August 26 is the anniversary of the first television broadcast of professional baseball, in 1939; the future-legendary Red Barber called a doubleheader between his Brooklyn Dodgers and the Cincinnati Reds from Ebbets field.
Both games were carried on experimental television station W2XBS, which evolved into New York’s NBC affiliate Channel 2, WNBC. Two stationary cameras were used, in contrast to the several used in modern broadcasts — and it was in black and white. About 3,000 people are estimated to have watched.
The Reds won the opener, 5-2, but the Dodgers roared back in game 2, 6-1.
In 1939, the broadcast was inspired by the New York World’s Fair, which showcased television, though there were perhaps only 400 television sets in the New York area. Baseball on television didn’t really take off until after World War II, with many games scheduled in 1946. Today, all 30 major league teams are scheduled to play on TV.
Ebbets field is gone. The Dodgers absconded to Los Angeles in the 1950s. Baseball games are in color.
Red Barber is gone, too. We have great play-by-play guys, and wonderful color commentators. There will never be another Red Barber though. Below is an old post noting Barber’s ways with typewriters.
The great Red Barber, when his hair was still red, working at his typewriter, with a volume of Roget’s Thesaurus close by.
Many of us knew Red chiefly through his weekly chats with Bob Edwards at NPR’s Morning Edition. The biographies say Red died in 1992. That was 19 years ago — it seems more recent than that. (Edwards left Morning Edition in 2004.)
It may be ironic to show Barber at his typewriter. He would be more accurately portrayed, perhaps, behind a microphone at a baseball park.
From 1939 through 1953 Barber served as the voice of the Brooklyn Dodgers. He was working for the New York Yankees when he retired in 1966. Barber had the distinction of broadcasting baseball’s first night game on May 24, 1935 in Cincinnati and the sport’s first televised contest on August 26, 1939 in Brooklyn.
During his 33-year career Barber became the recognized master of baseball play-by-play, impressing listeners as a down-to-earth man who not only informed but also entertained with folksy colloquialisms such as “in the catbird seat,” “pea patch,” and “rhubarb” which gave his broadcasts a distinctive flavor. (Radio Hall of Fame)
- Red Barber’s biography at the Radio Hall of Fame
- Bob Edwards on his NPR conversations with Barber
- Listing at “Baseball Voices,” featuring audio of some of his famous broadcasts
- Typewriter of the moment: An old one, manual or electric (yours?) (timpanogos.wordpress.com)
- Vin Scully Speaks With ‘CBS Sunday Morning’ (losangeles.cbslocal.com)