AUGUSTA, Maine -- Jon Miller and Ken Coleman with the play-by-play. Roaring crowds. Hot summer evenings. Cold beer and baseball on the radio. Just like there was no baseball strike. Just like any other summer.
New England baseball fans are once again switching on their radios to hear Red Sox baseball broadcasts -- just as in the old days before the strike.
The difference is there are no games actually being played.
What is filling the vacuum in New England left by the players' walkout is called Strat-O-matic baseball, a radio recreation of a baseball board game that is actually played in the Boston studios of WITS.
Two players square off over a playing board, dig their spikes into the carpet, roll some dice, and the game is on. Miller and Coleman keep score for the recreation they will later produce in a WITS studio. The production is then aired over the Red Sox Radio Network, with 28 affilliates including several in Maine.
Strat-O-matic baseball, made by the Strat-O-Matic Game Co. Inc. of Glen Head, N.Y., is a board game which uses drawing cards and dice.
The game allows players to pit actual major league baseball teams and actual players against one another. Miller and Coleman use taped crowd noises, bat-and-ball sounds and their own familiar voices for realism. The productions are so realistic that disclaimers are broadcast because stations are swamped with calls from perplexed fans.
'The reaction on opening night was tremendous. People were calling up asking whether the strike was over or what,' said Bob Dow, sports director of WABK in Gardiner. 'We have to run a disclaimer every 30 minutes so people won't call.'
The broadcasts follow the Red Sox regular-season schedule. The first broadcast June 30 began with an ersatz away game against the Yankees in the Bronx, complete with loud cheers from the home crowd for Reggie Jackson and a loud crack of the bat when Jim Rice got a base hit.
The road trip later moved to Baltimore, where the announcers said the weather was hot and muggy as usual, and Baltimore manager Earl Weaver was as feisty as ever.
'I thought it was the genuine thing. It was terrific. I just thought it was the end of the strike,' said Joe Murphy at his State Street news stand in Augusta. 'The way they do it, it seems like the continuation of the season. You can really get wrapped up into it.'
Others aren't quite so enthusiastic.
'I thought it was the real thing at first,' said Susan Braley, 23, an Augusta waitress. 'But then when I found out what it was, I didn't like it. I thought it was kind of dumb.'
'The reaction has been about 50-50,' said Tim Farley, program for WTVL in Waterville. 'Some say it's dumb, some say it's exciting.'
The Red Sox were 6-4 before the All-Star break. WITS will also broadcast a fake All-Star game Tuesday evening.
The station has invited local celebrities to play the games. So far two Boston city councilmen and Boston Bruins President Harry Siden have been guest managers. Their duties include participating in a pre-game show that is aired just prior to the broadcast.
WITS Sports Division President Richard Chmura said the station is broadcasting the fake games to all 28 of its network affiliates -- including WIOD in Miami, Fla., near the Red Sox' spring training headquarters in Winter Haven -- although he doesn't know exactly how many are actually airing the games.
Chmura said WITS will continue the broadcasts until the strike ends or until the end of the season, which ever comes first.
'If you had a choice between Strat-O-Matic and the Red Sox, of course there would be no choice. But for the diehard fans, it's entertaining,' he said.
Joe Murphy, who has been following the Red Sox 'since I can remember,' couldn't agree more.
'It's a lot better than what we've been getting,' he said.