There I was, Wednesday evening, Oct. 17, around 6:30, sitting on my living room couch, club sandwich in hand, preparing for the League Championship Series game 5 between my Boston Red Sox and the Houston Astros, when as I’ve done a thousand times before, grabbed the remote to turn on the television. Pressing the usual button, I was distressed to see no picture and hear no sound. Having experienced this kind of disappointment numerous times before, I didn’t panic yet. I went about the diagnostic process first.
I checked my remote to see if the batteries were firmly connected, which they were. I then pointed the remote back at the television, but still no response. Next, as I have been prompted previously under similar circumstances (“Your X-1 platform... .”), I pulled the plug and waited 30-plus seconds before reconnecting. Thirty seconds later, I re-plugged and still my television sat idle. Next I went into my home office to check the status of my computer, since they’re “cable-ized” together. The lights on my modem were flashing (a hopeful sign), so I clicked on one of my desktop icons and was met with the dreaded “No internet connection,” confirming my worst suspicion. For the moment, 90 minutes before game time, I was out of service (heck, I was out of luck). Finally, I called my cable provider for clarification/further confirmation when I was met with the equally dreaded pre-recorded message: “There has been a service interruption in your area. Service is expected to be restored tomorrow afternoon.” “TOMORROW AFTERNOON? THE GAME IS TONIGHT!” That was the exclamation I can print. What came next was not particularly complimentary.
For the next hour or so, I puttered and muttered and did nothing to improve my circumstances. At 9:30 p.m., I called my brother to get a score. (He lives in Washington, D.C. and has a smart phone. I live in Maryland and have a flip phone, aka “stupid phone”). Unfortunately, he had left his cell phone in another room and didn’t hear my call. Frustrated, I swore yet again and trudged upstairs to go to bed. After getting into my “jammies,” I lay down in bed and rolled onto my left side to set the alarm on my clock radio, when it hit me (not the clock radio): the baseball game is being broadcast on the radio! And so I scrolled the dial on the clock radio until I heard ESPN radio broadcasters John Shambee and Jessica Mendoza calling the game. If I can’t watch the game, I can certainly listen to it. And so I did, just like I did as a “little-leaguer” all those many years ago listening to Ken Coleman and Ned Martin of the “Boston Red Sox radio network” while living on Athelstane Road in Newton Centre, Mass. Except this time, I wasn’t clutching a transistor radio. I was hands free, listening.
For the next nearly three hours, I lay in bed and listened. Most of the broadcast I heard and some of it I missed as occasionally I fell asleep. But for a time, I was transported back in time sort of, before cable television proliferated when the games were broadcast almost exclusively on radio and baseball was seen through the eyes of those sitting in the “Catbird seat,” to quote the legendary Red Barber. Listening to how they described what they saw during the game was how many of my generation - and the preceding generation – fell in love with baseball: “How about that!” to quote the late, great, Mel Allen.
It was a late night, but happily for me and Red Sox Nation, the Sox won and will now be returning to the World Series for the first time since 2013. Game one will be Tuesday night, Oct. 23. I can’t imagine that there will be a repeat non-performance from my cable provider, but if there is, and I am forced to go to plan “B”, radio, I will do so. The circumstances got us a win in game five, so there’s no reason to think it wouldn’t get us a win in game one, too. After all, it’s not only the ballplayers that are superstitious.