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  • KTRS signal holds up

    KTRS signal holds up
    By Jake Wagman
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    08/11/2005

    Now hear this Cardinals fans: The signal for the team's next flagship radio station is as strong as an Albert Pujols line drive across most of the St. Louis area.

    Considerable consternation followed this month's announcement that the team was parting ways with the venerable KMOX and signing KTRS to broadcast games.

    Loyal listeners wondered how KTRS would respond to the major league call-up. Could it match the power-hitting signal of the "Mighty Mox?" Would innings be washed away in a sea of static? The meandering thoughts of Mike Shannon lost to an inferior signal?

    There appears to be little reason for St. Louis to spiral into a panic. At least not according to the results of an unscientific and somewhat random listening test around the region.

    Drive around and you'll find that, except for a rough spot in Madison County, KTRS can be he heard just as well, if not a bit more clearly, than its competitor across the dial. Here are the results of one such trip.

    The journey began downtown, an hour before sunset Tuesday during the first inning of the Cardinals game in Milwaukee. Heading south on Interstate 55, both stations were crystal clear. Ditto crossing the city line and across St. Louis County. Near the Jefferson County border, KMOX was a tad scratchy.

    Everything was copacetic on KTRS as the talk show hosts chatted about the upcoming Blues season. But they won't be talking hockey this time next year.

    Last week, the Cardinals announced that they would purchase half of KTRS and would broadcast their games on that station. It marked the end of an era for KMOX, which has been broadcasting Cardinals games since Red Schoendienst played second base, more than half a century ago.

    KTRS is no rookie, either. The origins of the station, once owned by the Post-Dispatch, stretch to 1922, when one of its first broadcasts was a speech by President Warren G. Harding.

    Of course, KMOX's powerful reach - which lore has it can be heard from the cornfields to the East Coast - helped make the Cardinals mid-America's team. Naysayers now claim the move to KTRS will cost the team its sprawling fan base.

    The 50,000-watt KMOX signal is legendary. Former U.S. Rep. Dick Gephardt has said he could pick up the signal in Washington if he drove to a high enough point. This week, staff members in the office of Gephardt's replacement, Russ Carnahan, also attempted to pick up KMOX. The verdict: nothing but static.

    "My husband is bummed about it because we are huge Cardinals fans," said Heather Lasher Todd, Carnahan's communication director in his Capital office. "There is no KMOX in D.C."

    That is not to say KMOX's reputation is all hot air. Just ask Linda Gregg of St. Louis, Okla. She runs an automobile service station in the small town about 60 miles southeast of Oklahoma City. She's not a baseball fan, but recently agreed to check the 1120 AM signal in her town, population 206.

    The first night she tried and failed to hear any of the Cards' game against the Brewers. But success came when Gregg - who also delivers The Oklahoman newspaper in her area - was tuned to KMOX during her route.

    "At 4:30 this morning, it came in real good," Gregg said Thursday.

    Cardinals fans here need not keep such odd hours. Back on our listening test drive, both KMOX and KTRS sounded as clear as if they were broadcasting from the back seat as far west as Weldon Spring. Static interfered with KTRS briefly near Bridgeton, but it came in better than KMOX while crossing the Missouri River.

    Both stations were choppy at times near Lindenwood University in St. Charles. Smooth sailing persisted on both stations looping back east on Interstate 270, crossing the Mississippi River and heading north toward Alton. A stop at the revered Fast Eddie's Bon-Air pub found some indifference to the radio switch among Cardinals fans.

    "We love Wayne Hagin - we'll follow him wherever he goes," said Kelly Vitale, 25, of Belleville. She said KTRS comes in just fine there. Others weren't so sure.

    "What station is that?" Kenny Burleson, 22, of St. Ann said of KTRS. Across the bar, Mike McGibany, the self-proclaimed "mayor" of Bon-Air, required some prodding. 550 AM you say? "I've never turned it on," he said.

    A hint as to why can be found south of Alton, where KTRS came in clear until just east of Edwardsville and Glen Carbon. For a few miles heading south on I-255, the feed was taken over almost completely by static. At the same time, KMOX was clear as a bell.

    A dead zone

    Station manager Craig Unger acknowledges that KTRS can be difficult to pick up at times in sections of Southern Illinois. That's partly because the station's eastern signal pattern is different at night. Contrary to popular misconception, Unger said, KTRS does not power down at night. It does broadcast differently when the sun goes down so as not to interfere with another station on the 550 AM frequency broadcasting out of Cincinnati.

    That's why KTRS teams up with the public radio station from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville to broadcast Blues games. For Cardinals night games, they'll form a double play combination with WSMI (106.1 FM) in Litchfield, a country music station.

    The station, whose call letters stand for "We Serve Mid-Illinois," marks its coverage area as a 60-mile radius around Litchfield, from Springfield to Trenton. On our drive, the Litchfield station had an audible signal outside of west St. Louis County, allowing us to hear the apropos country single by Aaron Tippin: "There Ain't Nothin' Wrong With The Radio."

    WSMI Operations Manager Brian Talley said the station, which carries University of Illinois and local high school athletics, is thrilled to have the Cardinals games.

    "We couldn't be happier," he said.

    Heading back to Belleville, southwest through Millstadt and into St. Louis, KTRS and KMOX came in fine all the way back downtown.

