It’s not usually a good thing to have a treasured possession turn into a living cliche, but in my case, it was exactly how it was supposed to happen.
It all started in 2005, when I was getting old enough to realize that I wasn’t following the Mets nearly as closely as I needed to be. I went to four games in 2004. Maybe one or two in 2005. Other than that, I was reduced to checking the score in the paper the next morning.
So I did some thinking about how I would go about getting closer to my team. I needed to know what was happening, with no overnight delay. I needed to be connected to the entire adult world, of which Mets baseball was, for me, the most important part.
So I made the request to my parents, and on the first night of Hanukkah 2005, I unwrapped a brand-new Sony transistor radio. And although I didn’t notice any immediate changes, I would realize later that this was the moment I had becoming a die-hard.
Of course, it didn’t hurt that the 2006 team was the most exciting team that I’d been alive and aware of baseball for. Starting as the 2006 season began, and moving forward, I listened under my blanket every night, and through this sudden immersion in the happenings of the Mets, I heard the games which have become scattered memories. The radio told me stories, which defined the memories that now make me a certifiable — in more than one sense — Mets fan.
In 2006, I heard Ronnie Paulino and the Pirates walk off against Aaron Heilmann to prevent a Mets clinch, and then, only days later, I heard a Billy Wagner induced fly ball to Cliff Floyd finally get the job done.
In 2007, I listened as Tom Glavine slowly and methodically, one pitch at a time, became a creature out of a Mets fan’s nightmare.
In 2008, I heard Fernando Tatis double home Wright and Beltran in the bottom of the 12th to give the Mets a walk-off win, which in turn became one of 89, which proved one less than enough.
In 2009, I listened as David Wright homered to tie the home opener in the bottom of the fifth, and was sure, before ultimately being proved wrong, that the Mets had gotten past 2007 and 2008 and were ready to make the playoffs again.
In 2010, I listened from Maine, on a radio whose reception over great distances continues to amaze me, as Carlos Beltran hit a sac fly, bringing in Jesus Feliciano to beat the Diamondbacks and move the Mets two games over .500.
In 2011, I listened as the Mets took the first two games of a series in Detroit from the Tigers, by scores of 14-3 and 16-9. Don Kelly, a 2011-Tigers version of Joe McEwing, pitched an inning in the second game, and a friend of mine, who held an inexplicable appreciation of Don Kelly, could barely contain his excitement. I also listened on the way home from school that September, as Jose Reyes’ final game as a Met wound down.
I listened to Opening Day in 2012, on the bus to a game of my own. I heard Frank Francisco nail down the save, and thought for a minute that maybe he would be the solution we were looking for, although his physical similarities to Armando Benitez were an instant red flag.
I listened to Opening Day in 2013 and 2014 as well. In 2013, Collin Cowgill came out of nowhere to become everyone’s favorite player for two or three days, hit a grand slam to seal the blowout, and in 2014, Bobby Parnell entered for the save and, as I was jogging down from the school locker room to the baseball field, blew it faster than you could point out how good you thought he was going to be.
And then, finally, came 2015, which was the kind of season that you just had to follow. I listened in April – when I wasn’t at the ballpark, that is – as the Mets won 11 straight, before losing to the Yankees. I listened over the summer as Yoenis Cespedes came to the plate and Citi Field applauded with the same excitement that they’d showered down on Donn Clendenon back in mid 1969. I listened as we swept the Nationals — both times — and on the final day of the season, as Granderson assured that we’d go into the postseason on a semi-positive note.
Through it all, that little radio has stood up to everything. It’s been through drops, tosses, and thunderstorms. It’s been left at a friend’s house in Montauk, and once lost for a month before being recovered. It’s been broken and repaired in multiple areas. But still, it remains, in a pinch, my favorite way to listen to a ballgame.
I don’t know exactly what the appeal of the radio is — not just to me, but to the many people who have noticed that I’m listening to a game on a portable radio, and commented that it’s their favorite way to listen as well. Maybe it’s the history, and the fact that the radio’s been around 30 years longer than television. It could be the portability of radio, and the way that unlike watching on TV, you can listen to a ballgame on the radio anywhere — a Long Island beach, a hiking trail upstate, the subway home from dinner in Brooklyn, a walk through Central Park as Summer sets in and darkness holds off later and later. It’s also, I’m sure, got something to do with the radio broadcast itself. Howie Rose, with respect to Gary, Keith, and Ron, is an artist. His is the voice of the Mets, and his descriptions of baseball, played on a cheap, tinny speaker with static in the background, capture the emotions of the game as well as, if not better than, an SNY broadcast.
After ten years of hard work dispensing WFAN and WOR broadcasts, my little transistor radio has become a cliche, and I’m totally fine with that. The antenna requires constant tightening so that it continues to stand up straight, and the battery case is held on by scotch tape, which makes changing the batteries inconvenient, to say the least. It’s like something out of a comedy: a character has a cell phone from the ‘90s, or whenever, and the other characters mock it to no end. Doesn’t the owner of the antique know that technology has moved on? Did you ever hear of this thing called the MLB app? It’s like the radio, except it sounds better and you can listen anywhere in the country. And also, it doesn’t make you look like you’re stuck in 1955.
But like the character who just won’t let go of their Motorola touch-tone behemoth, the transistor does everything that I need it to, and barring a disaster, like the mutterings we’ve started to hear lately of radio no longer being profitable, it will continue to do so. “As a guy, I feel I need a new computer every time a new model comes out, which is every 15 minutes,” Dave Barry once wrote. “This baffles my wife, who has had the same computer since the Civil War and refuses to get a new one because — get THIS for an excuse — the one she has works fine.” Call me a dinosaur, but what was good enough for FDR, Vin Scully and Red Barber, and every ballgame from the ‘20s until TV came around in the ‘50s is good enough for me.