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"In order to progress, radio need only go backward," the late Edward R. Murrow believed. His philosophy is shared by Yuri Rasovsky, a theater buff who in 1973 founded a radio theater company in Chicago. Last fall it went nationwide, broadcasting weekly dramatizations to more than 300 radio stations. Rasovsky's National Radio Theatre, underwritten by TRW corporation, has recaptured old-time radio with 18 contemporary and classic presentations ranging from Frankenstein (airing the week of March 7) to an eight-part rendition of The Odyssey of Homer (starting the week of April 18), hosted by Ed Asner.
For tastes that hover somewhere between horror and Homer, NRT features veteran actor Pat (Ragtime) O'Brien as baseball immortal Casey Stengel in William Brashler's original radio play Casey: Which Is Myself during the week of March 14. O'Brien, who knew Stengel, gives an endearing interpretation of the mixed metaphors, malapropisms and curveball logic that came to be known as Stengelese. "Now I ain't really sure how old I am even though I was born on July 30, 1890," O'Brien begins the chronicle that spans Stengel's half century in baseball. "Just say I'm a man that's been around for a while...that's played with a dead ball and a lively ball and lived to tell the difference. Why, most people my age are dead now—and you can look it up." (Stengel died in 1975, so you don't have to look that up.)
The one-hour broadcast takes the listener out to the ball games of yore—from the day in 1913 when Stengel won $10 catching a greased hog before an exhibition game to the time he hit the winning home run for the New York Giants in the opener of the 1923 World Series. (They ended up losing to the Yankees.) Sportswriter Damon Runyon's poetic account of that homer is recited by longtime Chicago Cubs announcer Jack Brick-house. The show includes, of course, many timeless Stengelisms. When fired as the Yankees' manager after their 1960 Series loss to Pittsburgh—despite 10 pennant victories in his 12-year reign—Stengel noted, "I was 70 years old, and I'll never make the mistake of being 70 years old again." He went on to manage the "Amazin' Mets," recalling, "A lot of times I'd sit on the bench and look down the row, and I'd ask myself, 'Can't anybody here play this game?' We commenced losing our first nine games of history—and you can look it up."
Brashler's Stengel also remembers a shy young club player named Mickey Mantle ("He kept his head down like his shoes was gonna fall off"), infielder Don Zimmer ("the perditious quotient of the qualifications") and the legendary Yogi Berra, who proved himself a Stengelese scholar by noting, among other things, "You can observe a lot just by watching."
By listening too. For the local broadcast times of this and of the other programs in NRT's 26-week series (which include Jack London's The Sea Wolf, Edmond Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac and Harold Pinter's A Slight Ache)—well, like Casey said, you can look it up.