2017 Reds

The Best $10 I’ve Ever Spent

For the first half of my Nashville childhood, my television-viewing options were limited to just six channels – the local affiliates for ABC, NBC, CBS and PBS, as well as two independent stations that showed a variety of syndicated programs, reruns and old movies. As our local minor league team was affiliated with the Reds at the time, one of the independent networks (which later became a Fox affiliate) also used to broadcast Reds games on a semi-regular basis.

One night near the beginning of second grade, I was watching TV at a friend’s house. He was a Cubs fan who had chosen Ryne Sandberg as his favorite player, and I remember him asking me who my favorite player was as we changed channels and came across a Cincinnati-Pittsburgh game that was tied in the 9th inning.

With two outs, Eric Davis came to bat with the bases loaded. The first pitch from Pittsburgh’s Don Robinson was a fastball, and Davis launched it over the wall for not only the first grand slam of his major league career, but his first grand slam, period. (“It’s my first one since I [sic] been playing this game,” Davis told the Enquirer. “Since Little League, since ever.”)  Suddenly, I had a favorite player too.

From that point, I rarely missed a local Reds broadcast – and after the cable guy expanded our channel offerings from six to 35 (including WTBS and WGN), I was able to see the team play when they visited Atlanta and Chicago as well, not to mention occasional national games-of-the-week. When the other 34 channels failed me and I wasn’t able to watch a game, I’d tune into ESPN and wait for their ticker to appear and provide an update on the score.

Nearly three decades later, it’s difficult to fully remember just how hard it used to be to follow a team from a distance. Today, you can receive automatic notifications on your smart phone when something notable transpires in a game, but once upon a time, it was hard work being a fan of an out-of-market team. I don’t mean to sound like a grumpy old man who used to have to walk to school barefoot in the snow, uphill both ways, but pre-cable, I remember having no choice but to call local TV stations’ sports desks if I wanted to know the score of that night’s Reds game. Later, I’d scream in frustration whenever ESPN went to commercial just as the NL scores were about to start scrolling on their ticker, and I’d toss the sports section of the morning paper in the trash if it said “Cincinnati at San Diego/San Francisco/Los Angeles, late” instead of the scores of games played during West Coast road trips.

In 1990, ESPN – who that same year started broadcasting major league games, further increasing my chances of catching a Reds game on TV – premiered Baseball Tonight, which I began watching religiously. Suddenly, I was guaranteed not only the chance to learn the scores of games I couldn’t watch for myself, but also see highlights! The timing couldn’t have been better, as ESPN kept me plugged in during the Reds’ historic pennant chase that year.

After the 1992 season, the Nashville Sounds became affiliated with the White Sox, and cable became my only way to keep up with the Reds. That remained the status quo until I gained internet access as a college student. I believe it was then that I started following games-in-progress via Yahoo! Sports, which essentially offered text-based updates that auto-refreshed every few seconds.

I stuck with Yahoo! Sports for years, even after there were flashier (pun intended!) options to choose from. Eventually, though, I began using Gameday, ESPN’s Gamecast, Twitter and various phone apps – most notably, At Bat. Although I was tempted to sign up for to At Bat Premium, I always stuck with the free version, as I didn’t want to consume too much cellular data listening to radio broadcasts. As for MLB.tv, as I wrote earlier this year, I hesitated to subscribe because most Reds games start around 4 p.m. Pacific time, and bosses typically frown on their employees watching sports while they’re on the clock.

Late last year, however, Wendy’s ran a promotion that offered free MLB.tv subscriptions for the remainder of the regular season if you posted a picture of a Frosty. I played along, and even though I’m not sure if I ever watched a game online from start to finish, I loved being able to see or listen to the Reds play whenever I wanted for the first time in my life. I realize that might seem quaint to those of you who have Fox Sports Ohio or live in a market that’s part of the Reds Radio Network, but for me, it erased geographic boundaries completely and made it feel like the Reds were my home team too.

