August 15, 2012
What Your Team's Choice of Radio Broadcaster Says About You
I’m driving in Georgia with my new wife, way, way down south. We’re here on family business, but we’ve taken an afternoon to indulge the notion that we are still on our honeymoon, although it officially ended weeks ago. We are passing through the rural exotica: tiny, ruined towns, no signs of life. Stunted, desiccated crops. Vultures are everywhere: in the air, in the trees, devouring carcasses on the side of the road. Rain blatters on the windshield. History has ended here.
We need a signal, some reassurance of life against this deathless decrepitude. Put on the radio, there’s a Braves game—that will more than do. Those live pauses between pitches, the ambient life piping through the speakers. Baseball on the radio is as potent as the smell of bread in the oven. What sound could possibly be better in southwest Georgia, on a road where the speed limit is 45 mph, where you can drive five, 10 miles at a stretch without seeing a single other vehicle?
So, 106.3 FM, mid-afternoon on a Sunday. Jim Powell, I presume, and Don Sutton. The news in Braves country these days revolves around Chipper. He doesn’t need a last name in these parts. He is the last surviving royal of the Braves’ guttering dynasty. Everyone knows he has announced his forthcoming retirement at the end of the season; 2012 has been a league-wide farewell tour for him. The kicker, the shitkicker, in fact, is that he’s having a very good year, his best since 2008.
Powell and Sutton make some small talk about Chipper; I don’t remember exactly what it is—what can you say about a living legend that doesn’t sound tiny and inconsequential? He is larger than commentary. The small talk gets circumstantially big late in the game when Jones starts a game-winning rally with a single; then, in the following inning, the seventh, he delivers a two-out double to add a salutary insurance run. The Braves are going to go on to win this one, 6-1. No surprise—the opponent is the Astros.
What is a surprise is some of the extracurricular dialogue between Powell and Sutton. When Jose Altuve steps up to hit for Houston, it isn’t long before the two broadcasters are discussing Altuve’s diminutive size. There is talk of 5-foot-4, and it isn’t long before Sutton is doing an impersonation of Tattoo from Fantasy Island. “De plane!” etc.
After that, Powell starts talking about Eddie Gaedel. Gaedel, you probably know, was a little person (how is that term, the accepted one, not considered offensive?), a dwarf performer hired in 1951 by St. Louis Browns stuntman-owner Bill Veeck as a gimmick pinch hitter. Gaedel walked on four pitches in his lone big-league plate appearance.