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Monday, February 13, 2012

Granillo: The Payphone Stadium Project

Doylealexander4444 ~ (louder please) DOYLEALEXANDER4444! ~ (a little louder please) DOYLEALEXANDER4444!!!!

That June, Beckett Baseball Card Monthly senior editor Pepper Hastings finally had enough of this medieval situation and decided to do something about it. In that month’s “Back Page” column, he wrote:

  Our Mission: To obtain the number of a pay phone in each of the 26 major league stadiums.

  The Ground Rules: The pay phone location *must* have a clear view of the stadium scoreboard. That way, the person answering can relay the current score and situation of the game to the caller.
  …
  Our Goal: To publish - before the beginning of the pennant races - a complete list of stadium pay phone numbers where up-to-the-second game information can be obtained from on-the-scene game correspondents (a guy on his way back from the snackbar, a conscientious usher, a kid on his way to the souvenir stand).
  …
  Our Rewards: Instantaneous scores during heated pennant races. Verbal interaction with real fans at stadia across the continent, not pre-recorded 1-900 number yakity-yak…

Pepper Hastings was a genius. After all, how better to find out what is going on in a baseball game than to actually speak with someone at the game? And, unlike the world of today, pay phones were everywhere in 1990. I’m pretty sure the rumor was that Mickey Tettleton’s 1989 power binge came from eating his Froot Loops while standing at a phone booth. It only made sense, then, for a national publication to centralize these pay phone numbers and provide them as a service to its readership in the heat of the pennant race.

The responses came pouring in to Hastings, who probably regretted the call to action the first time he had to verify one of the numbers

Repoz Posted: February 13, 2012 at 05:25 PM | 16 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history, media

Reader Comments and Retorts

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   1. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: February 13, 2012 at 06:03 PM (#4060136)
What is a pay phone?
   2. Dock Ellis on Acid Posted: February 13, 2012 at 06:05 PM (#4060137)
It's one of those deals where you pre-pay for your usage instead of having a monthly bill. On the street they're called "burners."
   3. Don Geovany Soto (chris h.) Posted: February 13, 2012 at 06:18 PM (#4060149)
No, no, no.

It's that new thing where you can now OWN your phone instead of leasing it from the telephone company. They've even got these new modular phone jacks to make it easy to plug the darned things in.
   4. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: February 13, 2012 at 06:21 PM (#4060154)
It was in 1990 that a baseball publication first had this idea? Not 1950?
   5. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: February 13, 2012 at 06:52 PM (#4060185)
A Pepper Hastings reference? Man, that takes me back. I still remember his mug shot on the Back Page column - he had exactly the type of haircut and mustache you would expect for an adult man who was writing a monthly column for a baseball-card magazine.

EDIT: And can we do a "where are they now" on Tommy Wheaton?
   6. AndrewJ Posted: February 13, 2012 at 07:03 PM (#4060198)
FUN FACT: My great-uncle Thomas helped design and market pedestal payphones for Bell Labs in the 1960s, replacing outdated booths. He died at age 90 in 1998, just as payphones as a whole were giving way to cellphones.
   7. JoeC Posted: February 13, 2012 at 07:13 PM (#4060207)
I remember this! That was awesome. The "heated pennant races" incentive was a foreign concept to a kid on the South Side, though. Little did I know that the Sox had Robin Ventura in the minors and were just about to draft Frank Thomas. Never did call Sox Park... probably just too chicken.

The death of pay phones outside stadiums was the last straw that finally convinced me to get a cell phone in 2008. I had friends waiting for me inside of Home Depot Center, and missed a David Beckham goal while finding the bank of dead pay phones and then searching for somebody to borrow a cell from.
   8. Benji Gil Gamesh Rises Posted: February 13, 2012 at 07:17 PM (#4060209)
FUN FACT: My great-uncle Thomas helped design and market pedestal payphones for Bell Labs in the 1960s
Did he do the beltless trench coat too?
   9. Dock Ellis on Acid Posted: February 13, 2012 at 08:02 PM (#4060239)
Beckett used to be a pretty good magazine once upon a time. They would do feature-length articles on baseball that had nothing to do with baseball cards. Now it's a small-sized phone book with prices that almost never reflect actual market value with a couple of pieces on upcoming releases.
   10. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: February 13, 2012 at 08:35 PM (#4060258)
Indeed...I loved my Becketts. They used to come on the 5th of every month, and as an 11-year-old I would be as distressed if it was late as I would be now if a girlfriend told me the same thing. Every so often they'd publish a letter to the editor with some emotional tale about how collecting cards had brought a broken family together or some such, to which Beckett would reply, "Thanks for your input." I think I still have a stack in my parents' basement.
   11. Super Creepy Derek Lowe (GGC) Posted: February 13, 2012 at 09:01 PM (#4060274)
MORE FUN FACTS: The man who invented the coin operated telephone also invented the chest protector.
   12. Dock Ellis on Acid Posted: February 13, 2012 at 09:25 PM (#4060284)
I was also 11 years old and eagerly awaited the new issue each month. My father collects, so he still subscribes. He's a bit of a pack rat, so there's still about every single issue since 1987 in his house. Last I was home, I looked at some of the oldest ones. The prices were odd; twelve cents for a minor star here, a guy's rookie might be 1.15. How did they get these numbers? As if there were actually a number of people who dug around in their pockets for a dime and two pennies to buy it.
   13. Super Creepy Derek Lowe (GGC) Posted: February 13, 2012 at 10:14 PM (#4060306)
I clicked on the article and found this.

The point is that in 1990 it was impossible for someone to know what exactly was happening in a live game if they weren't living in radio- or television-broadcast range of the game, and the world was a worse-place for it.

That's not entirely true. I seem to recall reading about a displaced Red Sox fan who would call a number to get a the radio broadcast via his telephone. One of the radio stations had a number you could call.

   14. Tulo's Fishy Mullet (mrams) Posted: February 14, 2012 at 01:26 AM (#4060382)
That's not entirely true. I seem to recall reading about a displaced Red Sox fan who would call a number to get a the radio broadcast via his telephone. One of the radio stations had a number you could call.


My Dad did this for years in the 70s and 80s during Nebraska football games. Certain games, (many actually) he'd call his parents back in Omaha and Grandpa would simply set the phone by the radio on KFAB and listen to Bremser ("Man Woman and Child....") or later Pavelka call the Huskers games. I recall the last time he did this we were visiting colleges (for me) and we were in Dayton, OH, when KU was close to upsetting Nebraska in '93. We were at a bar, and the place did not have the then very horrible ABC pay per view package which would get you access to out of market games. He hogged that pay phone for the entire 2nd half, must've handed out quarters to half a dozen people trying to use the phone. Expensive habit.
   15. lar @ wezen-ball Posted: February 14, 2012 at 10:07 AM (#4060457)
#5: I had the same idea, to find Tommy Wheatley and see what he's up to. I'm a few years too late, though. Someone did it back in 2007. Turns out he was (at the time) a DJ in China. That's not exactly what I expected...
   16. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 14, 2012 at 10:12 AM (#4060462)
That's not entirely true. I seem to recall reading about a displaced Red Sox fan who would call a number to get a the radio broadcast via his telephone. One of the radio stations had a number you could call.

When I was in college ('89-'93) my roommate used to call the Boston Globe sports desk at about 11:30 at night to get the Pittsburgh scores.

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