May 1959 Popular Electronics
[Table of Contents]
People old and young enjoy waxing nostalgic about and learning some of the history of early electronics. Popular
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We are solidly in the middle of baseball season in America,
so this "Carl &
Jerry" story from a 1950 edition of Popular Electronics
comes at a good time. As is the case with many "Carl & Jerry"
episodes, this one involves the use of an amateur radio rig.
Find out how and why Jerry willingly commits "Baseball Interference"
(BBI) to beat the opposing team at their own game.
Carl & Jerry: "BBI"
By John T. Frye W9EGV
The bat met the ball with a thud and sent it almost straight
up into the air. Jerry tore off his catcher's mask and ran around
in a little circle as his eyes searched wildly for the ball
against the bright blue sky. Just in time he spotted it and
stepped forward to catch it neatly in the deep pocket of his
mitt for a third out. His pal, Carl, stepped off the pitcher's
mound and trudged wearily toward the Center City bench while
the Cedar Creek Giants ran happily out onto the diamond.
They had something to be happy about.
The score board announced it was the last of the seventh
inning and that the Cedar Creek Giants had seven runs. Chalked
up opposite the Center City Sluggers was a series of big fat
Jerry struggled out of his chest protector and sat down on
the bench beside Carl.
"I just don't get it!" he said as he angrily drove his fist
into his catcher's mitt. "They're not that much better than
"It's not who wins that counts; it's how you play the game!"
"Yeah, I know; but that's the trouble with being a good sport.
You've got to lose to prove you are one. I'd like to demonstrate
what gracious winners we can be."
"I'm with you! What really bugs me is the way they seem to
know every move we're going to make. They seem to know what
kind of ball I'm going to pitch, when I'm going to try to catch
a runner off base, and exactly who is supposed to take a high
fly. It's spooky in a sandlot team that doesn't get any more
practice than we do."
"Maybe they're hep to my signals, but I'm doggone careful
to conceal them from anyone on their bench. Do you suppose -"
He was interrupted by Kent, the youngest member of their amateur
This fourteen-year-old boy ate, drank, and slept radio. It
was typical that he was tugging at Jerry's elbow with one hand
and clutching a two-meter transceiver in the other.
"Hey, Jerry, listen to this!"
"Some other time, Kent," Jerry said impatiently as he shrugged
off the "child" - who was a whole two years younger! "We've
got a problem now."
"I know you have. That's why I want you to listen!" Kent
insisted as he jigged up and down in his impatience.
At this moment the Center City batter hit a high fly out
into right center field. A faint voice came from the speaker
of the transceiver: "Let Murphy have it, Jonesy. Take it Murph."
Both the center-fielder and the right-fielder had been running
toward the ball, but as the voice spoke the center-fielder stopped
and let the right-fielder make an easy catch for a first out.
"Let me have that thing!" Jerry commanded. As the three of
them listened intently, they could hear the same voice giving
instructions to the pitcher: "This guy is a sucker for a slow
ball. Try one. Thaaat's fine. Now he's crowding the plate. Put
one over the inside corner and scare him back a little."
"See that guy sitting all by himself out at the edge of the
trees in center field?" Kent asked. "He's the bird doing the
talking. When I get close to him, the signal really booms in.
His transmitter is pretty low-powered, for the signal falls
off rapidly as you get away from the diamond. Jerry, he's been
relaying to the batter every signal you gave to Carl."
Listening for the next few minutes revealed that the Giants
didn't just seem to know what the Sluggers were going to do
next. They knew! It was apparent that each member of the team
had some sort of miniature receiver - doubtless transistorized
- concealed in his cap. A bone-conduction earphone attached
to the skull enabled them to hear every word spoken by the sharp-eyed
observer who was equipped with a miniature transmitter and a
pair of high-powered binoculars. What's more, this observer
knew the Sluggers' signals better than they knew them themselves!
"Why the dirty so-and-so's!" Carl exclaimed. "Here! Give
me that transceiver microphone and let me tell them off."
"Hold on!" Jerry objected. "Maybe, if they don't know we're
on to their electronic caper, we can turn it to our advantage.
First off, we've got to cross up their intercepting my signals
to you. We don't have time to make up a whole new set of signals,
but suppose we do this: I'll make an ordinary signal that you
can disregard; but then I'll wiggle my mitt up and down in Morse
code. You know the way we send silent code in study hall just
by tapping an imaginary key with our fingers. It will be the
same except you will see me punching an imaginary key with the
mitt. We can use initials. 'IC' will mean 'inside curve;' "FB'
will be 'fast ball;' 'W' will mean 'walk;' etc. Usually the
false hand signal will be just the opposite of the real code
signal. Dig me?"
"Yeah, I dig you; but it sounds pretty tricky. I'll have to
study it out as we go along. I'm going to be a very deliberate
pitcher from here on in."
"Fine! Now let's pass the word along to the rest of the team."
... "I just don't get it!" Jerry said angrily ...
When the other boys learned about the electronic skullduggery
afoot, they were properly indignant. This resentment actually
worked to their advantage. Still seething, they stepped up to
the plate one after another and angrily drove out solid hits.
When the inning was over, the score stood 7 to 4.
... "Give me that transceiver microphone" ...
And the first half of the eighth was a far different story
from what the other innings had been. Jerry made sure the man
with the binoculars got a good look at his false signal to Carl;
then he casually called for the pitch he wanted by moving his
mitt up and down. The effect was much more puzzling to the batter
than if he had simply been allowed to go on his own. It was
very disconcerting to be expecting a slow ball and then have
one cross the plate like a rifle bullet. The net result of the
double double-cross was three up and three down. The Giants
never got a man on base.
