Major League Baseball on the radio

Last updated

Major League Baseball on the radio has been a tradition for almost 80 years, [1] and still exists today. Baseball was one of the first sports to be broadcast in the United States. Every team in Major League Baseball has a flagship station, and baseball is also broadcast on national radio.

The broadcasting of sports events is the live coverage of sports as a television program, on radio, and other broadcasting media. It usually involves one or more sports commentators describing the events as they happen.

Major League Baseball Professional baseball league

Major League Baseball (MLB) is a professional baseball organization and the oldest of the major professional sports leagues in the United States and Canada. A total of 30 teams play in the National League (NL) and American League (AL), with 15 teams in each league. The NL and AL were formed as separate legal entities in 1876 and 1901, respectively. After cooperating but remaining legally separate entities beginning in 1903, the leagues merged into a single organization led by the Commissioner of Baseball in 2000. The organization also oversees Minor League Baseball, which comprises 256 teams affiliated with the major league clubs. With the World Baseball Softball Confederation, MLB manages the international World Baseball Classic tournament.

Baseball team sport

Baseball is a bat-and-ball game played between two opposing teams who take turns batting and fielding. The game proceeds when a player on the fielding team, called the pitcher, throws a ball which a player on the batting team tries to hit with a bat. The objective of the offensive team is to hit the ball into the field of play, allowing it to run the bases—having its runners advance counter-clockwise around four bases to score what are called "runs". The objective of the defensive team is to prevent batters from becoming runners, and to prevent runners' advance around the bases. A run is scored when a runner legally advances around the bases in order and touches home plate. The team that scores the most runs by the end of the game is the winner.



Early period


The first baseball game ever broadcast on radio was a Pittsburgh Pirates versus Philadelphia Phillies game on August 5, 1921. The game was broadcast by KDKA of Pittsburgh, and the Pirates defeated the Phillies 8-5. It was broadcast by KDKA staff announcer Harold Arlin. [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] That year, KDKA and WJZ of Newark broadcast the first World Series on the radio, between the New York Giants and the New York Yankees, with Grantland Rice and Tommy Cowan calling the games for KDKA and WJZ, respectively. [3] [4] [5] However, the broadcasters were not actually present at the game, but simply gave reports from a telegraph wire. [3] In 1922, WJZ broadcast the entire series, with Rice doing play-by-play. [4] [5] For the 1923 World Series, Rice was joined on Westinghouse for the first time by Graham McNamee. [3] [7]

The 1921 Pittsburgh Pirates season was the 40th season of the Pittsburgh Pirates franchise; the 35th in the National League. The Pirates finished second in the league standings with a record of 90–63.

The following lists the events of the 1921 Philadelphia Phillies season.

KDKA (AM) Clear-channel News/Talk radio station in Pittsburgh, PA.

KDKA is a Class A radio station, owned and operated by Entercom and licensed to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Its studios are located at the combined Entercom Pittsburgh facility in the Foster Plaza on Holiday Drive in Green Tree, and its transmitter site is at Allison Park. The station's programming is also carried over KDKA-FM's 93.7 HD2 digital subchannel.

During the 1923 World Series, Rice was the main broadcaster, but during the fourth inning of Game 3, he turned the microphone over to McNamee. [5] [7] This was the start of McNamee's career, and McNamee became the first color commentator. [8] Although frequently criticized for his lack of expertise, McNamee helped popularize baseball. [3] [7] [9] [10]

Color commentator Sports commentator who assists the play-by-play announcer

A color commentator or expert commentator is a sports commentator who assists the play-by-play commentator, typically by filling in when play is not in progress. The phrase "color commentator" is primarily used in American English; the person may be referred to as a summariser or analyst. The color analyst and main commentator will often exchange comments freely throughout the broadcast, when the main commentator is not describing the action. The color commentator provides expert analysis and background information, such as statistics, strategy, and injury reports on the teams and athletes, and occasionally anecdotes or light humor. Color commentators are often former athletes or coaches of the sport being broadcast.