    Those who probably should be most concerned about the radio switch are members of Cardinal Nation not under the shadow of the Gateway Arch, from Iowa and Oklahoma to Indiana and Tennessee. For those fans, the team is pushing satellite radio and counting on a roster of nearly 100 local stations that broadcast games.

    One of those fans on the fringes is James Karayiannis, who runs the Pinch Penny Pub in Carbondale - a favorite watering hole for Redbird faithful. Karayiannis turned up KMOX up at the bar during last year's playoffs, even though the games were televised.

    He is unsentimental about the radio station change: KMOX comes in well, but so do other stations that carry the game.

    "Do I always listen to KMOX? Yes," he said. "Is it the only way I will listen to a game? No."

    Reporter Jake Wagman
    E-mail: [email protected]
    Phone: 314-622-3580

    "Can't buy what I want because it's free...
    Can't buy what I want because it's free..."
    -- Pearl Jam, from the single Corduroy

  • #2
    Sure the games may be on the radio network but the pre and postgame shows are probably not part of the contract...

    Just like the Blues pre and post game shows.
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    • #3
      Originally posted by BlueBrained@Aug 11 2005, 11:34 PM
      Sure the games may be on the radio network but the pre and postgame shows are probably not part of the contract...

      Just like the Blues pre and post game shows.
      if the game is a 705p first pitch, our local worthless affeliate picks up the game at 637p. they stay with the post game until its "good night from the ballpark."

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      • #4
        Well, that's just bull-jive in the practical sense. Again, tonight, after listening to SOL (I'm near Clarkson and Clayton in West County....not exactly the hinterlands) and after the MOX came bursting through at mach 10 I switched over to the old KSD (KTRS) and....well....it's like being on my short-wave radio. A decent and legible station but with LOTS of interference. Tonight it was a constant buzz in the background and I couldn't tune out of it.

        Same thing in my car out here at night.

        Again, that's just bull-jive.

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        • #5
          Cmon, Lode, you cannot disagree w/ the Post's crusade against KMOX.
          When you say to your neighbor, "We're having a loud party on Saturday night if that's alright with you," what you really mean is, "We're having a loud party on Saturday night."

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          • #6
            Originally posted by DaLode@Aug 11 2005, 11:41 PM
            Well, that's just bull-jive in the practical sense. Again, tonight, after listening to SOL (I'm near Clarkson and Clayton in West County....not exactly the hinterlands) and after the MOX came bursting through at mach 10 I switched over to the old KSD (KTRS) and....well....it's like being on my short-wave radio. A decent and legible station but with LOTS of interference. Tonight it was a constant buzz in the background and I couldn't tune out of it.

            Same thing in my car out here at night.

            Again, that's just bull-jive.
            That's weird because it's the opposite for me. I can get KTRS loud and clear all over the place, whereas there are certain areas around town where KMOX is very staticy. In fact, I can pick up KTRS almost all the way to Evansville, IN which is 3 hours away but cannot get KMOX until I hit Mt. Vernon coming up hwy 64. Luckily there are some local affiliates along the way that I can listen to until I get close enough to pick up KMOX.
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            • #7
              Originally posted by Lois Lane+Aug 11 2005, 11:46 PM-->
              QUOTE(Lois Lane @ Aug 11 2005, 11:46 PM)

            • #8
              almost never listen to ktrs but i have heard a few blues games back in the day. had no problem from st chuck to the valley of the flowers!

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              • #9
                As much as I've complained about KTRS, the farther away I am from St. Louis, the better the signal...

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                • #10
                  Originally posted by bigJOE+Aug 11 2005, 11:01 PM-->
                  QUOTE(bigJOE @ Aug 11 2005, 11:01 PM)
                  Originally posted by Lois [email protected] 11 2005, 11:46 PM

                • #11
                  Originally posted by DaLode@Aug 12 2005, 12:05 AM
                  We're going to need an affiliate station out here then. All the guys/gals at my local who live in Chesterfield, Clarkson Valley, Wildwood, Ellisville and Ballwin have the same experience as I'm having with KTRS at night. If we're repesentative of our neighbors, that's 100,000 plus folks who are having a problem with reception on the BIG 550 at night.
                  I used to live in Ballwin and work in Chesterfield and listened to KTRS regularly. I never noticed anything wrong with the signal. I wonder if there's something now interfering with the signal out that way. Would a cell phone tower mess up a radio signal?
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                  • #12
                    What a fucking joke.

                    An affiliate station in Chesterfield?

                    Great move, Lamping.
                    When you say to your neighbor, "We're having a loud party on Saturday night if that's alright with you," what you really mean is, "We're having a loud party on Saturday night."

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                    • #13
                      I've gotten KTRS near Terre Haute before... not saying that's the norm though (and I didn't try KMOX there).
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                      • #14
                        I am 40 miles east of downtown and KTRS is pure static after sunset.
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                        • #15
                          Originally posted by BlueBrained@Aug 12 2005, 12:38 AM
                          I am 40 miles east of downtown and KTRS is pure static after sunset.
                          They have to turn down their signal at sunset so it doesn't interfere with other stations. I'm not sure why that is but a friend of mine who works at a radio station told me that and he usually knows what he is talking about.
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                          "From there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere..."

                          formerly aka Lois Lane - Going back to my hillbilly roots!

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