- 19TH HOLE: THE READERS TAKE OVERSeptember 28, 1970
- 3 San Diego ChargersJeffri Chadiha | September 04, 2006
- Next weekFebruary 12, 1968
It's 5:53 p.m. in Honolulu as Les Keiter pops a Parke Davis throat disc into his mouth and fidgets in his chair in the KSSK Radio newsroom. He eyes his engineer through a plate-glass window. Several yellow sheets are piled on the card table in front of him, face down, next to a drumstick and a hollow wood block stuffed with pink Kleenex. Keiter, with lineups duly entered in his Scoremaster scorebook, is about to broadcast a Pacific Coast League baseball game being played in Vancouver. From Honolulu.
Can it be done?
"Yoooou betcha," says Keiter, not to that question particularly, but to almost everything. Keiter, 62, is an optimist, and only an optimist could hope to pull off sportscasting's most ancient art—the "recreation" of the pitches, hits, catches, roars and inviolate rhythms of a ball game—in 1981. No one else is even trying to do it anymore.
There's a cue from engineer Leo Pascua. "Les Keiter Nat Bailey Stadium," Keiter says, devilishly omitting the preposition, "where the Vancouver Canadians are hosting the Islanders in the second of a five-game series." Already, Pascua has begun to pipe the buzz of a continuous crowd-noise tape over the air; later, on Keiter's cue, he'll augment it with a four-second ooooh; vendors' calls; your average booing; your nastier-than-average booing; staccato applause; a cadenza of cowbells, organ and crowd; 10 seconds of mild clapping; or unfettered rejoicing at a home team's home run.
As Keiter describes the weather and idiosyncracies of Nat Bailey Stadium, Jere Dougherty, a 31-year-old ex-serviceman Keiter has hired to provide him with the skeletal information from which he re-creates, adds a few more yellow sheets to the pile. Dougherty has already called the press box in Vancouver to get the setting, lineups and results of the first few innings. He'll call twice more, typing up the information, batter by batter, one half-inning per sheet, and feeding it to Keiter.
A Des Moines-based re-creationist named Ronald Reagan, who refashioned Chicago Cub games in the 1930s, used a less fail-safe method to get information from the ball park to his studio. He broadcast from pitch-by-pitch wire reports and, like his contemporaries, concocted endless streams of foul balls when the line went dead. Keiter's hairiest experience came when he began re-creating in 1949 on Honolulu's now-defunct KPOA. The rookie motorcyclist who was responsible for shuttling wire reports to the studio from Western Union's downtown office got lost, so Keiter and his engineer had to use thunder-and-lightning sound effects to fake a rain delay.
Now, in Honolulu, Keiter has fabricated another delay—though the weather in Vancouver is fine. "The game is delayed slightly because The Chicken is here putting on a show," he says. "He's bowing at home plate now, meeting with the umpires." Cowbells clang, then die out. Keiter goes through the lineups. "Now [Vancouver Pitcher Chuck] Porter has called his catcher out—they're having a quick confab." He turns to the first sheet, headed TOP 1.
" Wiggins 5-3 1 out" is all the yellow sheet tells Keiter of how Islander Left-fielder Alan Wiggins did against Porter in his first at bat. By striking that wood block with the drumstick, Keiter has Wiggins foul off a pitch. (The Kleenex is in the wood block to deaden its sound and make it more authentic.) Wiggins runs the count to two and two, according to Keiter, anyway, before grounding out third-to-first. Keiter describes each pitch as if he were the catcher giving signals from behind the plate—the Canadians had played 11 times in Honolulu, and he knows them well. He also knows The Chicken, which visited Aloha Stadium in June.
Keiter works about three frames behind the real McCoy and, after he has recreated 1� scoreless innings, he gets the next four sheets from Dougherty. Keiter doesn't know what they have in store and prefers to keep it that way. "I learned a long time ago that if I already know what happened, I might not say something I would have said if I were doing it live," he explains.
And so it goes. Congenital first-ball hitters swing at first pitches, pitchers landscape the mound, batters step out to wipe gnats from their eyes. "I wish you could have seen Ramirez take Rodriguez out with that rolling slide."