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Original Issue

Baseball's Golden Oldies

Audiotapes of games past offer listeners a trip back through time

Psst, buddy. Forget those racy French postcards and knockoff Rolex watches. How would you like to buy an audiotape of that great 1951 Dodgers-Giants playoff game, the one in which Bobby Thomson ruined Ralph Branca's day, year and career by hitting the "shot heard 'round the world" and winning the pennant for the Giants? Or how would you like to get your hands on the play-by-play that could bring you back to that day in '56 when Don Larsen pitched the first perfect World Series game?

Well, step right up, pal. You can buy these tapes and more, and you don't have to make a deal with some shady guy on the street who folds up his display case and melts into the crowd faster than Rickey Henderson steals second. This is legit.

Danrick Enterprises offers 1,000 games on cassette, and one can be yours for an average price of $13.95. The company is a "licensee in good standing" of Major League Baseball Properties, according to Frank Simio, vice-president of licensing operations.

Charlie Danrick started off in the late '50s as a collector. In 1985 he took out an ad in a Yankee program, "to test the market," he says. The market was there. "It all started when people heard I had some Brooklyn Dodger tapes, and it grew like an avalanche," Danrick says. "I touched the psyche of baseball fans, especially the ones interested in radio." It appears he also touched Major League Baseball by arousing its ire. According to Danrick, their relationship was originally "based on mutual dislike." Today, though, the licensee in good standing, who insists that "fans have the right to relive great memories," claims he "may be Major League Baseball's smallest licensee, but I bet I'm the proudest."

Danrick, who uses an invented surname and admits to growing up a Brooklyn Dodger fan but will say nothing about his life before licensing, obtains his game tapes mostly by making them himself and through trades. He pays Major League Baseball, which owns the copyrights, a royalty on every tape he sells. His customers range from people who buy via ads in such publications as Baseball Digest to buyers for stores. He also has four distributors and says he has provided games to movie-and television-production companies and to ESPN. He is proud, too, of his celebrity customers: Larry King ("a Brooklyn Dodger fan"), Baltimore Oriole announcer Jon Miller ("he wants the older stuff, from the '30s and '40s") and actor Steve Landesberg ("he likes the Yankees").

Not yet a celebrity, but hoping to become one, is Dan Lovallo of WKZE radio in Sharon, Conn. "I used to broadcast minor league games, and I want to get back into baseball," says Lovallo. "I buy from Charlie to learn from the great announcers—Red Barber, Mel Allen—who were at the end of their careers when I was starting to listen."

The oldest game in Danrick's collection is the third game of the 1936 World Series (the Giants versus the Yankees—Joe DiMaggio's rookie season), in which Lou Gehrig hit a home run. There were three announcers that day: Tom Manning, Ty Tyson and the young Red Barber. Danrick, who believes Barber is without equal as an announcer, says, "You can sense the greatness on that long-ago tape." Danrick also has a tape of a 1939 Cleveland-Washington game for which Walter Johnson was the announcer, and a variety of interview shows from the '40s and '50s, with, among others, Connie Mack, Babe Ruth, Henry Aaron and Casey Stengel.

Danrick has the first games of the Mets and of the Angels, and he has the first game played in the "new" Yankee Stadium. He has not been able to get any last games in historic parks, however, nor has he obtained a copy of Jackie Robinson's first game, one for which he receives frequent requests.

Danrick says his biggest seller by far ("in the thousands") is that '51 Giants-Dodgers playoff game, and his most popular ballplayer is Mickey Mantle; interest in Joe DiMaggio is just "average," he says, except for the 1949 World Series. He has all five games.

Many customers want more recent contests, especially those that feature Nolan Ryan. "I have some of his no-hitters," says Danrick, "but my favorite is the April 18, 1970, game—his first career shutout, first one-hitter and the game in which he set a New York Mets single-game strikeout record."

This and other tapes can be ordered from Sports Direct, 1-800-245-3011 or, in Conn., 1-203-291-9725.

Daphne Hurford has written a number of stories for "Sports Illustrated."