Sunday, April 26, 2015

"The Apple Watch, Dick Tracy, and Baseball" by Dad

     With the launch of the Apple Watch, there have been a handful of references in the press to the old Dick Tracy Two-Way Wrist Radio, a sort of goofy kid’s walkie-talkie popular when my friends and I were all the right age to want one. Apple CEO Tim Cook himself has described the old toy as the inspiration for the new watch.
     For the completely uninitiated, Dick Tracy was a comic book detective whose signature gadget was that his wrist watch doubled as a… walkie-talkie.

     The toy my buddies and I all got the same Christmas purported to be just like Dick Tracy’s, except that rather than the whole affair being contained within the watch, there was actually a transistor radio-sized transmitter you carried or wore on your belt, with a wire attaching it to the watch-shaped microphone you wore on your wrist, and a long antenna you extended when you actually used this thing, and that threatened to poke an eye out if crime-fighting prompted the need to sprint anywhere. It also had a very limited range of around 300 yards, which, since we were all living in spilt level starter houses on postage stamp lots, put five of us within easy range of each other.
     And what, you may wonder, does this have to do with baseball?
     Well, this.  The Dick Tracy Two-Way Wrist Radio was actually only my second favorite, small, battery-operated, communication device. My favorite, and it wasn’t close, was my Sony transistor radio. Small and silver in a black leather case, it was my lifeline to baseball broadcasts.  Mel Allen for the Yankees. Lindsay Nelson, Bob Murphy and Ralph Kiner for the Mets. After summer lunches, before I was allowed to go back out and play whiffle ball or detective, I would listen to day games in the privacy of my backyard pup tent with my copy of that week’s Sporting News. Night games meant my trusty transistor radio was bringing me baseball from under my pillow.
     Until one potentially disastrous summer week when my radio was confiscated for… talking back? Not taking out the garbage? Messy room? Could have been anything, and should have been terrible. No baseball on my radio for a week.
     Except that better minds than mine, or certainly more devious ones, came up with an ingenious solution. Each night that week, one of the guys took a turn broadcasting that night’s game from his transistor radio, over his Dick Tracy Two-Way Wrist Radio, to mine. I got to surreptitiously listen to a game every night that week, with my parents complimenting me each morning for so gracefully accepting my punishment. And though the signal was faint and scratchy, no baseball games have ever sounded better.