Memories from the Mic
At the time, few people could foresee the pivotal role baseball broadcasting would one day play in American culture.
On Aug. 5, 1921, Harold Arlin provided the play-by-play for the first baseball game ever broadcast on the radio. He bought a seat at Pittsburgh’s Forbes Field, converted a telephone to a microphone and broadcast the game on KDKA, America’s first licensed radio station, as the Pirates defeated the Phillies 8-5.
Two months later, on Oct. 5, 1921, Tommy Cowan broadcast the first World Series game between the Giants and Yankees from a studio, with a newspaperman onsite at the Polo Grounds relaying the play-by-play to him via phone.
“It was so successful, there was no World Series broadcast the next year,” Red Barber quipped in his 1978 Ford C. Frick Award acceptance speech.
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Early on, team owners were skeptical of the viability of radio broadcasting, fearing it would discourage fans from attending games in person. But by 1939, all 16 teams were on the radio, enabling fans to bring their favorite team’s games into their own homes on a regular basis.
The Curse Breakers
For fans in Boston and Chicago, it’d be tough to top the calls that ended their respective 86 and 108-year championship droughts.
Joe Castiglione narrated the Red Sox’ curse-breaking victory over the Cardinals in 2004.
“Swing and a ground ball, stabbed by Foulke. He has it, he underhands to first – and the Boston Red Sox are the world champions! For the first time in 86 years, the Red Sox have won baseball’s world championship! Can you believe it?”
Joe Buck was on the call as the Cubs defeated the Cleveland Indians in Game 7 of the 2016 Fall Classic.
“Here's the 0-1. This is gonna be a tough play, Bryant. The Cubs…win the World Series! Bryant makes the play! It’s over, and the Cubs have finally won it all! 8-7 in 10!”
To continue reliving baseball’s storied past through the eyes of famed broadcasters, order your copy of Curt Smith’s book, Memories from the Microphone: A Century of Baseball Broadcasting, by clicking here.
Janey Murray is the digital content specialist at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum