Having spent many years in the radio business, I continue to have a great love of all things radio.
I think it goes back to my youth. I would fall asleep with an RCA transistor radio tucked under my pillow. Most nights I would be listening to the Cardinal games on KMOX in St. Louis. Jack Buck and Haray Caray (note to Cub fans – Harry started in St. Louis) made me feel like Stan Musial, Bob Gibson, Kenny Boyer and Bill White were right next door. When the Cardinals were off, I would tune to 890 on the AM dial – the home of WLS and one of the industry’s great disc jockeys, Larry Lujack. KMOX and WLS were two of those iconic radio stations that blasted their signal throughout the continental United States. You could close your eyes and listen to announcers in St. Louis, Chicago, Pittsburgh, New York and Denver. When I grew up I wanted to be one of those guys behind the microphone.
As good fortune would have it, I had the opportunity to work at KMOX as an intern and then as an employee back in the mid-1970s. However, when you’re the 20th person on a 20-person news team and about 30 years younger than any of your colleagues, you find yourself swimming upstream.
I bring up my love for radio as a prelude to today’s column, which involves another radio station that has that “iconic” feel - WNAX in Yankton, S.D. They’ve been on the air since 1922. Warren G. Harding was the president of the United States and the world-famous Gurney Seed Company of Yankton had not yet started selling blue potatoes. (I used to love that Gurney seed catalog.)
In the spirit of transparency, the only time I listen to WNAX these days is to catch an occasional Minnesota Twins game. Having said that, the audience WNAX attracts is impressive. If you’re a farmer or rancher, chances are you’re listening to WNAX.
Broadcasting at a modest 5,000 watts (KMOX blasts you with 50,000), WNAX enjoys a privileged spot at the low end of the dial. Having a signal at 570 makes it possible to be heard in seven or more states in the Upper Midwest. That’s impressive. I should say that I’ve owned hair dryers with more power than some radio stations where I have been employed.
WNAX makes the news today because, come this Thursday, I am joining WNAX Radio’s “Best Baseball Trip Ever." I am going to step on a motor coach (a.k.a. bus) along with a few dozen other baseball nuts and embark on a 14-day journey to 10 different stadiums and major league games.
Let me say that again. Fourteen days on a bus.
Suffice it to say, this will be about 13 1/2 days longer than I’ve ever ridden a bus. My family is taking bets on how long it will take me to make a phone call from the road and beg for a plane ticket home. Are there business class seats on a bus? Some have suggested I hang a shower curtain by my seat to “mark my territory."
This trip is truly bucket-list caliber for me – baseball heaven.
Milwaukee, Detroit (home of Gov. Rick Snyder, who I wish was running for president), Pittsburgh, Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Cleveland, and finally a stop at the World’s Biggest Bar, Wrigley Field in Chicago, where pigeon poop comes standard with every seat. Sprinkle in stops at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., the Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, Niagara Falls, Times Square, D.C. monuments and about 164 potty stops and you’ve got yourself a trip of epic proportions.
Even though I’m on the shy side (if you believe that, you probably also believe the Cubs will be world champs), I’m looking forward to making some new friends on this journey. My buddy Mark is going with me on the trip. His wife Deb is also a fellow traveler. Deb is a lovely woman, but I’m convinced she’s a plant. Any transgressions on my part will be reported back to Sioux City posthaste. I guess this is baseball’s version of checks and balances.
I’m going to be blogging for the Journal every day from the motor coach (a.k.a. bus) and I’d love to have you join me for the journey. Go to siouxcityjournal.com/blogs and look for Extra Innings: Baseball by Bus - again, starting Thursday.
This should be fun. Play ball!
Next week: Steve Warnstadt
Jim Wharton is director of marketing and fund development at the Siouxland Community Health Center in Sioux City. He is a former member of the Sioux City Council and a former mayor of Sioux City. He and his wife, Beverly, who is president of Briar Cliff University, have one daughter, Dr. Laura Giese, and three grandchildren.