Flashback Friday: Internet Broadcasts of 1998

You could listen to baseball games on the Internet with this - and a dial-up connection - in 1998.

By Chris Mehring / Wisconsin Timber Rattlers | February 1, 2013 5:44 AM ET

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Today's Flashback isn't about a game or a player or a person in the front office.  It's not about the stadium or a visitor from out of town or a fan.

This one is from 1998 and it is all about the cutting edge technology of internet broadcasts.

I don't want to spoil it so here is Benjamin Wideman from the August 6, 1998 edition of The Post-Crescent.  

Rattlers look for good 'Net results  

Forget about the Midwest League.  The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers have gone global.

Tonight's game against the Peoria Chiefs at Fox Cities Stadium will be broadcast - or as computer folks say, simulcast - live on the Internet at the FanLink website.

That means people around the world can tune in and listen to all the sounds of a baseball game - be it the play-by-play, the road of the crowd or a fastball smacking into the catcher's mitt.

And they can do it from the comfort of their living room.

It's sort of like listening to a radio broadcast, except listening to it via your computer's speakers.

The big difference between this and a standard radio broadcast is that people around the world can pick up the game not just in the immediate area.  Parents and friends back home, for example, can listen as if they were there.

"It's a unique experience for baseball fans," said Jeff Williams, owner and creative director of FanLink, which offers a plethora of services dealing with minor-league baseball teams.

"This is a new way for fans to discover the sport.  People can tune in from almost anywhere around and visualize the teams playing."

This will be the Timber Rattlers' second simulcast game of the season.  On July 9, their game against South Bend drew 12,000 listeners.  Williams said the average is around 8,000.

He said there were two reasons for the increase.

"Part was because Wisconsin is an affiliate of the Seattle Mariners," he said.  "Seattle is sort of a Silicon Valley with a lot of very computer-literate people.  It's a big computer area.

"And now with the Big Unit (6-foot-10 pitcher Randy Johnson) gone (following a trade).  I think people want to know how the Little Unit (6-10 Wisconsin pitcher Ryan Anderson) is doing.  There's big baseball fans both in Seattle and Wisconsin.  We hope to get another big response with this game."

Anderson (6-3) is scheduled to start tonight.

FanLink, which is based in Pullman, Wash., was slated to simulcast 26 regular-season minor-league games this year, featuring teams from all levels.

Its lowest listener total of the season for a game was 100.  On the other end of the spectrum, at the Triple-A All-Star Game, the maximum 25,000 listeners tuned in.  In fact, Williams said more than 2,000 would-be listeners had to be turned away.

"This is definitely something that's on the rise," Williams said.  "We're very excited about this."

The simulcast will be the exact broadcast given by Tim McCord and Greg Hofer on WSGC-am 1050.

The pregame begins at 6:45pm and the game starts 15 minutes later.

To get hooked up, first go to fan-link.com.  Then click on Audio Network.

To tune in, you need to have Real Player.  If you don't already have it, there's a location on the site for it.  Otherwise, go to www.real.com.  Team officials said it is free.

The FanLink website is no longer active.  Too bad.  I was kind of hoping that it would still be there...Like the Space Jam website from 1996.

Seattle was very computer-literate, too? Here I thought it was all Grunge, coffee, and rain in the mid-90's.

Fans who listened to this game - on the radio or over the internet - got to listen to the Peoria Chiefs defeat the Timber Rattlers 6-5 in ten innings.

Consider this a "soft launch" of some current internet broadcast news for those who read this column and listen to the Rattlers on the internet.  AM1280, WNAM is now available on iheartradio.com.  You can also download the app and listen to the Timber Rattlers on your iphone or android device in 2013.  If you have another device, just head over there and take a look to see if it is compatible.

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This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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