The Red Sox’ radio cure

I feel like I heard Frank Viola's starts more than I saw them.

Growing up, my room was a living monument to outdated technology.

I entered the sixth grade in 1993, and it was around that time I first had a TV put in my room — a 13-inch deal with rabbit ears and dials that could only go as high as channel 13 on most days. However, in lieu of an extra cable box, I was able to rig a VCR from the early 80s up to receive a cable signal. It couldn’t play tapes anymore, but at least I was able to get high enough on the list to see channel 14, which was TV 38, the weekend home of the Red Sox.

Even with that, I couldn’t get NESN, the Red Sox’ cable network, which was still a subscription channel. Sometimes, the audio would be clear and the scrambled picture not-quite-scrambled enough, and I could watch a game. NESN carried most weeknight games, with 38 picking up the Friday-Saturday-Sunday games, called by Sean McDonough and Bob Montgomery.

I lived for those weekend games. I tracked at-bats in spiral-bound notebooks, arranged baseball cards to match the batting order and poured through baseball almanacs to read up on players from the other team as they came up to bat. And because the Friday and Saturday night games weren’t school nights, I got to stay up late, look at newspapers, and think about all the things the Sox were going to do on their march to the World Series.

The weeknights were different. If the games were too scrambled, as was often the case, I turned to the radio. My radio was a giant alarm clock that sat on the headboard of my bed. Encased in faux wood, it had a huge digital, military time display and dial that needed to be tended to with surgical detail in order to tune the right station. I usually left it on the Red Sox’ Providence affiliate, hoping I wouldn’t accidentally brush it with my arm, moving the dial and starting the process over again.

Jerry Trupiano and Joe Castiglione were the radio voices of the Sox for years, and still, Castiglione remains the voice of summer for me. Back then, I counted on them for their excitable, real-time accounts of the Red Sox on school nights. Some nights, I did math homework while I listened to John Dopson getting knocked around. Other nights, I worked on an art project while Mike Greenwell made a leaping catch in front of the Green Monster.

I don’t have too many distinct memories from the radio, though I remember how funny Frank Viola’s name sounded coming off of Castiglione’s tongue. “And here’s Vye-OHH-La with the pitch…” It’s what I think of first when Viola comes up in conversation, or when I flip by his card thumbing through my collection.

I’m grateful, because my other vivid memory of Frank Viola is a horrible one. Viola blew out his arm in scary fashion the next season. He threw a pitch that was obviously wild, sailing closer to the Red Sox dugout than the plate. He immediately grabbed his left arm, now hanging limp, and stumbled off the mound towards the dugout. He never pitched for the Sox again.

Looking back, I’m glad I watched that game on TV (it was a Tuesday — I was at my cousin’s house), and that I didn’t have to hear Casitglione’s immediate reaction to the horror. It’s preserved the happy radio memory for me, at least.

♦ ♦ ♦

My apartment is a little more current than my room was as a sixth-grader. I still live a little in the past, with my turntable being my primary music player of choice. But I have a nice little 22-inch TV sitting on top of my record shelf, next to my stereo.

But times are tough, and with a dumbed-down cable package, NESN won’t air in my apartment this season. I’m sure to catch plenty of games on TV elsewhere — I have friends and bars nearby, damn it. But while I’m at home, I’ll have the stereo tuned to the Sox’ New Bedford affiliate most nights, Castiglione now working with Dave O’Brien on broadcasts. So my imagination will have to be on call, conjuring up images of Clay Buchholz mowing down the Blue Jays and Dustin Pedroia turning the double play with Marco Scutaro.

So, through the good and bad of this year’s season (and looking at the lineup, there looks to be a lot of good), I’ll keep myself busy, working on various writing projects, with the reverberations of the Red Sox filling my summer. That still sounds good to me.


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