Playoff Baseball In Baltimore Produces A Symphony Of Opinion
By Stan "The Fan" Charles
I was probably 8 or 9 years old the first time I listened to a postgame radio talk show. The show starred a legendary, now-deceased, self-proclaimed Benny "The Fan." Benny was in real life a gentleman who knew only a thimble full of baseball, but he intuitively understood what made good radio: if the talent says "A" and everyone else says "A," it would make for a boring radio show. So Benny took the tact where, if his co-host, probably Jim West or Joe Croghan, said "up," he'd say "down." If West said "left," Benny would say "right." The entertainment was in the sparks. So if the straight man proclaimed that then-Orioles manager Paul Richards should have changed pitchers, Benny would say: "What, are you nuts? You don't know what you're talking about."
I would drive home at the impressionable age of 9 -- older family members would be in the front of the car -- and I'd be listening with rapt attention, not knowing what line of malarkey Benny was lying down.
Fast forward to 1981, when I got my chance to be on the radio and dish out my honestly held opinions, only to find out that you could make 90 minutes to three hours of passionate discussions on opinions about the game itself.
For the better part of the next 15 years, that was what I lived for. And what made it fun was the Orioles were an interesting team on the field. It didn't mean they always won. It just meant they were always topical.
And that brings me to the point of this morning's sermon: how important it is that there is a place to talk earnestly about the importance of something so sublimely unimportant as the outcome of a baseball game, and the means with which said game got to its conclusion.
You know, Rodney Dangerfield used to say, "I get no respect." I say, "It's tough being a fan." So after you wait 15 years to get meaningful baseball games in Baltimore, and then you have to wait an additional two hours, 26 minutes to even get a first pitch in, and then another 3:31 to get your first "bitch" in, it's understandable that folks would be a tad upset with the outcome of Sunday night's game, a 7-2 Yankees victory that was as close as could be for the first eight innings.
The two managers in the postgame press area, followed by winning pitcher CC Sabathia and the hero of the game, Russell Martin -- he of the go-ahead home run and the stout defense all night -- offered only the blandest of assessments.
But driving home in the almost wee hours of the morning, with an ear to 105.7 The Fan, host Mark Zinno, without the years of experience that I have, was a symphony of emotions.
One by one, callers brought passion to the table. One caller was aggravated to no end about the previous callers knocking Orioles manager Buck Showalter for not having center fielder Adam Jones drop down a bunt during the bottom of the eighth inning. In came another caller, saying it was the home fans' faults for not making noise like at a Ravens game. Zinno then read one text saying the previous caller didn't know what he was talking about, and that the fans did just fine. One irate caller questioned the wisdom of bringing Jim Johnson in to a tie game.
As I pulled off I-695 at 1:20 a.m., Zinno, after fielding caller after caller for close to 30 minutes, bid his adieus. Maybe I would have handled callers differently; maybe I would have known how better to instigate a bit; or maybe I'd have stayed on the air until 5:30 a.m., when Jerry Coleman, Ed Norris and Steve Davis would have walked in.
All I know is, whether I am hosting or not, it was good to hear fans calling up a talk show after the games venting about this or that. After all, it's baseball, and if fans aren't afforded the opportunity to throw in their two cents, then something is wrong. As in a symphony, everything on this night when the O's lost a bitter game sounded so right again.
Posted Oct. 8, 2012