During the last of the eighth the Sluggers picked up two
more runs, making the score 7 to 6. Jerry spent every minute
with his ear glued to the speaker of the transceiver trying
to figure out a way to turn the Giants' trickery to the Sluggers'
advantage; but no opportunity presented itself. The first of
the ninth was a repetition of the first of the previous inning:
three up and three down.
But fickle luck once more turned against the Sluggers as
they came to bat. The first man up never touched the ball as
three strikes were called on him in quick succession. The next
man up drove a hot grounder to the shortstop that was rifted
across to cut off the runner at first with seconds to spare.
The third man, though, did barely manage to get on first with
a drive just over the second baseman's head. It was Carl's turn
... "No, you take it, Murph; on second thought -" ...
Carl was far and away the best hitter the Sluggers had, and
at first it seemed that the pitcher intended to walk him. The
first two pitches were wide of the plate. But the third drilled
straight across the center to land in the catcher's mitt with
a solid smack for a called strike. Jerry could see Carl's hands
tightening on the bat handle as the pitcher started his wind-up,
but once more the ball was wide of the plate.
The next one was too close to let pass, and Carl swung at
it. His bat nicked the ball, but that was all. "Stri-i-i-ke
Two!" the umpire cried as he held up three fingers on one hand
and two on the other.
Carl pounded the plate savagely with his bat and tensed his
lean body. The pitcher started a slow windup and then uncoiled
to speed the ball straight across the rubber. It was now or
never! Carl swung with all his might and there was a solid crack
of wood meeting horsehide. But a groan arose from the Sluggers'
bench as they saw the hard-hit ball sailing too high in the
air as it went toward a point midway between the stations of
the right-fielder and the center-fielder. Both men started running
toward it with their eyes on the ball.
"You take it, Jonesy. Let him have it, Murph," Jerry heard
the voice saying in the speaker of the transceiver. In a flash
Jerry pushed down the transmit switch on the transceiver and
said loudly into the microphone: "No, you take it, Murph; you're
closer. On second thought, you better get it after all, Jonesy."
He left the transmit-receive switch in the transmit position
to block out the signal from the other transmitter and watched
in fascination as the two outfielders hesitated a second, then
went charging toward each other with their gloves outstretched.
They came together with a crashing shock and then bounced apart
to fall flat on their backs as the untouched ball bounced lazily
along the ground.
It was several seconds before the two stunned boys rolled
over and got painfully to their feet. In the meantime Carl had
loped around the bases in hot pursuit of the other runner, and
the game was over.
The Sluggers dashed out of their dugout to thump Carl on
the back, but Jerry hung back to watch the man out at the edge
of the trees. The two injured outfielders stalked over and towered
threateningly over him as the rest of the Giants joined them.
The man sitting on the ground waved his arms wildly and shook
his head vigorously from side to side; but what he was saying
seemed to carry little weight with the members of the team.
As Carl and Jerry helped load the equipment into the back
of the manager's station wagon, they grinned happily at each
other. Winning the game was nice, of course; but winning it
by outsmarting the tricky Giants at their own game - and doing
it electronically-indeed made their cup runneth over.
"I'll bet that's the last time the Giants use that gadget,"
Carl said as he glanced across to the angry huddle at the edge
of the trees.
"You can say that again," Jerry agreed.
"And I was just thinking we've invented a new kind of interference.
I've been accused of BCI, or broadcast interference; and TVI,
or television interference; and I didn't like it a bit. But
how I know I'm guilty of BBI, or baseball interference; and
all I feel is a kind of warm, contented glow!"
Carl & Jerry: Their Complete Adventures is now available. "From 1954 through 1964,
Popular Electronics published 119 adventures of Carl and Jerry, two teen boys with a passion for electronics and a knack
for getting into and out of trouble with haywire lashups built in Jerry's basement. Better still, the boys explained how
it all worked, and in doing so, launched countless young people into careers in science and technology. Now, for the first
time ever, the full run of Carl and Jerry yarns by John T. Frye are available again, in five authorized anthologies that
include the full text and all illustrations."
Carl & Jerry Episodes on RF Cafe
- Carl & Jerry: Anchors Aweigh, July 1956
- Bosco Has His Day, August 1956
- The Hand of Selene, November 1960
- Feedback, May 1956
- Abetting or Not?, October 1956
- Electronic Beach Buggy, September
- Extra Sensory Perception, December
- Trapped in a Chimney, January 1956
- Command Performance, November 1958
- Extracurricular Education, July
- Treachery of Judas, July 1961
- The Sucker, May 1963
- Stereotaped New Year, January 1963
- The Snow Machine, December 1960
- Extracurricular Education, July
- Slow Motion for Quick Action,
- Sonar Sleuthing, August 1963
- TV Antennas, August 1955
- Succoring a Soroban, March 1963
- "All's Fair --", September 1963
- Operation Worm Warming, May 1961
- The Crazy Clock Caper, October 1960
- Two Detectors, February 1955
- Tussle with a Tachometer, July 1960
- Therry and the Pirates, April 1961
- The Sparkling Light, May 1962
- Pure Research Rewarded, June 1962
- A Hot Idea, March 1960
- The Hot Dog Case, December 1954
- A New Company is Launched, October 1956
- Under the Mistletoe, December 1958
- Electronic Eraser, August 1962
- Blubber Banisher, July 1959
- "BBI", May 1959
- Ultrasonic Sound Waves, July 1955
- The River Sniffer, July 1962
- Ham Radio, April 1955
- El Torero Electronico, April 1960
- Wired Wireless, January 1962
- Electronic Shadow, September 1957
- Elementary Induction, June 1963
- He Went That-a-Way, March1959
- Electronic Detective, February 1958
- Aiding an Instinct, December 1962
Posted June 30, 2014