Jewish World Review April 30, 2012/ 8 Iyar, 5772
In an era of wonder, he supplied the imagination
By Mitch Albom
"We stayed in the studio and waited for the play-by-play ticker to come through," he says, taking a strip of ticker tape and reading it. "Johnson, B-1-0. That meant Johnson took ball one, outside. Of course that's pretty dry, so we'd have to embellish it....."
He then demonstrates his embellishment: "There's a high loping curveball, way outside, Johnson looks at it, doesn't move his bat, and it's ball one!"
When asked what he did if the ticker-tape machine broke, Ernie replies sometimes he'd make up a distraction, like a dog running on the field. And he'd have that dog racing back and forth, eluding escape, until the machine was fixed.
Of course, when the ballplayers came home, their wives would ask, "What happened to that poor dog?" And they'd say, "What dog?"
The audience always laughs. It is a sweet moment. A reminder of a simpler time, when broadcasting was about imagination -- for both the listener and, at times, even the announcer.
I thought about that this past week while watching the
Imagination was of no use.
Yet part of us still longs for it. Human beings relish stories. It's like that moment in "Alice in Wonderland" when the impatient Gryphon tells Alice, "No, no! The adventures first! Explanations take such a dreadful time."
Ernie didn't explain -- didn't analyze, do color commentary, break down the numbers or make predictions.
He brought us adventures.
The play about Ernie, which I was honored to write at his request, re-opens this week at the
It is rare that a stage play runs for long in our city, rarer still that it returns for a second season. It's extremely rare that people view it multiple times. I think the reason folks return for "Ernie" is the same reason we couldn't wait to hear him talk about "the voice of the turtle" when he opened his broadcasts every season. It meant renewal. It meant familiarity.
It meant we got to sit and hear a story told to us -- not with the bombardment of images and graphics and instant analysis, but with a soothing, laconic,
I miss his voice.
And I miss it more when I watch things like the
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