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Saturday, October 22, 2011

When KMOX made the St. Louis Cardinals the South's team-Reeves

10/21/11, Reeves, "The voices were carried over the airwaves by 50,000-watt giant KMOX, and belonged to men named Caray and Buck, Garagiola and Shannon, announcers who mesmerized their listeners with tales of valiant Redbird deeds. More, they generously anointed every listener an official citizen of Cardinal Nation. Thousands upon thousands who were held spellbound by the voices in the night happily accepted that invitation and swore their allegiance, then and forevermore, to the St. Louis Cardinals. "On sultry Texas summer evenings in the late 1950s and early '60s, the hypnotic voices flowed into the night like molten gold. On back porches and at kitchen tables, in parlors and living rooms throughout Fort Worth -- in fact, throughout the South, from Tennessee, to Texas, to Oklahoma and beyond -- radio dials glowed yellow, transporting avid listeners to another world.

It was a world most had never seen or ever would see, some 600 miles away, on the banks of the great Mississippi River, in a legendary baseball stadium called Sportsman's Park. Yet, in their mind's eye, thanks to the picture-painting voices on the radio, they could see it, feel it, taste it, as if it was their own back yard.

This was a land populated by a Polish Prince and the Knights of the Redbird. It was a magical land, in a laughing kingdom, where ale flowed cold and bottomless, and pennants blew merrily in the wind. A mighty warrior named Gibson threw flaming darts and a stalwart lancer

  • everyone simply called Stan the Man reigned supreme.

The voices were carried over the airwaves by 50,000-watt giant KMOX, and belonged to men named Caray and Buck, Garagiola and Shannon, announcers who mesmerized their listeners with tales of valiant Redbird deeds. More, they generously anointed every listener an official citizen of Cardinal Nation. Thousands upon thousands who were held spellbound by the voices in the night happily accepted that invitation and swore their allegiance, then and forevermore, to the St. Louis Cardinals.

So beware, tonight, as you settle into your seat at The Ballpark in Arlington for Game 3 of the World Series. You may notice that your neighbor is also sporting a scarlet jersey; do not assume that it is necessarily Ranger red.

  • Those Cardinal roots still run deep in North Texas.

True, many if not most, of those long-ago Cardinal fans, including one named Nolan Ryan, have switched their loyalties to the local nine, the Texas Rangers, who are reveling in their second straight trip to the Fall Classic and are -- hopefully -- in the process of building their own legend. But that's just twice in 39 years, so pardon St. Louis fans if they chuckle at the relative Fall Classic novices from Texas. Their Cardinals are in their 18th World Series, tied for second-most with the Dodgers and Giants (the Yankees, of course, have been in a whopping 40 World Series).

Just remember that once upon a time this was Cardinal territory. Until 1958, when the Dodgers and Giants left New York for the golden glow of the West Coast, St. Louis was the western-most outpost of Major League Baseball. Naturally, it claimed all fans west of the Mississippi as the Cardinals' own, and that certainly included Texas.

This, of course, was before the age of cable and satellite television, when the only game to watch on TV was the Game of the Week on Saturday afternoon. But true fans didn't wait for TV to bring them that game -- usually the Yankees or the Dodgers -- on Saturday. They simply tuned in to KMOX each summer evening. Suddenly, striding into their living rooms or onto their back porches were such legendary figures as Stan Musial and Enos "Country" Slaughter, Red Schoendienst and Ken Boyer, Bob Gibson and Ernie Broglio.

"You had one game on a week, Dizzy Dean and Pee Wee Reese and that was all you saw on TV," remembered Star-Telegram columnist and local ESPN radio talk show host Randy Galloway. "It was all radio -- radio and The Sporting News. Newspapers didn't even carry box scores of all the games. You had to wait for The Sporting News, and then the box scores were about 10 days old."

Out in Bluffdale, south of Granbury, 68-year-old Joe Goetz reached into his closet to pull out his old Cardinals cap the other day. He thought it might be fun to wear it to breakfast at the local cafe, then thought better of it.

Goetz split his childhood years between Hobbs, N.M., and Kansas City, Mo., in the years before the A's moved to that town. An uncle owned a restaurant in KC and Goetz spent many an evening listening to Cardinals games on the radio there.

"Any time there was a Cardinal game, we would turn the radio on in the kitchen," Goetz recalled. "All the cooks would be listening; they were all Cardinal fans.

"We'd listen to Harry Caray do the games and the cooks would make a racket whenever the Cardinals did something good."

Goetz can vividly remember making a trip with his dad and friends from Kansas City to St. Louis to see the Cardinals play the Cincinnati Reds in the early '50s.

"We had seats down the first-base line somewhere," he said. "Stan Musial played right field and hit a ball off the fence. Vic Raschi was pitching for the Cardinals and that kid, Joe Nuxhall, was pitching for the Reds. Big Ted Kluszewski was at first base for Cincy and he was huge.

"I kept the scorecard from that game for years."

Goetz has remained a Cardinals fan to this day... except in this series. He's happy to see the Cards in the World Series, but it's the Rangers he's rooting for now.

Galloway's Cardinal blood was passed down from his father and uncles when he was growing up in Kentucky. The family moved to Texas when Galloway was 9 years old with one big concern: Would they still be able to hear KMOX in Grand Prairie?

"Cardinal baseball was like a religion in the family, thanks to the magic of KMOX, that big boom box of a station," Galloway said. "After we came to Texas, I saw my dad go to the radio and start looking for 1120 on the dial, and this big smile spread across his face when he heard KMOX coming through."

In fact, the first male voice Galloway says he can remember, besides family members, was Harry Caray's.

It was a huge thrill for Galloway when he became Rangers beat writer for the Dallas Morning News in 1972 to meet Caray. Caray had had a tiff with Cardinals' owner Gussie Busch and had left KMOX after the 1969 season to do games for Charlie Finley and the Oakland A's. From there, Caray would move on to the Chicago White Sox in the mid-'70s and then on to become a legend with the Chicago Cubs.

"After I got to know him, I told Harry he had influenced my life, that his voice was the first one I remembered on the radio," Galloway recalled. "He said, 'Well, I failed a lot of people, but this is my biggest failure ever.'"

As big an icon as Caray had been in St. Louis and would become in Chicago, an even bigger one stepped in to take top spot for Cardinal broadcasts. That was Jack Buck, who would become one of St. Louis' most beloved figures. He had one of those deep, reverent voices made for calling baseball games.

"Baseball is more than just a game," Buck once intoned in a documentary on the 75th anniversary of KMOX in 2000. "More than anything else, baseball is memories.

"There's something about baseball that bridges the generations.""...

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