By Ken Reitz
From the July 2004 issue of Monitoring Times
Baseball is the very definition of tradition. Since the first broadcast of Major League Baseball from KDKA in Pittsburgh in 1921, all MLB flagship stations have been found on the AM band. A glance at the station line-up below shows the tradition is alive and well. This may seem odd at a time when FM radio would appear to be a better choice, but the tradition of baseball on the radio is to provide coverage for the widely dispersed fan base in a team's region. It would take dozens of FM stations to provide the same coverage of one big AM station.
The fact that AM still rules in baseball actually widens your receiver options, because it's possible to listen to baseball on everything from an old-fashioned oat box crystal set to a top-of-the-line stereo receiver. In fact, throughout the season I like to listen to baseball on as many types of radios as I can: I use a home-brew crystal set; a 1936 RCA table radio; a Kloss Model One; a car radio (preferably while parked on a hill or mountain top); and, of course, my old trusty Kenwood HF transceiver.
Each has its advantages and disadvantages, and none is really capable of overcoming the main problems of listening to the AM band in the summer. Because, unless you're living in a Major League city, you'll still have to contend with intense static crashes, fading, and adjacent channel interference.
For a real recreation of the early days of broadcast baseball, build your own crystal set and tune in KDKA, or any of the original baseball stations. These sets are cheap, easy to build, and it's something you can do with a kid which just might get them interested in radio. Over 100 plans for building crystal sets can be found at http://www.crystalradio.net/crystalplans/index.shtml.
The main thing about listening to the AM band is to be able to increase the signal strength and decrease the amount of interference from stations operating on or near the flagship station's frequency. There are basically two ways to do this: Use of a highly directional small, tunable loop antenna, or (2) the use of a highly directional, high gain long wire or Beverage antenna.
The big advantage of the AM loop is that it's small and easily moved from room to room. The disadvantage is that it isn't a high gain antenna. The advantages of the Beverage antenna is that it is high gain and highly directional. On the downside, Beverage antennas are extremely long (700 to 2,000 ft) and can't be easily moved. To have directional flexibility you would need a very large piece of property or a block's worth of very cooperative neighbors. After using both for several years I've come to favor the loop for sheer convenience alone.
If you do opt for the Beverage, here are a couple of quick pointers. If the antenna is terminated at one end by a 400-600 Ohm resister attached to the end of the antenna and a good ground, it receives best in the direction in which it's laid out. By leaving off the resister it becomes bi-directional. If you're using a 50 Ohm coax cable to feed the antenna into your hous, use a 9:1 balun to balance the feed line. You can buy one from Array Solutions at: http://www.arraysolutions.com/Products/ice/reconly.html#Beverage%20Matching. Or you can “roll your own” balun from plans found at this web site: http:www.hard-core-dx.com/nordicdx/antenna/feed/9_1balun.html .
By doing a little Internet reading you'll find that there are a large number of sites devoted to Beverage and loop antennas. One of the best sources I've found for both is: http://www.hard-core-dx.com.
The Internet has really come into its own with the availability of live broadcasts of baseball. While MLB's Office of the Commissioner has a death grip on the web sites of their MLB teams, such is not the case at the Minor League level. It's possible to hear a Minor League game at almost any time of the day via the Internet. It's a throwback to the good ol' days of Internet baseball action where you may listen to as many games as you like and you can tune in for free.
You'll hear a lot of young voices on these Minor League games as play-by-play announcers hone their skills and hope for a chance at the Bigs themselves. Tune in to teams such as the Midland Rock Hounds, Oklahoma City Yard Dawgs, Lansing Lugnuts or the Mississauga Ice Dogs. I listened earlier this season to a game between the Norwich (CT) Navigators and the Reading (PA) Phillies where the game time was 9:05am. That's not a typo. They were doing a double header from an earlier rainout with the second game already on the schedule at 11:05am. There was not much choice but to start the rained out game first.
The biggest surprise this year was that the price for a season's subscription to MLB's Game Day Audio did not go up as it had in the previous two years but, in fact, went down! The full season price is $14.95 down from last year's $19.95. At a time when stadium ticket prices continue to soar and salaries are completely out of control, Game Day Audio is clearly the best bargain in baseball.
