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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Transistor Times

I was driving home from Niagara Falls last night with one of my partners and he was lamenting the lack of local radio coverage of the NBA Playoffs here in Buffalo. It was in the 3rd quarter of the Cavs-Hawks game when we left the party and I told him to throw on 1100 WWWE in Cleveland, thinking that the game would probably be on there and it was. He looked at me funny and said "how the hell did you know that?" I explained that in my early days growing up in Syracuse I would have a transistor radio under my pillow (when I was suppposed to be sleeping, mothers' day confession, sorry mom) listening to the weekly Monday Night Football game or sports talk radio nightly. One of my favorite shows was Pete Franklin's in Cleveland on the 50,000 watt (3WE) station. He was quite the character, searching him today I found out he had passed away in 2004. I also became a Cavs fan and couldn't wait for Bingo Smith to score, just to hear the announcer's call, "Smith shoots....BINGO!" It's stayed with me all these years and I remember waking up in the morning with a dead battery after falling asleep at halftime of the MNF or Cavs game. Good memories.

I think I became attached to the transistor by hanging out with my grandfather, who listened nightly to Harry Kalas (RIP) and the Phillies. We'd sit out on his porch and listen to the games together and talk baseball strategy. I miss the transistor under my pillow or listening on the porch with my grandfather, when times were basic and we weren't so in touch, the transistor times.

What does this have to do with racing? Well, for one, there is a great medium out there to capture a full three hours on the radio daily during the work week called At the Races with Steve Byk on Sirius radio during drive time. If you don't have Sirius, you can listen to all of the broadcasts in the archives (which I do in my leisure). On Friday, his guest during the first hour was one of my favorite handicappers from the NY Post, John DaSilva. This week should have some great broadcasts with the lead up to the Preakness, which is becoming more exciting and controversial with every moment.

It's great that Byk maintains the connection between radio and racing, made famous by the colorful Harvey Pack, who used the call the races from teletype charts on WNBC as depicted in his book "The Horse Be With You." One of my favorite parts of the book is where handicapper Dave Litfin tells Pack that he and his high school friend, Michael Kipness (aka The Wizard) would sneak a transistor radio with an earphone into class so they could tune into Pack's show and see how their bets had done. On one occassion a closer they had bet on won and they both simultaneously yelled "Yes!" causing a frisk job next time they came to class!

I'll leave you with one of Harvey's rules:

Rule #7: "If you hear a tip from one person, maybe make a small bet; if you hear the same tip from three or more people, book it."


Keith - TripleDeadHeat said...

Listening to sports on the radio is something the next generation probably won't get to enjoy what with all the web options. I used your same radio tricks to pull in hockey games from WBEN in Buffalo ( i think it was wben) and baseball games from Cleveland. Ah the good old days!

SaratogaSpa said...

You bring back such fine memories. I would love listening to Mets baseball games on my transistor radio on WHN 1050-am in the 70's before they made the switch to the 50,000 watt channel WFAN. I find listening to games on the radio to be one of the most relaxing things one can do, something this generation misses out on. As for Steve Byk his program is a must listen.

Alan H. said...

Agree with SaratogaSpa. Baseball is a unique sport that translates perfectly to the medium of radio. There is something special about hearing a game on AM.

And Steve Byk's show is consistently great. I try to stream the show on the internet but end up downloading the podcasts more often. He is so likable and has a remarkable historical perspective.


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