The first baseball radio broadcast was on August 5, 1921. The game was broadcast by KDKA of Pittsburgh, and the Pittsburgh Pirates defeated the Philadelphia Phillies, 8-5. It was broadcast by Harold Arlin, KDKA's announcer. That year, KDKA and WJZ of Newark broadcast the first World Series on the radio. However, the broadcasters were not actually present at the game, but simply gave reports from a telegraph wire (recreation).
In those days many radio stations often did not have the budgets or technology to broadcast games live from the park. Instead, stations would re-create the games in studio. A telegraph operator would transmit the information back to the studio from the ball park where broadcasters and engineers would recreate game action from the ticker tape. Crowd noise, the crack of the bat, the umpire on the field and other sounds of the game were all manufactured in the studio as the game was being played live elsewhere.
The number of times these re-creations were broadcast was relatively small, but their early creativity and ingenuity continue to capture the imagination of modern-day fans accustomed to live baseball action on radio, television and the Internet. Interruptions in the telegraphy reports would lead to an immediate "rain delay" announcement at the station to mask the problem.
Radio broadcasters recreated baseball games in their studios from information received by telegraphy transmission. (Courtesy of the National Baseball Hall of Fame Library)
At the Polo Grounds, New York, in 1921. G. A. Falzer, gives a play-by-play account of the game over the phone which was recreated in the radio station studios and broadcast.
I received my first fulltime announcing job in 1951 at KVVC, Ventura, CA. We were a 1,000-watt directional station (two towers) broadcasting from a bean field on the edge of town. The cramped studio-transmitter building, a cracker box block structure with a flat roof and dusty parking, also housed our manager, offices, and sales staff.
There I was, trusted behind a microphone, operating a transmitter as a “combo-man.” I loved every minute reading commercials and news, playing 78-rpm records, and 16-inch electrical transcriptions (ET) where I got to say--like the big-voiced announcers on the networks: “The following program is transcribed.”
In the early ‘50s, Ventura had a professional baseball team (a farm club) in the California C League. We broadcast games live via telephone lines from Ventura’s Seaside Park, and when Ventura played nearby Santa Barbara. League teams were spread throughout California.
A couple of years ago you posted my story about re-creating baseball games back in the 1950. It was a piece I wrote for RADIO WORLD MAGAZINE several years ago that involved Ventura and Modesto. WBUR, Boston, found the story a couple of weeks ago on your site and used in its Oct 19 "Only A Game" broadcast heard on 200-plus radio stations. They did a nice job in both print and audio. Thought you'd like to know. If you hadn't posted my piece, WBUR would never have found it. Thanks for making my day. Just thought you'd like to know. You've got a great radio museum. Keep up the good work.
(aka western author Big Jim Williams)
PS--The late Bob Mohr, a great Modesto sports broadcaster, was a longtime friend. We had worked together in Ventura radio years back. I too miss Bob, a nice guy.
Ronald Reagan was a WHO Radio Announcer in Des Moines, Iowa. Ca. 1934. As part of his broadcasts he would call Chicago Cubs and White Sox games. (Courtesy of the National Archives & Gameday Radio.Net)