Seventy five years
ago people would have to either attend a sporting event or read the newspaper
to find out about the results of baseballand football games, tennis and
boxing matches, horse and boat races or other sports activities.
1920 was the year that
brought sporting events to the ears of the people through spark transmitters,
code, and the converted telephone (the microphone of today). A year later,
in 1921, the first popular priced home radio receiver was produced by
Westinghouse for about $60.00, not including head sets or loud speakers.
Thus, radio promoted the popularity of sports as the audience could be
in their homes and share in the thrills of a game.
On August 5th, 1921,
radio's first professional baseball game was sent over the air waves by
the country's first radio station, KDKA in Pittsburgh, PA. Harold Arlin
described the play-by-play contest of 7 walks and 21 hits from the field
to the broadcasting station. For one hour and fifty-seven minutes the
radio audience listened to Harold Arlin use his eyes, ears, brain, a wireless
telegraph and a converted telephone to recount the defeat of the Philadelphia
Pirates (8 to 5) by the National League Pittsburgh Corsairs.
Arlin was also the
first man to broadcast a tennis match and give first play-by-play account
of a football game (University of West Virginia and University of Pittsburgh).
As a result of Arlin yelling so loudly on one touchdown, he knocked the
station off the air.
Until the 1920's there
were only written descriptions of the games. But with the beginning of
radio, the sports broadcaster made the game come alive by painting pictures
with words and also using props for sound effects. A hollow block of wood
tapped with a stick or a pencil was used for the sound of a bat hitting
the ball, the placement of a microphone near an open window where a group
of extras were hired to cheer and shout upon signal, or the use of a canned
sound track of cheering, with the broadcaster adjusting the volume for
effect, reached the listeners who were miles away. It made the audience
feel that they were at the event.
The sports broadcaster
was and is like an artist or poet. On TV a sportscaster with his/her commentary
provides the captions for the picture. But on radio the sportscaster has
to make the listener see with their mind's eye. It becomes a canvas and
it is a challenge to the sportscaster to paint the picture with words
of the action that he is viewing. The listener puts his own brush strokes
on this painting by bringing their experience and imagination into play,
thus completing the picture.
The great broadcasters
have always preferred radio. For many people, long after the details of
a game are forgotten, the voices and phrases of the broadcaster are remembered;
the Mel Allens, Red Barbers, Jack Brickhouses, Don Dunphys, Graham McNamees,
Bill Sterns, Harry Carays, Russ Hodges, Vin Scullys, Dizzy Deans, Phil
Rizzutos, and many others who brought the game alive. Who can forget the
phrases of "Holy Cow!", "They're Off!", "Going,
Going, Gone!", "Say Hey!", "How about that?",
"How sweet it is!", "Oh my!", "Bye, bye baby",
and of course Rus Hodges' cry of "The Giants Win the Pennant! The
Giants Win the Penant!" after Bobby Thomson's line drive into the
lower deck of the left-field stands to clinch the series for the Giants
With the advent of
radio a new career was born, that of the sports broadcaster. Many young
people would dream of becoming the next Red Barber, Mel Allen, Vince Scully,