Johnny Ballgame: Sports radio savior?

By Jayson Jacoby June 21, 2010 12:05 pm

I have for the greater part of two decades lamented the inexplicable sports radio wasteland that is Baker County.

But just lately I have detected, like the ghostly whisper of a distant AM station at night, the slight sound of optimism.

It’s called the Johnny Ballgame Show.

And it is, in the estimation of the Baker City and La Grande stations that broadcast it, “Eastern Oregon’s only live and local sports talk radio program.”

I have heard nothing that refutes this claim.

The program, hosted by John Mallory, airs weekdays from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on 1490 AM in Baker City and 1450 AM in La Grande.

Mallory graduated from La Grande High School in 1998. He earned a degree in radio/TV digital media production from the University of Idaho, where he did radio play-by-play for the Vandals and started his talk show in 2007.

I’ve tuned in a handful of times, and listened to maybe 90 minutes of Mallory’s program.

It is what it purports to be.

And it’s rather better than I expected.

When I first heard a radio promotion for the show I imagined a host with enthusiasm to spare but no experience, prattling on, in a pathetic Jim Rome impersonation, about high school football.

But you need listen to Mallory for only a couple minutes to understand that he’s quite comfortable sitting behind a microphone.

Also, he seems to know that he’s not Jim Rome.

Or Colin Cowherd.

Or Dan Patrick.

Which is good, because imitation, despite its reputation as the sincerest form of flattery, is apt to ruin a sports talk show.

So anyway I like the Johnny Ballgame Show.

What I really hope, though, is that the program, rather than an end unto itself, is instead merely the start of a trend.

What we need around here, as I’ve whined about incessantly lo these many years, is a foot to break down the door that keeps local fans of the Oregon Ducks, Oregon State Beavers and Portland Trail Blazers from listening to their team’s games.

And just maybe Mallory — or Mr. Ballgame, if he prefers the more formal address — can be that foot.

A station in John Day carries the Ducks and the Blazers, for heaven’s sake.

This really galls me.

You can’t get the U.N. in Grant County but you can get Jerry Allen and Mike Wheeler — and without putting up an antenna that requires FAA permission and a flashing red light to warn off low-flying aircraft.

Jayson Jacoby is editor of the Baker City Herald.