Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Radio echo

In the days before cable TV and video gluttony, my family's black-and-white Zenith offered three choices: NBC, ABC, and CBS, all via affiliates broadcasting out of Cleveland. Most days, our rooftop antenna delivered decent reception, but sometimes I'd have to squint through "ant races" to see the grainy image.

For all the love of Lucy, cartoons and football on weekend afternoons, there truly wasn't much on TV back then.

Ah, but we had radio -- I'm talking about AM radio. I'd usually dial up an Akron station or, if I got lucky (and weather permitting), I could find a strong Cleveland signal. I'd hide a small AM receiver under my pillow, listening to pop music every night 'til the Ray-O-Vacs gave out. (That probably explains why I can sing along with every top-ten tune from 1966 to 1970.)

Among my most vivid radio memories is baseball -- Cleveland Indians baseball. My family would tune-in those tinny broadcasts in the living room, in the kitchen, in the car. Whenever we traveled an hour south to visit family, there was my grandfather, sitting in his favorite chair, listening to the Tribe on his old Magnavox set.

I don't remember any one particular game, really, just a few names like Rocky Colavito and Sam McDowell. But to this day, I can close my eyes and hear the call: "It's a high fly ball, deep down the left-field line..."

Playing inside my head is the voice of Herb Score, who called Indians games from the mid-'60s through the '97 World Series. Herb died yesterday at 75, but he'll always be the quintessential Voice of the Indians.

There must be miles upon miles of tape preserving the incomparable work of Herb Score. More precious recordings of his voice, however, are woven into childhood memories of summer afternoons by a crackling radio -- and those echoes will outlast any magnetic tape.