Thursday, November 20, 2008

No-Hitter Called, Not Seen

My favorite game, just because this seemed like a good place to put it. The origin of the following press release is right here.

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THUNDERBOLTS' FIRST NO-HITTER CALLED BUT NOT SEEN

(August 20, 2008)

CRESTWOOD, Ill. -- On a tranquil Tuesday night at Standard Bank Stadium, 22-year-old left-hander Isaac Hess twirled the first Windy City ThunderBolts no-hitter in franchise history, a 13-0 victory over the Midwest Sliders.

With the permanently road-traveling Sliders possessing no radio broadcast team, it was up to ThunderBolts broadcasters Jesse Goldberg-Strassler and Nick Kovatch to provide the play-by-play of Hess's mastery.

They did just that, without ever seeing a pitch.

A wicked thunderstorm in the Chicago area had knocked out all wireless Internet access in the stadium except for in the Windy City front office.

"Each of the different tactics we tried to get the game on the air failed," said Goldberg-Strassler. "It became clear that if we were going to have a broadcast that night, it had to somehow be from the office. Combined with the anniversary of the first baseball radio broadcast, it felt like the perfect opportunity for a game re-creation."

On August 5, 1921, Harold Arlin provided the play-by-play of the Pittsburgh Pirates' 8-5 win over the Philadelphia Phillies on KDKA radio.

As sports radio play-by-play increased in popularity, broadcasters innovated the idea of game re-creation for games they were unable to attend. Telegraph messages of play-by-play were sent from the stadiums to broadcasters in studio, who used a variety of sound effects to re-create the atmosphere of a live broadcast.

"I had done a studio re-creation while working for the Can-Am League's Brockton Rox in 2005," Goldberg-Strassler recalled. "All we had needed to provide the key sounds were a pair of mini-bats, a baseball and a glove. Nick already had his glove at the stadium, and the ThunderStore took care of the rest."

The two Windy City broadcasters hurriedly set up their equipment and drafted intern Mark Bochenek to send them messages from the field via Goldberg-Strassler's laptop.

"I mentioned to Jesse offhand during the middle of the fifth inning, 'Wouldn't it be something if we re-created a no-hitter?'" chuckled Kovatch. "Honestly, though, I was more focused on making sure I knocked the mini-bats together before I called a home run."

A controversial seventh inning single off of the glove of Windy City third baseman Josh Horn looked to end Hess's no-hit bid.

In the ninth, however, Goldberg-Strassler received a message that said the play had been changed to an error.

"I was about one batter behind, trying to keep a steady pace," said Goldberg-Strassler, in his first season with Windy City after two seasons with the Southern League's Montgomery Biscuits. "I looked at what was to come, and I realized I was about to call a no-hitter."

With the victory, Hess became the all-time winningest pitcher in the 10-year history of the Windy City franchise. It was the first no-hitter in the Frontier League since Washington's Adam Palmer no-hit the ThunderBolts in Crestwood during the 2004 season. Coincidentally, Palmer's effort also occurred on August 5.

"To call a no-hitter is something a broadcaster will always remember," Kovatch added. "But calling a no-hitter that you never saw? Unforgettable. And it happened in my last week here, too."

After this weekend's roadtrip to Washington, Pennsylvania, the recent Valparaiso graduate will return to northern Indiana to balance a pair of positions in teaching and radio broadcasting.

Goldberg-Strassler surprised Kovatch on his last home broadcast with one of the mini-bats, autographed by Isaac Hess. "It's game-used, right?" pointed out a grinning Goldberg-Strassler.

Click here to listen to the final half inning of Goldberg-Strassler's call.