Rosey Rowswell

Albert Kennedy Rowswell attached himself to his hometown Pittsburgh Pirates at a young age and grew up as one of the club’s biggest fans. After he achieved many a young boy’s dream by becoming the Pirates’ first radio broadcaster in 1936, Rowswell never lost that youthful exuberance and love for his favorite team.

Rowswell, affectionately nicknamed “Rosey” by his many fans, was a former secretary at Pittsburgh’s Third Presbyterian Church. He began his sports broadcast career by interviewing future Hall of Famers Max Carey, Bill McKechnie and Honus Wagner for a Red Cross fundraiser in 1922. The Pirates were one of the last teams to adopt radio, and gave Rowswell his shot at doing road games from ticker tape in 1936. By 1938, he was live on the scene at home games, a post he would joyfully serve in until his death.

Rowswell was the ultimate local favorite, and just like his listeners he was unabashed about his love for the Bucs. In 1925, well before he was hired to be their radio voice, the World Champion Pirates gave Rowswell a gold watch and honored him as their number one fan. His passion only amplified later behind the mic, as Commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis once told Rowswell, “Why, they tell me there are people living in Pittsburgh who don’t even know the names of the other seven teams in the National League.”

“Judge,” Rowswell replied, “I just try to educate the fans to love the Pirates as much as I do.”

Rowswell turned baseball broadcasts into something resembling more of a variety hour. His home run calls were among the most famous in America: When a Pirate connected with a pitch, he would blow on his slide whistle and yell, “Raise the window, Aunt Minnie! Here it comes, here she (the baseball) comes!” A station aide would drop a pane of glass to mimic a window shattering, and Rowswell would deadpan, “Too bad, she tripped over a garden hose. Aunt Minnie never made it home.”

Rowswell recreating one of his old broadcasts. BL-276.81 (National Baseball Hall of Fame Library)

Swing-and-miss pitches were “dipsy doodles” in Rowswell’s vernacular; “doosey marooneys” were extra-base hits and “FOB” meant the bases were “full of Bucs.” Sometimes there would even be silence on the air as Rowswell walked around his chair to bring the Pirates good luck.

Rowswell’s performances registered with the Pittsburgh community. He once attracted a crowd of 5,000 women to see him recreate a Pirates game in the KDKA studio, and thousands more received his ‘Happy Birthday’ wishes over the air.

“He was the Pirates’ MVP, the blithe spirit who brought fans into the park despite mediocre performances,” wrote Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph reporter Harry Keck. “His patter over the airways meant more to the box office than Ralph Kiner’s big bat.”

During Rowswell’s 18 years on the mic, the Pirates never approached a pennant, but you could hardly tell from his broadcasts. Players like Kiner, Arky Vaughn and Lloyd and Paul Waner were heroes through his voice; whether they ultimately won or lost didn’t seem to matter.

In February 1955, Rowswell was preparing for his 20th year on the Pirates call when he passed away from kidney failure at age 71. He was buried in the Steel City’s Allegheny Cemetery.

2016 Ford C. Frick Award Ballot

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