Static seems like such a bygone hindrance. Our digital world doesn’t allow for it.
These young folks don’t know the sense of accomplishment that comes from maneuvering a radio dial with such finesse that a difficult signal crisply leaps through a speaker. Never shortchange the gift of dexterity.
That would be me, brushing up on the skill, on the porch of my youth, a summer night and wanting to find the game’s broadcast.
What game? Silly question.
In the Missouri Bootheel, we recognized only one team, the St. Louis Cardinals, though other National League cities obviously fielded squads. The Cardinals needed someone to play.
Until 1955, the Cardinals had the westernmost team in the major leagues. (The Philadelphia Athletics moved to Kansas City that year.) As such, team owners found an opportunity to build a huge radio network to serve the great rural unwashed.
Even today, Major League Baseball cites the Cardinals as having the largest radio affiliate network among its 30 teams.
The outposts away from the St. Louis flagship include larger cities – Evansville, Indiana, to Norman, Oklahoma, to Memphis – to more modest burgs like Maquoketa, Iowa, and Stuttgart, Arkansas.
An affiliate resided in the 1960s, and still does, in Sikeston, a community about 24 miles north of that childhood porch.
Each night, I would seek out the voices of Harry Carey and Jack Buck, the two men I most envied, witnesses to the daily play of the Cardinals.
(I would not see a game in person until 1966, my Uncle Bob taking my sister and me to the new stadium with its “roof of arches.” A promising lefthander, Steve Carlton, who went on to have a Hall of Fame career, started for the Cardinals.)
My experience of games would be largely the same on any evening. A battery-operated transistor radio, roughly the size of a Cracker Jacks box, sat on a counter in the kitchen. It had a faux-leather cover with a gridwork of pinprick holes for the sound to escape.
I would take it outside and fiddle with the dial on the end, though that seldom strayed from 1400 AM. The AM proved redundant. The radio did not have an FM tuner, so that, to us, did not exist.
In subsequent years, I would see the source of this, KSIM Radio, a building of cinder blocks, painted pure white, on the western edge of Malone Avenue in Sikeston. Out back stood a transmission tower with a severe arrangement of guy wires.
Like most small-town stations, KSIM had many functions. It provided the local news. It played the latest Top 40 hits. It had high school football in the fall. On Sunday mornings, it featured “Echoes from Calvary,” by the Rev. T.A. McDonough.
For me, though, Cardinals baseball became that touchstone of summer nights. Having landed in that baby boomer sweet spot, and therefore of the television generation, I had no natural pathway to be a radio kid.
Yet here I sat as the sun made its late departure, swatting away bugs and in hopes of a cooling breeze, fighting off static with the most subtle adjustment of the dial.
This radio, small and durable, unremarkable but still in my memory a half-century later, vanished somewhere in the inevitable disbursements and downsizings of life. So long, friend. You missed the cut of things good enough to keep.
In whatever landfill it got buried, its hard plastic resisting the years, the radio might still have its tuner set to 1400. Or perhaps a little off that, an accommodation through the decades of eluding static.