But then Janet Jackson's undone breast flap created a nationwide morals flap, and Shaquille O'Neal and Bono dropped f-bombs on live television broadcasts, and the Federal Communications Commission began to hand out huge fines to the networks that aired them, or threaten to do so.
"Even if you didn't get fined," an industry insider said Thursday, "there were huge lawyer fees arguing why you shouldn't get fined."
Not to mention some bad pub. And so, after those long-ago events, and coinciding with digital high-definition technology that required some broadcast delay anyway, accounts of games here and elsewhere were delivered a good 10 to 15 seconds later than real time.
Which turned the idea of a radio at a ballpark from Nirvana to nuisance.
At least to the sighted folks who listened while attending games, it was. To my wife, and other legally blind fans who used Scott Franzke and Larry Andersen as their eyes and ears, it was worse than that. It shut a portal to normalcy, made it impossible to attend a game with sighted friends and family and watch the game through their ears.
And so, she didn't. Not as much anyway.
"Over the years I've had conversations with people here about it," Rob Brooks, the Phillies' longtime broadcasting manager said Thursday. "And we would get complaints. But there was really not much we could do about it."
Until this spring, that is, when CBS radio decided to broadcast Phillies games on WIP, both AM and FM, and to keep them on its longtime AM flagship station of WPHT, as well. That's a lot of broadcasts of the same game, and so Marc Rayfield, the senior vice president in charge of all five CBS-owned radio stations, put all his executives in one room and asked:
Do we dare turn back the clock? Do we make a radio relevant inside the ballpark again?
There was precedent, of course. Eagles games went to real time a few years ago on AM, promoted as a way to hear longtime Eagles voice Merrill Reese live as the action unfolded. And while it's great that the visually disabled and elderly have this tool to enjoy games at the Linc, something about the pace of a baseball game and the amount of games makes the summer radio broadcast so special. Announcers have time to talk about the surroundings, all the little details of the game, and in the case of Richie and Harry, and now Franzke and L.A., to make you feel as if you're sitting with them.
That's what was presented at Rayfield's meeting, returning to the time when you could listen to games. So they decided to lose the HD in favor of real time on WPHT, where many of their older listeners remained.
"Take us to the ballpark with you," WPHT now touts during broadcasts.
We have. And it's wonderful.
"For the blind and visually impaired community, it means that they get to react to the game action in real time," said Patricia C. Johnson, president and CEO of Associated Services for the Blind in Philadelphia. "The delay can affect their ability to enjoy the game in person, as the crowd will often reveal the results before they can hear it for themselves. Broadcasting without the delay lets the blind sports fan experience the game at the same speed as everyone else."
Said Rayfield: "I wish I could tell you that was a consideration. What you're saying didn't even occur to me. Hearing that someone couldn't enjoy the games without this, it's kind of like getting sight when you haven't had it. I mean that's a huge exaggeration, but for me . . . If we made it better for 1,000 people and that was a byproduct of our decision? Then it was a great decision for no other reason."
Yes, it was.
And in a world of inadvertent and seemingly never-ending expletives, a gutsy one.
So on behalf of all fans with visually disabled friends and loved ones, thanks for making our lives a little richer with this home-run call.
Contact Sam Donnellon at firstname.lastname@example.org. For recent columns, go to www.philly.com/samdonnellon.