I’ve been fascinated with the possibility of time travel for as long as I can remember. Reading H.G. Wells as a child germinated the interest, of course, but the desire to actually do it myself really took off once I started listening to “The Old Scotsman,” Gordon McClendon do his simulated Liberty Broadcasting System radio play-by-play accounts of the day’s Major League Baseball games from his studios up in Dallas back in the early 1950s. They always sounded so real that I never even stopped to think that they were not. Some of them may have been real for all I know, but that possibility merely begs the point. – I neither knew nor cared. I just knew that they were baseball game accounts about teams and players that mattered to me.
Then one day, it all changed.
Gordon McClendon, who always worked alone, came on the air with the pre-game comments to explain that today was going to be a slightly different ballgame. On a day when all the sixteen MLB clubs were resting on “days off,” there was still going to be a major league game and a very special one.
“Today, ladies and gentlemen,” The Old Scotsman announced, “the LBS Game of the Day is going to reach way back in history to bring you Game Two of the 1916 World Series between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Boston Red Sox from Braves Field. (The Red Sox had received permission from the Boston Braves to use their field during the 1916 World Series in the interest of handling larger crowds than those that could fit into Fenway.) Veteran Sherry Smith takes the mound for the Dodgers; youngster lefty Babe Ruth will work for the Sox. So stay tuned for a simulated game for the ages.”
Wow! Did that ever wake me up to the power of a well done sim-game and to the incredible lure of wishfulness about time travel that dwelled within me. I resisted the urge to look up the specifics on that game, even though I had the written results on hand for all World Series games through 1950. Access to information wasn’t invented by Google, after all, but I wanted none of it that day. The 1916 World Series was a black hole to me beyond the fact that I knew Boston had won it because I did already know that the Dodgers had never won any World Series through 1950. And it was now 1951.
The game proved to be one for the ages, with both pitchers going all the way in a 14-inning 2-1 win for Ruth and Boston.
McClendon made it sound so real, complete with reports of winds kicking up on the field that blew the players’ pant legs like wind sox at gusty moments. We could hear the crowd, the roar of the rally, the occasional sound of wood contacting horsehide. It was real, all right – so real that I just wanted to be there wholly – in body and soul rapture of the moment. This could be one of the last great pitching moments for young Babe before he goes on to New York in 1920 to become the greatest home run hitter of all time. Who among our feverish numbers could pass on the opportunity for eye witness testimony to an incredibly large moment in baseball history?
In exchange, I would have gladly sworn myself to silence about where I came from – and never uttered a word to Bostonians about their impending loss of Ruth to the Yankees and the upcoming curse upon Red Sox World Series wins beyond 1918. Besides the value I place upon keeping my word, I would not have enjoyed being torn apart by the Bostons, nor would I have wanted to be hauled away to the loony bin. Those too negative factors alone would have been good enough reasons to have kept my time traveler status a secret.
But I couldn’t find the time travel portal. I had to rely upon Gordon McClendon to take me as far as my mind could go. And that was pretty good, as it was.
Besides, it’s the day after Christmas – the day each year when my inner clock begins ticking away the time in earnest to the start of spring training and the next baseball season.
Speaking of time countdowns, I hope you SABR members, and other interested parties, are making plans to attend our Monday, January 14th, 7:00 PM meeting at the Inn at the Ballpark on Texas @ Crawford. Our special guest speaker is going to be Bo Porter, the new Astros manager. Even more special is the news that Hall of Fame great Monte Irvin plans to attend so that he also can meet and here what Bo Porter has to say.
Friday, December 28, 2012: Change in Plans for Monte Irvin: Sorry to disappoint, but we have now learned that Monte Irvin’s doctor does not want him exposed to the damp winter night air and he will NOT be attending the January 14th meeting of SABR in Houston. We are all disappointed, but we completely understand.
Just the same, let’s all give Bo Porter a chance to present his point of view on how he plans to deal with a very young 2013 Astros club, going into the most powerful division of the American League. On our side of things, I see it as the grown-up thing to do.
If you have any questions about SABR, or would like to attend the meeting, please get in touch with SABR Chapter leader Bob Dorrill at BDorrill@aol.com