I was listening to a Cincinnati Reds baseball game on radio while driving home when I had a flashback in the 1950’s.
For my money, the Reds’ play-by-play man on radio, Marty Brennaman, is the best in the big leagues.
I like Marty’s style but my favorite will always be the late and great Waite Hoyt.
A muggy summer evening was not complete unless we could lounge on the front porch and listen to Hoyt do the play-by-play.
A member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, he was the best pitcher on the great teams of the New York Yankees in the late 1920’s.
That made him a teammate of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and others of the Yankees’ “Murderer’s Row” batting lineup.
Hoyt, who also performed in vaudeville, was a great storyteller. He loved to talk about his former teammate, Babe Ruth, a larger-than-life legend in America’s past-time.
In fact, if the Reds were losing or the game was boring, we used to hope for rain delays so that Hoyt could regale us and his other listeners with great stories about the good old days in baseball.
It has been verified that when Ruth died in 1948, Hoyt paid tribute to him on radio, speaking without notes for two hours after learning of the death of his friend.
I recall that sometimes Hoyt would laugh so hard telling us of the antics of Ruth and other Yankees that he would lose his place in the story and have to stop and go back.
Some Reds fans used to say that he drank too much of the radio sponsor’s product, a beer brewed in Cincinnati, and his speech became slurred late in the game.
I learned later that Hoyt had been a member of Alcoholics Anonymous for the last 44 years of his life and often said that excessive drinking ended his playing career prematurely.
When the Reds played on the road, Hoyt didn’t travel with the team. He would broadcast the games from a studio in Cincinnati with a pitch-by-pitch running report from Western Union.
We used to marvel at the sound of the bat striking the ball so loudly on a big hit as the crowd roared its approval – through the magic of recorded sound effects.
To be honest, we boys of summer didn’t know and didn’t care whether or not the game was a live broadcast.
Keith Kappes is a columnist for The Morehead (Ky.) News. Contact him at email@example.com.