In a short while, Temple University baseball will be history, another victim of budget cuts. College baseball in this part of the country does not have anywhere near the fan attraction of sports such as football and basketball, so there will be relatively few mourners at the wake, but I will be one of them.
Back in 1960, I was sports director of WRTI, the Temple radio station. We broadcast Big 5 basketball games from the Palestra and Temple’s home football games. The one thing we did not do that I had a passion for was to broadcast baseball. With a grit and determination I have only shown rare flashes of since, I set out to broadcast Temple baseball.
The school played its home games in Mount Airy then, at a place called Erny Field. Despite Temple’s having a wonderful baseball program under coach Skip Wilson, the site was rudimentary at best. It was not much better than many sandlot fields you could find all over the city. There were a few bleacher seats where the girlfriends of the players, the neighborhood kids and an occasional senior sat and watched the games. No outfield fences. Worse for a clueless sports director named Cardella, the power outlet that would allow us to broadcast the games was about 1,000 feet away from the bleachers that would be our broadcast location.
After huddling with my technical consultant, we figured out that we could solve the problem with a most useful device known as an extension cord. Somehow I convinced the tight-fisted head of the Communications Department to allow us to purchase 1,000 feet of extension cord from a local hardware store. The guy who ran the store thought we were nuts. And thus was born the first time Temple baseball was broadcast (to paraphrase Abraham Lincoln — something the world or even the school little noted).
The first thing I realized about our broadcast was that they lacked excitement; the team was great, but there was no crowd noise. Huddling up with the same technical genius, we figured out he could run a tape loop of crowd noise under my play-by-play. The problem was corrected instantly. Perhaps we did go a little overboard. The crowd noise we used made the Temple-LaSalle game sound as if we were broadcasting the seventh game of the World Series.
Our college station was not permitted to sell advertising time; hence there were no commercials. I admit to being a bit frustrated by that because everybody knew that to be a great play-by-play guy, you had to deliver a great beer commercial. Brew rarely touched my lips (except one time at one of Hannah Drossner’s parties where I chugalugged enough beer that I spent a good part of the night getting rid of it in her bathroom). Nevertheless, I was considered by my college professor as being very skilled at delivering a beer commercial (“Just flip the cap off a frosty bottle of Schaefer beer. Schaefer–man, that’s real beer”). To compensate for the lack of commercials, we did public service spots, which also caused a problem when my color analyst in his zeal for the American Cancer Society, proclaimed at the end of an inning, “On the cancer scoreboard, it’s 2-1 Temple.”
One afternoon, I decided to use three of us on the broadcast (perhaps a visionary forerunner to the Monday Night Football telecasts that starred Howard Cosell, Frank Gifford and Dandy Don Meredith). One of the guys was on crutches, a fact that later would prove to have some significance. Barry M. considered himself a ladies’ man (the norm for a college male). That didn’t bother me until it proved to affect our scheduled broadcast that afternoon. When it came time to leave for the game (it takes time to plug in 1,000 feet of extension cord), Barry M. was absent. I was later to find out that the crutches hadn’t prevented him from walking a girl to the subway. Fortunately for us (myself and Allan Hotlen — known as “Hotsy” in his collegiate life), Barry M. had left his car keys in the studio. I made the kind of forceful decision that I like to think Gen. Douglas MacArthur would have made in the Pacific during World War II, so I took Barry’s car keys, leaving him behind chatting with the girl at the subway stop.
I didn’t drive then and still don’t, but I had the intrepid “Hotsy” with me. It was only after we started off down North Broad Street that I realized the car did not have automatic transmission and “Hotsy” had never driven a shift. Let’s just say it was not exactly a smooth ride toward our destination. “Hotsy” was game. We laughed a lot.
It was sometime during the middle of the game when fate struck us a cruel blow. Barry M. (apparently with the help of an emergency driver) showed up waving his crutch, and screaming, “Cardella, you stole my car” (I contend that since I don’t drive, that on a technicality it is “Hotsy” who bears that burden on his conscience). There were a few kids in the stands, and they began to chant like a Greek chorus — “Fight! Fight!” I am proud that I calmly continued my play-by-play.
I wonder, whatever happened to that 1,000 feet of extension cord?
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