Thursday, 12 January 2012

TV before we had a TV: The Catch

In the beginning, of course, there was no television. I grew up listening to radio shows, a lucky accident of timing for which I'm grateful. (For other readers raised on radio, I heartily recommend Gerald Nachman's book titled, coincidentally, Raised on Radio.) By the post-war 1940s, though, television was on its way. Everybody was talking about it. We kids could hardly wait for it, but by 1947 TV was still something other people had. Taverns had it, mainly so patrons could watch the fights. All we kids could do was watch longingly from the sidewalk, and wish.

The first two times I watched TV at other people's houses were both noteworthy events, I daresay historic, for a sports-crazy kid.

The first time was Sunday, October 5, 1947, game 6 of the World Series, Dodgers vs. Yankees at Yankee Stadium, Yankees leading three games to two. We were spending Sunday afternoon at my cousins' house in Flatbush. Normally, Sunday with relatives was not my favorite way to spend 50% of my precious weekend, especially when the extensive family was in plenary session. But this Sunday was different; these particular cousins had a TV set!

I can still see the scene: a darkened living room packed to capacity with assorted cousins, uncles, and aunts, all eyes fixed on the tiny screen. We were all Dodger fans, but not all equally attentive ones; I remember an unceasing buzz of crosstalk, mainly from aunts, through the entire game: "Anybody want leftovers?" "Move back! The TV can ruin your eyes!" "I already had seconds." "Anyone need seltzer?" "A light! There should be a light!" "You sure you're comfortable?" "We got leftovers!" Happily someone had the good sense to turn the radio on and the TV sound off, so at the game's crucial moment, even through the chatter, I could hear Red Barber's call of Al Gionfriddo's storied catch of Joe DiMaggio's 400-foot drive:

Hatten pitches -- swung on, belted -- -- it's a long one -- deep into left-center -- back goes Gionfriddo, back, back, back, back, back, back -- he makes a one-handed catch against the bullpen! Oh-ho, doctor!

This YouTube clip combines film of the catch with Red's radio call.

Until Willie Mays came along and made his spectacular catch of Vic Wertz' drive at the Polo Grounds seven years later, this was The Catch. It happened so fast it was just a blur on TV (no replays, of course). We didn't get a good fix on Gionfriddo's catch until we saw it in a newsreel days later. But It shows you how important the Dodgers were to us in those days: at the moment when Gionfriddo caught the ball and the victory was saved and my cousins' living room erupted in cheers, all anxieties about eyesight ruined, leftovers uneaten, and seltzer unspritzed were forgotten.

1 comment:

  1. Leftovers uneaten? What higher accolade can our people offer?