Charlie Bertsch (cbertsch) wrote,
Charlie Bertsch

Hearing Voices

My recent spate of baseball watching has me thinking about how important the sportscasters I listened to as a child must have been to my sense of the world. Aside from my immediate family and perhaps WOR radio's John Gambling, they were the speakers I heard most. As is so often the case with childhood memories, their voices are tangled up with much that seems far removed from their scope. I distinctly recall taking greater interest in Little House on the Prairie -- a show I watched regularly in elementary school -- because Merlin Olsen, who played Michael Landon's friend, was the color commentator for NBC's Sunday afternoon NFL broadcasts. I also remember having the feeling that Little House on the Prairie was actually taking place in California, because the light looked so similar to the sort that would play across the field at West Coast stadiums. In a way, I was right.

The reason I'm writing this, however, is not Merlin Olsen. Phil Rizzuto, shortstop for the New York Yankees during their most storied years and, afterwards, the longtime color commentator on their broadcasts, just passed away. Rizzuto wasn't one of my favorite television personalities. Even as a grade-schooler, I found his meandering stories wearisome. And I came to loathe the sound of his voice advertising The Money Store, a fixture during afternoon commercial breaks on Channel 11, one of the stations I watched most between the end of school and dinnertime. But that doesn't mean that his voice wasn't important to me. The fact that I can hear it now, as I type this, with perfect clarity, indicates how much a part of me it will always be, like it or not. I can hear Phil as distinctly as I hear my own father, which makes sense, because my father always seemed to have Yankee telecasts on when we still lived in Pennsylvania. I'll sign off, then, with a respectful "Holy Cow!"
Tags: autobiography, media, nostalgia, sports

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