by-play man. Joe was never one to hide his feelings, especially early in his career, and he was an excellent baseball announcer too, though his rep as a basketball announcer will always overshadow his baseball contributions.
Tait switched to TV in 1980, which brought us Nev Chandler, a local sports guy who was surprisingly good at radio; so good that he jumped to the Browns in 1985. Herb Score was the one constant who kept the broadcasting ship afloat from '85 through '89, when the Indians went through a couple of what I would term "sub-par" announcers: Steve Lamar and Paul Olden.
In 1990, the Tribe struck gold again when they discovered Tom Hamilton, who teamed with Herbie into the "glory years" of the mid-to-late '90s, and although the product was actually able to sell itself at that point, nobody will argue that Tom Hamilton’s homerun calls are not Cleveland classics.
The Tribe, via the magic of radio, has been at my side since almost as long as I can remember: when I worked on my car, when I painted my house, when I worked part-time jobs, when I worked full-time jobs, when I was dating, when I was holding a crying son or daughter. Win or lose, sort of like a loyal friend.
So … how many days ‘til Spring Training?
Lifelong Westlake resident who dabbles in writing whenever the real world permits. My forte is humor and horror...What a combo!