At the beginning of the 2017 season, I fought the urge to resubscribe to MLB.tv, even though it was far less fun reverting to Twitter and Gameday to follow games. I even refrained when they offered 50% off, but when they ran a one-day $10 flash sale in late June, I couldn’t resist. Aside from one I recapped, I’m still not sure I’ve watched a game from start to finish, but over the past 11 weeks, I’ve seen portions of dozens. It’s been a blast to witness the maturation of the team’s rookie starters with my own eyes rather than through others’ tweets and recaps, and despite their record, I find myself more invested than I’ve been in years.

My favorite moments, however, have come when my son watches with me. Perhaps he’ll get to see someone hit a game-winning grand slam and end up with a new favorite player too.

19 thoughts on “The Best $10 I’ve Ever Spent

  1. When I started watching the reds, it was much harder.
    My folks did not like sports, so I did not get to go to many games.
    And due to the fact that cable was years away, I was lucky to get 1 game a week.
    Now, I can pickup MLB Season ticket, else, hard to see many games.

    • As an out of towner, not wanting to plunk down for the full season of tv, I don’t think you can beat the $20/season for just the mlb.audio broadcasts. I love it. Easier to listen to afternoon games at work when I can (just kidding, boss!), I use the app on my phone while I’m running and there’s a game. I like that I could keep listening to the playoff games when running at night after the Reds were done for. And when I get annoyed with Marty, I can switch the feed.

      • Whenever the Reds played a “free game of the day” on a work day — especially a day game that started at 9-9:30 a.m. Pacific time — I was embarrassed at how much my productivity decreased, even if I only listened to the audio stream.

  2. Best 89 dollars I spend all year. Sorry darlin. I get the package that only gives me the Reds broadcasts.
    Audio on Sirrius XM if I am in car. If I can’t watch them live… the game is the same at 6AM if you can keep away from the IPAD
    2 weekends a year ib Cincinnati and 3 in Atlanta.
    My kids think I am nuts.

  3. I am from the generation where as kids we listened to transistor radios at night, even if the signal would fade in and out at regular intervals. I even listened to the demon Rick Wise no-hit the Reds in what was probably 1971. The All Star Game was a big deal, because it was the only time all year that you actually got to see guys like Mays or Clemente.

    Now, I don’t even fight it. As soon as they will sell me the MLB Premium pass, I buy it, so I can watch games at the office. Got the Tribe on right now. I am the boss, so if I catch myself watching a game, I ignore the infraction.

  4. Clay,

    I grew up in Nashville as well. In fact, I still live here. This brought back a lot of memories.

    I actually got in trouble at a job because i was calling a 1-900 number to get the score of Reds games during the day. Talk about outdated.

    The only time I got to see the Reds growing up was when they were on the Saturday Game of the Week, until they started showing them on Channel 30.

    We also got TWIB, where we would get highlights. The only other option was reading the recaps in the local fish wrapper.

    When the Sounds started up, they were the AA affiliate of the Reds. I was a bat boy for one season. It was the year the Reds drafted Dave Van Gorder. Some future Reds that were on that team included Paul Householder, Eddie Milner and Gary Redus.

    I basically grew up listening to a local radio station (WSIX, I think) broadcasting Reds games. Later, when they dropped the Reds, I would sit up late at night and listen to WLW fade in and out (I still do that from time to time, if they are on the left coast), even though I spend the 19.99 each year for the audio broadcasts on the MLB App.

    • Thanks for reading and commenting. Jealous that you were able to be a Sounds bat boy! I didn’t live terribly close to Greer Stadium (by Nashville standards, at least), so I only attended a handful of games each season, but I have fond memories of the Reds coming to town for annual exhibitions.

      I’m sure you’re already aware, but just in case, I saw that Nashville was added to the Reds Radio Network this year (94.9 FM). Between that and the fact that the Reds Caravan now visits Nashville, I’m glad to see the team making an effort to reconnect with the market.

  5. Nashville guy here, I echo a lot of what you said. Of course, we’re blacked out of MLBTV here, so I don’t get to watch much. Refuse to subscribe to cable for only Reds games.

    • Wow, I’m surprised to hear that Nashville residents are blacked out from watching the Reds — and apparently, also the Braves. That’s a fairly liberal interpretation of “home market.”

