Friday, January 25, 2013

All Star Game

This week, the Cincinnati Reds were awarded the 2015 Major League All Star Game and I immediately remembered when Willie McGee spit a piece of sandwich in my face.  Let me explain...
There are plenty of sporting events--Bengal's Freezer Bowl, Tom Browning's perfecto, 4192--where people claim to have been there but were actually not.  However, I did get to attend the 1988 All Star Game at Riverfront as working media.  I had been at WVXU full time for less than a year when it was time to submit credentials for the '88 Summer Classic.  Neal, our sports guy, of course nabbed the main credential but after NPR decided not to send anyone, Neal was able to grab a second one, arguing that he couldn't cover both locker rooms.  I still thank him today.
The event was like nothing I had ever experienced...we got to go on the field during batting practice and watch the players warm up.  We got a bag full of "gifts" to take home.  There were fireworks and ushers dressed in tuxedos.  And although many national media-types snickered at owner Marge Schott simple boxed lunches, nothing ever tasted better to me in my life.  Since there were so many media, we couldn't all fit in the press box, so Neal and I sat in the stands, but that was okay with me.  The only disappointment was the dearth of Reds players in the game and the fact that the National League lost 2-1 (the only time the NL has lost in a Cincy All Star Game.)  After the last out, the work began as we had to fulfill our commitment and file stories for NPR and 'VXU.  Since the AL were the victors, Neal went to that clubhouse to get sound and I went to the get the loser's reactions in the NL locker room.  But I was still a "rookie" and wasn't too familiar with the tricks of getting cogent comments on tape.  So I wandered the clubhouse looking for people to interview and, because of the loss, not too many were eager to talk to this skinny "kid."  However, there was a small crowd of guys around then St. Louis Cardinal outfielder Willie McGee, so I eased my way into the pack.  I don't recall why there was such an interest in McGee, by the way, because, although he played, I don't think he had much to do with the outcome but...well, he was talking and "sound" was "sound."  So I held out the mic and turned on the cassette deck and squatted in front.  McGee was eating a baloney sandwich as he talked and something must've excited him because a big lump of Wonder bread hit me square in the forehead before I could move.  I don't think it was intentional. No one said a word or reacted and, thinking it was just one of the hazards of sports reporting, I just continued recording.  No I didn't save the sandwich lump.   Maybe I should have because, speaking of memorabilia, most of the nicer "bling"--the commemorative pin, the press pass--were stolen when our house was burglarized several years later. 
It's doubtful I'll get to go to the next All Star Game because our little station doesn't have a news or sports department.  But I think it's terrific news for the city and surrounding area--even if Willie McGee won't be there.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Avast Ye Pirate!

Pirate radio stations are certainly not new.  These are radio transmitters operating without permission by the FCC and their origins can be traced to the very earliest days of broadcasting.  In fact, before computers became the youth distraction they are today, it wasn’t uncommon for young, tech-savvy lads to buy an inexpensive transmitter kit, goose the output a bit with a decent antenna dangling out their bedroom window, and actually transmit radio broadcasts for several blocks—until the neighbors complained.   The FCC’s mandatory $10,000 fine effectively reduced the hobby, but I’m sure it’s still done and many have gotten away with it for years.

They key, of course, is scale and a recent story in the Hollywood (Florida) Sun Sentinel newspaper provides an example of how NOT to pirate.  It seems someone rigged up an FM transmitter to broadcast Caribbean music on 104.7MHz.  Unfortunately, he didn’t realize that the frequency and the way his antenna was constructed allowed for something called “harmonics”…that is, the signal showing up elsewhere on the electromagnetic spectrum.  The bottom line:  the associated frequency just happened to be the same one used by Lexus, Ford, Mercedes, BMW, Toyota and other car manufacturers for keyless entry systems.  For several weeks, car owners couldn’t figure out why their cars would suddenly and inexplicable lock and unlock at random times.  Car dealers and repair shops were stumped too.  Anyway, it’s all better now that the culprit has been found and the transmitter shut down.  Oh, and the fine?  $10,000, of course!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Velva Sheen Days

On weekends, or when I return from work at night, one of my favorite forms of around-the-house attire is a set of comfortable sweats.  Sweat pants, a sweat shirt....ratty, over sized, cotton or acrylic--it really doesn't matter.  Fashion is not my concern and comfort is king with me when I am able to lounge around the house.
Over the recent holidays, I spent a lot of time in sweats.  Beer in hand, football on TV and dog at my side, comfy sweats rounded out the picture.  Unfortunately, I had to send off a 20-plus year old set of sweat pants to garbage-land when the drawstring broke.   And then it hit has been so long since I actually purchased sweats, I wasn't exactly sure where to find a replacement!  Oh sure, I could go the the "brand name" stores and find what I wanted for a hefty price but, and here's the rub, I am used to finding my around-the-house wardrobe C-H-E-A-P.
The root of this habit can be traced back to my childhood where much of my clothing came from the Velva Sheen outlet store on Glenmore Avenue, below the K-of-C Hall, in Cheviot.  Velva Sheen, if you are unaware, was a Cincinnati-based purveyor of printed T-shirts, sweats and other garb.  Whenever they goofed up, the product ended up at the outlet store in Cheviot, where clothing was sold at a fraction of its normal cost.  Not to make fun of my thrifty mom, but it made great play clothing even though the regular mis-spellings messed with my school work when it came to the spelling of "Xaveir", "Stanfrod" and "Cincinatti."   Sometimes it wasn't the spelling that sent the clothing article to outlet banishment, sometimes it was a stray thread, or a silk-screen that was too light, or arms that were too long or too short.  Whatever the flaw, a good deal is a good deal and Velva Sheen was one of my first learned words (by the way, you could tell an outlet sale item because they'd clip a "V" out of the tag so you couldn't return it!)
Inspired by these fond memories, I wondered whatever happened to Velva Sheen, so I did a little investigating and found out that the company was founded in 1936 by a guy named Oscar Schroeder and really developed and expanded by brothers Bob and William Reilly.  They eventually grew into a national company and a pioneer in securing licensing agreements from major companies for popular characters, images and slogans.  The brothers sold the company in in 1994 to Brazos, who went out of business by 1999.  Curiously, the label and name were resurrected by a California company in 2009 and apparently exists today in a line of retro clothing.   Good for them.
I'm still pretty tight with a buck and found a local clothier who carries second run sweats, so I'm good for another 20-years.   But I kinda miss Velva Sheen and the days when I proudly wore T-shirts proclaiming my devoting to the "Univresity of West Verginai."