In the Ken Burns PBS documentary series "Baseball", sportscaster Bob Costas recalls a cross-country trip he took with his family as a youngster.
Driving away from New York City with the car radio tuned to whatever baseball game could be found, the Costases left behind the voice of Bob's favorite team, the Yankees' Mel Allen. Passing Pittsburgh, they heard Pirates announcer Bob Prince, who eventually faded away in favor of Cincinnati's Waite Hoyt. Jack Buck and Harry Carey of the Cardinals were heard through the Midwest.
Approaching the West Coast, the Dodgers' Vin Scully came through loud and clear.
More than any other sport, baseball was a radio game. Generations older than mine can recount driving around until they found a hill where they could pick up a faraway radio signal to listen to a distant baseball game, usually on a clear-channel AM station, not unlike the way the Grand Ole Opry became an institution thanks to WSM AM. I used to pick up Cincinnati's WLW at night to listen to Marty Brennaman and Joe Nuxhall report the Exploits of the Big Red Machine.
One of my earliest memories was of my dad listening to the Braves, shortly after they brought major league baseball to the South. Each broadcast would end with a promotion of the next night, with the voices, "And a brand new game."
But even then, baseball was being brought into American homes by a newer contraption, TV. First, it was the network Game of the Week. And if you lived in or close to a big-league city, you could watch the local team's games on a regional network.
By the time I was exiting high school, cable was infiltrating our lives and baseball fans watched two franchises become, in essence, America's Teams – the Cubs during the day on WGN and the Braves at night on WTBS.
Today, if you have basic cable, you might have a choice of two or three games per night sometimes. If you have a premium satellite package, the baseball world is your oyster, you can watch the game you want, regardless of who or where it's being played.
And then there's the newest mass medium, actually second newest as social media is the newest. The Internet allows games to be streamed right on your computer. You can even watch them, though with MLB, it may cost more with blackout restrictions. But radio is inexpensive and has no blackouts. Minor-league games, if the radio station is streaming online, you can listen for free from anywhere.
If you're a Cardinals fan and can't find a hill where the car FM can dial in to KMOX, just go online.
I know TV is the medium of choice, but the good radio announcers paint a picture with their words. Besides, if I'm working or doing other things, I can listen to a broadcast and keep on going. If it's a visual medium, I find myself stopping what I need to be doing and looking.
And it's not just the desktop. Smart phones and Androids do a lot more than just reach out and touch someone. If Dodger fans took transistor radios to the Los Angeles Coliseum or Dodger Stadium to hear Scully describe the game they were watching, this generation can take their phones and do the same thing.
This isn't limited to baseball, of course, or even major-league or big-time college sports. I've listened to the streaming of high school basketball games from radio stations in Carthage, Hartsville and even Franklin. I would love to do that with Lebanon's station [hint, hint].
Sports have captured the hearts and imaginations of Americans for generations. 21st century technology opens whole new avenues to access the games we love.