The Land of the Radio Baseball Gods
I had just pulled into Richmond, Kentucky. I’d be playing there Friday night, a solo acoustic show, at the Sandbar, after a near capacity crowd show at Earls in St. Paul.
Driving from Ft. Wayne on Rt. 30 across the vast emptiness of southern Indiana, I hooked up with Rt. 75 South in Ohio. It was dark, raining incessantly and simply beautiful. I had the Yankees and Detroit game on the radio, two classic baseball teams. I could trace one of the team’s heritage back one hundred years.
At around 11 PM, in thrilling fashion, the Detroit Tigers came from five down to tie it in the bottom of the ninth. It was now two on, two out, and a full count to the batter. Wonderful, and gripping, I listened thru the door speakers in the Chevy. The drama unfolded before me, pitch by pitch, in true radio fashion.
I could have been listening to Sandy Kofax or Harmon Killebrew or Joe DiMaggio, but it didn’t matter! This was live Detroit Tigers Baseball Radio as I had never experienced. I sweated, swung, cursed, and strained with the noble Detroit Tigers as we struggled to beat the visiting Yankees team.
Then, in the tenth inning, Detroit hit safely into a classic set with runners at the corners. The infield played in. With the screams of the fans by the backstop under the radio booth rolling like waves across the crowds and over the air, I could just barely hear the announcer. He screamed into the microphone, above the noise of the hometown crowd. Detroit had won by one run, and the game was over.
I slumped in my seat, exhausted, exhilarated. Sweating, I loosened my white-knuckle grip on the wheel, trying to savor my emotions and feelings. The swing of the bat had taken me a million years and a hundred lifetimes back to a hot, late-afternoon. The sun was setting on the twilight of a hard dirt baseball diamond. I remembered taking off my catcher’s mask and heading across the dusty infield toward the deserted dugout. It was my last day of my last game as a little league catcher on a baseball team. The sweet smell of oiled Rawlings rawhide mixed with the moist, thick heaviness of my sweat-soaked, rough-cloth uniform. The magic-elixir whiff from a bag full of wooden bats and practice balls engulfed me. Baseball connected me to boyhood, and with all that is great and good.
I was crying by the time I turned off Rt. 75 South and headed for Richmond, Kentucky, leaving the amazing moment with the Yankees and the Detroit Tigers. The Land of the Radio Baseball Gods was back in the vast, rainy, blackness somewhere between Ft. Wayne, Indiana, and Lima, Ohio.
© Eric Sommer
Eric Sommer is a writer, musician, and photographer who grew up in Southeast Asia, Northern India, and Boston, Massachusetts. As a singer and songwriter, he toured with Little Feat, Leon Redbone, Gang of Four, and many others. He earned a master’s degree in fine arts from George Washington University and also studied at Yale and Rhode Island School of Design. This is his first published work of creative nonfiction.