Just in time for baseball season, Dave Miska ’95 tells us how he captures the perfect game day sounds for The Cubs Radio Network.
Dave Miska’s dad listened to a lot of baseball. When he was growing up, they’d listen to games in the garage—often listening to Harry Caray’s iconic announcing for the Chicago Cubs.
Today, Miska works from Caray’s old office at Wrigley Field.
As a Sound Recording student at Columbia College Chicago, Miska thought he’d record rock-and-roll albums. Today, he’s a sound engineer for The Cubs Radio Network. At his job, he selects and mixes the perfect sounds to capture the ballpark for radio listeners, from the crack of the bat to the hum of the crowd. He’s been a part of Cubs history—including broadcasting the unforgettable game seven of the 2016 World Series, when the Cubbies broke their 108-year losing streak and Chicago went wild celebrating their new world champs.
As baseball season swings into action, we got Miska’s reflections on last season and predictions for the next.
How is listening to a baseball game on the radio different from watching it on TV?
The announcers have to paint this picture, they have to make you picture it in your mind. And that's where we come in with certain microphones that capture bat cracks or the catcher's mitt or sliding.
So I think it's more of theater of the mind. We have to be the ones to lead people to the story and tell them what's happening. The announcers really do a great job, down to [describing] the guy's beard or his pants or how the guy's standing. That's all part of what has to come through on the radio.
How do you choose the sounds to capture the feel of the ballpark?
You kind of create a composite of [the park]. What I try to do is ask, what am I hearing at the window? What would I hear if I were sitting in the seats? Say you were sitting ten rows behind home plate—that's what I would like to try to capture. Crowd sounds, the whole ambience of the ballpark.
Put a baseball game on the radio and you can probably tell how it's going, you know? You can hear when the game's exciting. If the Cubs are losing 12-1, you can hear a beer vendor, because it'll be so quiet. All of that tells you the story.
What do you like about baseball?
People complain that it's a slow game, but I think that there's sort of a beauty in the tradition of it. I like that you're forced to slow down. You're forced to think differently. You're forced to become part of that. I think the world just moves too quick sometimes.
Each game finds its own speed. No two baseball games are the same. Sometimes they're fast. Sometimes you get an hour and 50 minutes and it's over. And then sometimes they take four hours. But it has to find its own way.
Will the World Series win change the way people think about baseball in Chicago?
Nationally it's going to be different because the Cubs aren't the lovable losers anymore. They always had that reputation, “Well, maybe next year, maybe next year.” Now I think you're going to start to see them as the giant to be knocked off. They're not the cute lovable Cubbies anymore, you know? You make a mistake against that team and you're in a lot of trouble.
How do you think that the Cubs will do this year?
Repeating [a World Series win] is very, very difficult. Only a few teams have ever really done it. I can't say that they're going to win it all again, but there’s no reason on paper why this team shouldn't march all the way to the Series. They're a really, really good baseball team. They're going to be that way for a few years. While a repeat might be a tall order, it's not out of the realm of possibility. If any team can do that, this team is set up to do it. I think you're set up here for a few years of really, really exciting baseball on the north side.
What advice would you give to alumni looking to get into your field?
Take every opportunity you can. No job is beneath you. I set out to make rock-and-roll records and here I am doing sports broadcasting. Sometimes you find something you never thought you'd be great at and it can change your whole life.