ValueSpeak
A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker

WORLD SERIES IN YOUR EAR

I might have made it all the way through elementary school with a spotless citizenship record if not for the World Series.

I got along well with others. I was respectful to my teachers. I kept a relatively neat desk, and only once was I caught passing notes during class. I was not a troublemaker.

But when it came to the World Series I was incorrigible. Part of this may have been due to the fact that I was a Yankee fan. And part of it was a fascination with new technology that kept creating ever-smaller transistor radios and ever-more concealable earphones.

As I look back on it, though, the biggest element for me was just the challenge. Could I sneak a transistor radio into class and find a way to listen to the ball game without getting caught? While many boys huddled around pocked-sized transistors during the afternoon recess, only a few were bold enough to try to listen to the radio broadcast during class.

My first attempt during second grade was, in retrospect, pretty lame. My first transistor radio was just a little smaller than my math book, and it fit awkwardly in my desk. I didn’t have an earphone – I just tried to listen to the Yankees and Dodgers on the lowest possible volume. Even at that, I might have been able to get away with it had I not pounded on my desk in disgust when Sandy Koufax struck out Mickey Mantle. My radio slid out of my desk and clattered to the ground, spewing plastic parts and Eveready batteries. Miss Tuttle confiscated my radio and made me stay in during recess to write "I will not listen to the radio during class" 50 times.

The next year it was the Yankees and the Cardinals, and I was prepared with a smaller radio and a plastic-coated earphone. I didn’t think Mrs. Campbell would notice the radio bulging in my shirt pocket or the wire running from my pocket to my ear. I was wrong. She picked up on my attempted subterfuge quicker than a Bob Gibson fastball, and I spent two recesses writing "I will not listen to the radio during class" 100 times.

By the time the World Series rolled around my fourth grade year I was determined to listen to a game without being caught. Never mind that the Yankees weren’t in the Series – I had worked out a plan that was almost as much of a sure thing as Koufax and the Dodgers against the Minnesota Twins. It had been launched the previous Christmas when I asked for the smallest transistor radio on the market. Then I had saved up my allowance money to purchase the longest earphone wire I could find and a roll of Scotch transparent tape.

On the day of The Big Game Albert met me in the boy’s restroom during lunch recess. He helped me tuck my radio into the back of my pants. Then we wound the wire around my body under my shirt and t-shirt, applying tape so it wouldn’t slip, then up the back of my neck into my hair, and then out under the back of my ear so the earpiece just barely fit in my ear. No dangly cords. No tell-tale radio bulge. It was perfect.

Even though I was pretty sure I didn’t need to be perfect. My teacher was Miss Green, who was a wonderful teacher (and, OK, I’ll say it: a babe). But she was young and Canadian. What did Canadians know about baseball? She probably didn’t know what the World Series was, let alone that a game was being played during school hours. She wouldn’t even be looking.

Game time was just a few minutes away when Miss Green asked Ron and I to go to the library to get one of the big, rolling, portable TVs. I couldn’t believe my good fortune. The lights would be off, everyone would be concentrating on some dumb educational TV show and I’d be on the back row listening to Koufax wax the Twins. And then during the afternoon recess I would go out on the playground and tell all the other guys how the game was going and how I’d been listening to it all along. And I’d be a hero!

"Class, we’re going to have a special treat today," Miss Green said after we got the TV set up in her room. "Because you have all been working so hard and so well, we’re going to take a little time off to watch the World Series!"

My heart sank as my classmates cheered. This couldn’t be happening! I had finally concocted the perfect plan, only to have it scuttled by a . . . a . . . Canadian. Miss Green flipped on the TV and brought out several big bowls of popcorn. There was so much general commotion in the room that I didn’t notice her standing next to me until she tapped on my radio earpiece.

"You can still listen to the game on your radio if you want," she said, smiling.

I pulled the earpiece out of my ear. There was no point in listening with permission. Instead I took out a piece of paper and began writing: "I will not listen to the radio during class."

Only this time I meant it.

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— © Joseph Walker

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Look for Joe's book,
"How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World." It is available on-line through www.Amazon.com.