Baseball Boards, Joe Buck, and Those Pretty Cialis Girls

0
1722
Joe Buck

Sons of Sam Horn receives a letter to the editor from a concerned citizen that cites Fox’s increased coverage by Joe Buck as a serious issue. It is important to note that the following views and opinions expressed in this letter are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of this publication.

Dear SoSH Baseball,

Beanie O’Doul here, writing in from St. Sebastian’s Nursing Home in Rockland, Massachusetts. Since I used to hawk the Boston Herald Traveller in Scollay Square as a youngster, I know your baseball newsletter could use some column-inches to get you through the postseason.

The other day the nurse comes in, adjusts my bed, and turns on the TV. She says, “I know you like baseball, Mr. O’Doul.”

Nurse is a decent old face-stretcher, but she left the remote out of my reach, so’s I had to watch the whole thing.

The Twentieth Century Fox showed the game between the Cleveland Spiders and the Chicago Nationals. As I am the Casanova of St. Sebastian’s, I must say I enjoyed the commercials for my Cialis. Those handsome ladies turn my crank. But the Twentieth Century Fox is cutting back on commercials and instead talking up the game between innings.

I just can’t take it, fellows. Survived Belleau Wood, but I can’t abide this World Series coverage on the TV. All that talking.

I plan on sneaking out of this dump and following the next World Series game down at the old Hippodrome:   

Image courtesy of Wikimedia

You fellows may not know how this works, so let Beanie O’Doul save the damned Republic right here and now. Prior to the boob tube – even before the radio – in the early days of the World Series, a fellow would watch the out-of-town games on a baseball board. A baseball board was a colossal wood-and-wire contraption, updated by telegrams from the ballparks. The electric ones had light bulbs on each base, and the runners were tiny tin figures moved by rods. And there were no saps sitting in the studio offering “analysis.”

Image courtesy of comeback.com

The Electro Wonder board is pronounced by many ball players as the greatest player board on the market. The ball is always in sight, it goes bounding to an infielder, or flying to an outfielder, the throw is made to a base for an out, and the batsman is seen running the bases and plays follow each other in rapid succession.

Unlike the drips at the Twentieth Century Fox Network, the fellows who ran baseball boards knew their business. Hamburgers and gasoline, I tell you! A telegram operator was in the ballpark, watching the game, working the telegraph key, sending messages to the board operator. Here’s a board from 1916, set up outside the Bridgeport, Connecticut Post Office building:

Image courtesy of Bridgeport Baseball

Did ya notice what isn’t in that picture? Jack Buck’s kid! Now Jack Buck was alright – not his fault his folks moved him from Holyoke out to St. Louis. It was The Depression. Some people had to go to St. Louis and follow the Cardinals. Blame FDR if you want. But there’s no excusing Jack Buck’s kid. And like I said, the only thing worthwhile on the Fox was the Cialis ladies, and once they were gone off the Fox I was left with too much of Jack Buck’s kid. That good old Holyoke stock got diluted out West I tell you.

No, I’m gonna lower the rails on this bed and wiggle on out of here to find a baseball board. With a baseball board there’s no Jack Buck’s kid, no Jim Smoltz. A board doesn’t give you “commentary.” It just tells you what’s happening. How about this beauty:

Image courtesy of the Library of Congress

You’re on your way to the ice house or the soda fountain, you stop off and watch the progress of the game on the board. There’s no “analyst” telling you what you just saw. Ticker tape spins, message comes in, says someone hit a single, little tin man is placed on first base, and you go on with your life. Simple.

There’s a fellow with blue lips on the Fox who gives me the heebie-jeebies. That Frank Thomas seems like a regular cake eater, but that blue-lipped man… reminds me of the corpses I saw in the Ardennes.       

Down in New Bedford, my old buddy William Ashley made a killing on baseball boards. Old Bedford Billy would put together the boards, sell them to newspapers, banks, you name it.

Nobody would bother setting up a board in the regular season – just wait for the evening paper if you wanted the out-of-town scores – but for the World Series you’d find one of Ashley’s boards in any town square. Don’t know what happened to Bedford Billy. The wireless probably killed his business. Thanks, Marconi. Another good American put out of work by an Italian.

If you had a nickel and lived in a big city, you could go on down to the theatre and watch the whole game on a board. In my day you could get a stick of horehound for a penny and follow the action on Coleman’s Scoreboard Invention.

Image courtesy of Shorpy Historic Picture Archive

They had a Coleman Board down on Mass Ave in Boston.

Image courtesy of Boston Globe

Yep, there was a time in The Hub when you could choose between lots of boards and keep up with the World Series on all of them. The Boston Globe had a nice writeup on October 9, 1915:

At the Boston Arena:

“Lifelike figures played a game in miniature upon the screen. The players had arms and legs and heads; and they pitched the ball, batted and ran bases in realistic manner, to the entire satisfaction of 600 or 700 enthusiasts.”

At the Hippodrome:

“Some 600 fans got their fill of thrills from the working of Howell’s baseball machine…more than once the audience was brought to its feet with a cheer.”

At the Tremont Temple:

“[an] electric score board, with its hundreds of lights by which every play was indicated, attracted a crowd numbering fully 600 at the opening of the game. Four experienced baseball players have been engaged to operate this board and their work yesterday showed that they really did know the game. The service was exact and rapid.”

The Globe sums up:

“Practically every patron of the electric score boards yesterday afternoon went away well satisfied with the arrangements.”

Imagine that. I haven’t been satisfied with the Fox World Series coverage, much less “well satisfied.” When I was a youngster we got “exact and rapid” World Series coverage. Now I get Pete Rose saying idiotic things like any other Cincinnati Redleg would, and John Schultz beating his gums. My great-grands tell me I’m pining for a “Game Cast” – and if I’d just use the “Smart Phone” they gave me, I’d be happy. What’s old is new again and all that.

Applesauce! What I’m sure of is that if I can climb out of this bed and pull on some glad rags, I can give the desk nurse the wind, wiggle out of this joint, find me a Cialis Jane and a baseball board, and get a kick out of the World Series. Trapped in a bed with Buck, Smits, and Rose – with no remote to change the channel? That’s cruelty to the elderly.


Follow Dan on Twitter @DeanDanEnnis

Featured image courtesy of John Blanding/The Boston Globe

LEAVE A REPLY