As a kid in the 1950s, I used to look forward to watching the Saturday afternoon Major League Baseball Game of the Week with my dad. He would sit back on the sofa and I would lay on the floor in front of our black and white television as the game appeared before us. Unless we were out camping, fishing or hunting, we rarely missed watching the baseball game every Saturday afternoon. At other times, we would listen to baseball games on the radio. Oh how I miss listening to real sports announcers like the ones back then as opposed to the sports commentators of today who can’t shut up or actually announce what’s happening in the game instead of everything else. Today, I not only watch the game of the week, but also follow my favorite team on television and often think back to the days of watching the games with my dad.
On the day, August 26, 1939, the very first major league baseball game was aired on W2XBS television, which eventually became WNBC-4 in New York. As over 33,000 people packed into Ebbets Field, home of the Brooklyn Dodgers (yes the Dodgers were originally in Brooklyn, New York), W2XBS, based out of the Empire State Building, had two television camera’s tuned up for the first of a doubleheader game between the Brooklyn Dodgers and Cincinnati Reds. At the microphone was Dodger radio announcer Red Barber who had no idea which camera view was being aired at the time of his announcing.
For those of you who may be asking, the Reds won the game by a score of 5-2 and the Dodgers won the second game 6-1.
Another note of trivia is that in 1949, Brooklyn Dodger Announcer Red Barber (1939-1953) was impressed with a young man’s radio broadcast of a University of Maryland versus Boston University at Fenway Park in Boston. The young man was Vin Scully and by 1950, Scully was part of the Dodger broadcasting team and has been announcing Dodger games continuously for the past 67 years. This year is Scully’s final year broadcasting and at 88 years of age, he’ll be 89 in November, he is long overdue for a restful retirement. Scully is one, if not the last real sports announcer left and will be sorely missed.
Television was still new and not very popular. It was estimated at the time that only about 400 television sets existed in New York at the time of the broadcast. Regular network broadcasting didn’t really exist for another 6 years. Once regular network broadcasting became a regular thing in 1946, television sets also became more popular and in the mid-1950s, we were excited to have our black and white television set with which I would watch the Saturday baseball game with my dad and sometimes older brothers. The popularization of television is directly credited with the increased popularity of Major League Baseball which saw a season record crowd of 21 million less than ten years after the original broadcast on this day in 1939. In 2015, television revenue was reported to be worth nearly $9.5 billion a year.
Sources for the above includes: 75 Years Ago Today, the First Major League Baseball Game Was Televised; First Televised Major League Baseball Game; Lights, Camera, Acrimony: Baseball’s First Televised Game Changed Everything; 1939: First Major League Baseball Game Airs On TV; First Day for the Small Screen; MLB Sees Record Revenues For 2015, Up $500 Million And Approaching $9.5 Billion