Catching static: Memories of listening to baseball on AM radio

I was driving in eastern Oklahoma way back in the early 1990s when my wife had enough. “Turn off that static!” she demanded.

At the time, I was listening intently to a Texas Rangers baseball game on the AM radio broadcast of Fort Worth, Texas, station WBAP.

To be honest, I had not even noticed the static.

That was life in the olden days, when baseball fans like me would tune into distant AM radio stations like WBAP and KMOX in St. Louis to follow our favorite teams.

As a teenager, I lived on KMOX and the soothing voice of Jack Buck calling the Cardinals games. Later on, it was Mark Holtz and Eric Nadel with the Rangers.

Bonus: Read this terrific New York Times article on the power of KMOX as a reporter tries to outdrive the station’s coverage during a Cardinals’ game broadcast.

After dark, the distant signal from my favorite AM stations boomed across the AM receiver located either in my bedroom or my car.

But static was a price you paid to listen to distant AM radio broadcasts. In the spring and summer, static was almost always present because of thunderstorms somewhere between you and the radio tower.

So, you learned to pick out the play-by-play from the static. I sort of trained myself to tune out the static, which is why I faced the wrath of my wife. 

It wasn’t only the distant sports stations that I tuned into as a teenager. WLS in Chicago was my go-to station to listen to the latest Top 40 hits.

Recently, someone posted a map on LinkedIn that showed the vast coverage of Oklahoma City’s KOMA. Unfortunately, I lived in the wrong part of the country as a kid to become a KOMA fan.

Anyway, the days of straining to hear baseball play-by-play or Top 40 music through a static-riddled broadcast are mostly in the past. I subscribe to MLB.com’s audio broadcasts now, which bring in the Rangers, Cardinals or any Major League team static free and crystal clear.

With bluetooth, I stream the broadcast to the car’s sound system and never miss a pitch.

And I no longer endure the wrath of someone who doesn’t understand the pleasure of ignoring the static to enjoy the game.

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jimstafford

I'm an Oklahoma City-based freelance writer with interests in Oklahoma startup community, Apple Inc, OKC Thunder & Texas Rangers.

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