Here’s your hunk of nostalgia for today: an interview with Don Klein, a play-by-play re-creator and the last voice of the San Francisco Seals (Pacific Coast League).
Klein re-created games in a Hawaii studio before landing the Seals gig in 1949, calling games at Seals Stadium until the team folded in 1957 upon the arrival of Major League Baseball in the city. At one time all PCL teams re-created games, as broadcasters didn’t travel with the team. Play-by-play would be sent to remote studios via Western Union ticker, and it would be up to the studio personnel to make it sound like a live game. As explained by the San Jose Mercury News’s Dave Newhouse:
“S1C” meant “strike one called.” “B1-low” meant “ball one low.” “GO-6-3” meant “ground out, shortstop to first.” The “crack” of the bat was Klein tapping a drumstick on a wooden block. The “thud” of a pitch in the catcher’s mitt was Klein hitting a padded cushion with the drumstick.
Klein was able to make it sound “live.” He’d have a hitter knocking dirt from his cleats. He’d imitate a hot dog vendor — “get your red hots right here.” He’d call for a doctor in the stands, spot a cat on the field. A studio engineer would add recorded audio of crowds cheering and booing and planes flying overhead.
But if the Western Union machine jammed, which happened occasionally, Klein might have a batter foul off 16 pitches. Or he’d improvise a rain delay — anything he could think of until Western Union started up again.
It was a different time, to be sure.
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