It would seem obvious that ESPN Radio and Fox Sports Radio would broadcast live baseball action throughout the week during the season from their national broadcast advantage on both Sirius and XM satellite radio. But, that's not happening. Instead, both are airing “Games of the Week” on the weekend throughout the season. And, as they did last year, ESPN Radio will broadcast all of the post season action in the League Championship Series and the World Series.
A major drawback to the Internet and Satellite option is that you can't watch the game on TV and listen to the satellite or Internet audio. This is because the technology of satellite uplinking and downlinking and Internet interconnectivity and buffering causes delays in the audio from the live action on TV. The out-of-sync audio will drive you mad.
Baseball personifies the slow pace of creeping through the long hot days of summer. And nothing suits the game as much as listening to the routine descriptions of play as it happens or the unending recitation of the all important statistics as provided by play-by-play announcers. Listening to baseball on the radio naturally lends itself to multi-tasking. So, this summer as you listen, I invite you to visit a new web site developed by the Smithsonian Institution entitled Historic Baseball Guides 1889-1939. (http://www.memory.loc.gov/ammem/spaldinghtml).
Part of the American Memory web site, Historic Baseball Guides provides a collection of 35 of “Spalding's Official Base Ball Guide” and the “Official Indoor Base Ball Guide” (you probably didn't know about the promising Indoor Base Ball League) as originally published around the turn of the last century. Aside from the official rules, there's advice, for example, on how to teach baseball to girls. Here's an excerpt from a description of a 'round-the-world tour on which Mr. Spalding took his team in 1889:
"After leaving Australia the tourists called at Colombo, Ceylon, and from thence went to Cairo, and while in that city visited the Pyramids, and they managed to get off a game on the sands in front of the Pyramid Cheops on Feb. 9...”
It's all legendary stuff and should be required reading for youngsters who may think the only legends in the game are A Rod and Bonds.
TEAM Call Letters Freq. (kHz) Alternate Language
Anaheim Angels KSPN 710 XPRS 1090
Arizona Diamondbacks KTAR 620 KSUN 1400
Atlanta Braves WSB 750 WWWE 1100
Baltimore Orioles WBAL 1090
Boston Red Sox WEEI 850 WROL 950
Chicago Cubs WGN 720
Chicago White Sox WMVP 1000
Cincinnati Reds WLW 700
Cleveland Indians WTAM 1100
Colorado Rockies KOA 850
Detroit Tigers WXYT 1270
Florida Marlins WQAM 560 WQBA 1140
Houston Astros KTRH 740 KLAT 1010
Kansas City Royals KMBZ 980
Los Angeles Dodgers KFWB 980 KWKW 1330
Milwaukee Brewers WTMJ 620
Minnesota Twins WCCO 830
Montreal Expos CHUM 1050 CKAC 730 (French)
New York Mets WFAN 660 WADO 1280
New York Yankees WCBS 880 WADO 1280
Oakland Athletics KFRC 610
Philadelphia Phillies WPEN 950
Pittsburgh Pirates KDKA 1020
San Diego Padres KOGO 600 XEMO 860
San Francisco Giants KNBR 680 KZSF 1370
Seattle Mariners KOMO 1000 KKMO 1360
St. Louis Cardinals KMOX 1120
Tampa Bay Devil Rays WFLA 970
Texas Rangers KRLD 1080 KESS 1270
Toronto Blue Jays CJCL 590
MLB Radio On-line
Listen to every MLB game live on-line by signing up for MLB Game Day Audio: http://www.mlb.com click on “Audio” and then on “Game Day Audio.” Season subscription is $14.95.
Minor League Baseball Radio
Minor League teams at the AAA level play a full 144 game schedule and most teams broadcast their games live via local radio stations or the Internet. To find the frequency of your local team do a Google search for that team's name. The home page usually has information on their flagship station or a link to the live broadcast. For a complete list of Minor League daily action check out http://www.sportsjuice.com. There is no charge for listening to Minor League games.
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