My affection for the Baltimore Orioles originated during World War II. I was 9 going on 10 in the summer of 1944. The scrappy Birds were on their way to winning the championship in what was called the Little World Series, which pitted the best of the American Association and the International League.
The old Oriole Park at 29th and Barclay burned to the ground the night of July 4 that summer, and the team hurriedly moved to the city’s municipal stadium on 33rd Street, barely a mile from our home, easy walking distance. The stadium’s oval shape was ill-suited for baseball, but the team had to move somewhere. As workers scurried to squeeze a baseball diamond into the aging oval, the team hit the road and played opposing teams at their venues in Montreal, Buffalo and Syracuse.
I begged my parents for a membership card in the Knothole Gang, an Orioles promotion to encourage local kids to attend games. This gave me a wallet-size card that I could present at games along with a nickel and sit anywhere I wanted in the bleachers. And boy, did I make use of it, seeing countless games.
The Orioles joined the major leagues about 10 years later. That dog-eared Knothole Gang ticket was long gone by then, but somehow I managed the elevated tickets prices occasionally to watch my beloved Birds play the Yankees and Red Sox of the 1950s.
Many years later, The Atlanta Braves turned me into a devoted fan as cable television delivered their games into my North Carolina home virtually every day, and so I have followed both of these teams faithfully as a loyal fan. But getting to watch their games is a challenge. Aside from rare trips to the modern ballparks in Baltimore and Atlanta, I am denied access. Those who control television programming see to that.
I remember a time when television coverage of games was blacked out in the local area where a game was played. This was occasionally lifted if enough tickets were sold to guarantee a healthy profit at the gate. I can see the logic behind this.
But I need for someone to explain to me why I am not permitted to watch Atlanta Braves or Baltimore Orioles games, living where I do. When I tune to the channel carrying a game involving either the Orioles or Braves, I am blocked from access. Baltimore is 380 miles from where i live, about a six-hour drive, depending on traffic conditions. Atlanta lies 309 miles to my south. A drive there also takes at least six hours. I’m not likely to drive six hours each way to see a game live, not often anyhow. My choosing to watch it on television isn’t going to hurt anyone’s turnstile income. How is my absence from those ballparks hurting anyone’s bottom line?
It isn’t. I am sure that I’m not alone in my frustration. Will someone who understands baseball fandom correct this?