  6. Lived out of market large portion of my life, so I know the chagrin you felt trying to keep up with the Reds, particularly those dreaded West Coast games. MLB.com is one of the few subscriptions I get but it is well worth it. By the way no matter when the game starts you can watch it from the beginning (at least through my Apple Media I can) I have even watched afternoon games that evening.

    • I haven’t tried time-shifting games yet, as it’s too hard for me to avoid checking game updates on Twitter. It’s even hard for me to avoid checking Twitter while watching games live, which spoils the fun sometimes due to MLB’s slight delay. There have been numerous occasions where a beat writer tweets about someone homering seconds before I see it happen myself.

  7. Old Guy Alert: I vaguely remember Waite Hoyt on radio, but wasn’t fully engaged yet. I remember Claude Sullivan and Jim McIntire. Young Al Michaels and Joe Nuxhall arrived just as the Big Red Machine was getting assembled. It was great. On TV, I go back to the Ed Kennedy and Frank McCormick days. Black and white, primary camera angle above and behind the catcher. It is so much better now, but in other aspects, so much is gone …

    • If you have to post the Old Guy Alert, I hesitate to say where that puts me. I well remember Waite Hoyt broadcasts. 1 game I remember in particular in 1956 was a Reds-Cards brawl. Hoyt could have been a good fight announcer. After the dust finally cleared, Hoyt declared, “Let me assure you fans our Reds did not get the worst of this fight.”
      As I recall, the fight started over manager Birdie Tebbets complaint that Cards manager Harry “The Hat” Walker was slowing down game with his moves. It sounds like a Dr. Suess story: A fight because Birdie thinks Harry the Hat is taking too much time.

  8. I spent most of my career in Atlanta and lived the gradual improvements in access to out of market telecasts of the Reds. The absolute nadir was the short lived (thankfully) Baseball Network plan for the playoffs, which meant that I didn’t get to see the Reds sweep the Dodgers in 1995, since MLB decided that fans in Atlanta would only be interested in the Braves playoff games. As much as access has approved, there is still some work for MLB to do (blacking out games in the home market when the visiting team has a feed but Fox Sports Ohio is not showing the game is particularly annoying – just who is that policy protecting?).

  9. Loved this narrative Clay. I’ve been a huge Reds fan since the BRM days when I was a little catcher and Johnny Bench was the man, but I’ve never lived close to Cincinnati. I had the same experiences chasing game info, except living in New England there was never anything close to a local radio affiliate. One of my fondest old school memories was listening to Tom Browning’s perfect game against the Dodgers after a rain delay that pushed the start late enough for WLW to,travel through the dark to Boston that night.

    Now it’s a lot easier with MLB Extra Innings and MLB.TV (and audio) not to mention all the internet info. But you guys are right that there’s still work to do. Reds games are never blacked out in Atlanta unless they play the Braves, but I was in Asheville, North Carolina for Labor Day weekend and the Reds-Pirates were blacked out on MLB.TV. How does that make any sense? That detail alone may literally knock Asheville out of my retirement planning options unless MLB wakes up and restores some sense to their blackout areas. No sense retiring somewhere that you can’t watch the Reds! Thanks for sharing all this guys! Go Reds!

  10. As a seven-year-old kid in Erlanger, KY during The Blizzard of 1978, I already had been a Big Red Machine fan for three years. Then, when by pure happenstance, my Dad appeared (driving in traffic) in the opening montage of Season One of “WKRP in Cincinnati,” the Queen City was in my blood. A move to my parents’ hometown of Louisville did nothing to disrupt my adoration; I was still able to follow them on local TV until I moved to Austin 20 years later, then Nashville, then Raleigh/Durham. Every season spent out-of market, it gets harder to resist the temptation to plunk down the cash for MLB.TV. I’m glad you caught the flash sale…here’s hoping I’m paying enough attention next season if they decide to do it again!

    • Thanks for reading/commenting. I’m thinking the best plan of attack for 2018 is to start with the $3/month audio-only plan, follow MLB on Twitter to monitor promotions and then take the plunge whenever the price is right. This year, it paid to procrastinate — hopefully it will next year as well!

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