#Hot Corner

Driving along with 50,000 watts of Redbird power

Dilip Vishwanat

I just read a story and now I'm the most jealous man in America.

David Waldstein's been covering the World Series for The New York Times. Shortly into Game 4, though, he did something that probably nobody's ever done before. Something that probably nobody's ever thought of doing before. And it sounds like the absolute best way for a non-Red Sox or -Cardinals fan to have enjoyed the Serious.

Early in Game 4, Waldstein left Busch Stadium, eased into his rental car, and tried to outrun 50,000-watt KMOX, historically the radio home of Cardinals baseball ...

Within minutes, along Route 51 in Missouri, the signal is virtually lost. The car is only 100 miles from the signal tower, and the radio sounds like it is broadcasting a shower. “This is going to be a pointless exercise,” I say to myself. “I’ll be back at Busch Stadium by the fourth inning, looking for a new story idea.”

But anyone who has fiddled with an AM radio at night understands that after the sun sets the whole world comes alive between 535 and 1705 kHz.

AM radio waves have unique properties that allow them to travel round the globe, but their ability to stretch beyond the horizon, instead of shooting off into space, has to do with the way they interact with the upper layers of the atmosphere, called the ionosphere.

When I was growing up in Kansas, I listened to the Royals on the radio almost every night. But sometimes, if the Royals weren't on and the Cardinals were, I would go sit in the car and listen to KMOX and Jack Buck for a while. Just as my grandmother was doing, hundreds of miles away. KMOX, especially some decades ago, was a magical sort of thing that brought everyone between the Appalachians and the Rockies together. And I continue to believe that baseball on the radio, and especially while driving down a two-lane highway, is one of the best things going.

Anyway, I highly recommend Waldstein's piece. I excerpted the sciencey stuff, but it's mostly filled with local color.

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