Many owners were still wary. By the 1930s, the two-team cities of Boston, Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Chicago had reached an agreement not to broadcast away games. In other words, if the Boston Braves were at home, listeners could hear that game on the radio, but could not listen to the Boston Red Sox away game. The owners' argument –"they won't come to the park if you give the game away"– was invalidated under this arrangement. The New York owners went one step further: in 1932 they agreed to ban all radio broadcasting –even of visitors' re-creations– from their parks. Larry MacPhail took over the Cincinnati Reds in 1933 and sold a controlling interest in the club to Powel Crosley, owner of two Cincinnati radio stations. It was a match made in economic heaven: MacPhail knew that broadcasting games would promote the team and Crosley could now boost his radio ratings. Their symbiosis is reminiscent of St. Louis beer-garden magnate Chris von der Ahe's takeover of the St. Louis team in order to sell more beer. When MacPhail moved to Brooklyn in 1938, he brought Reds announcer Red Barber with him and broke the New York radio ban. The next year was the first year that all the major league teams broadcast their games. Prophetically, it was also the year of the first televised baseball game.

Boston Red Sox Baseball team and Major League Baseball franchise in Boston, Massachusetts, United States

The Boston Red Sox are an American professional baseball team based in Boston, Massachusetts. The Red Sox compete in Major League Baseball (MLB) as a member club of the American League (AL) East division. The Red Sox have won nine World Series championships, tied for the third-most of any MLB team, and they have played in 13. Their most recent appearance and win was in 2018. In addition, they won the 1904 American League pennant, but were not able to defend their 1903 World Series championship when the New York Giants refused to participate in the 1904 World Series. Founded in 1901 as one of the American League's eight charter franchises, the Red Sox' home ballpark has been Fenway Park since 1912. The "Red Sox" name was chosen by the team owner, John I. Taylor, circa 1908, following the lead of previous teams that had been known as the "Boston Red Stockings", including the forerunner of the Atlanta Braves.

Larry MacPhail American lawyer

Leland Stanford "Larry" MacPhail, Sr. was an American lawyer and an executive in Major League Baseball. He served as an executive with several professional baseball teams, including the Cincinnati Reds, Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Yankees. MacPhail's sons and grandsons were also sports executives. He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1978.

Cincinnati Reds Baseball team and Major League Baseball franchise in Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

The Cincinnati Reds are an American professional baseball team based in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Reds compete in Major League Baseball (MLB) as a member club of the National League (NL) Central division. They were a charter member of the American Association in 1882 and joined the NL in 1890.

In 1935, Baseball Commissioner Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis orchestrated a radio deal that covered the World Series. All three networks were involved, and baseball made US$400,000. Landis, as ever, was imperious; he dismissed Ted Husing as games announcer despite the fact that, with five World Series, Husing was second only to the ubiquitous Graham McNamee in Series-announcing experience. The amount of money involved in baseball broadcasting was growing. Gillette, the razor blade manufacturer and one of the first companies to realize the power of sports as an advertising vehicle, tried to flex its muscles by offering Red Barber a substantial amount to walk out on his Dodger contract and join Gillette on a new Yankees/Giants network. Barber refused. It's no wonder Gillette felt powerful; in 1946 the company was rich enough to sign a 10-year, $14-million deal for exclusive radio sponsorship of the World Series and All-Star Games.

Kenesaw Mountain Landis American judge

Kenesaw Mountain Landis was an American jurist who served as a United States federal judge from 1905 to 1922 and as the first Commissioner of Baseball from 1920 until his death. He is remembered for his handling of the Black Sox scandal, in which he expelled eight members of the Chicago White Sox from organized baseball for conspiring to lose the 1919 World Series and repeatedly refused their reinstatement requests. His firm actions and iron rule over baseball in the near quarter-century of his commissionership are generally credited with restoring public confidence in the game.

The 1935 World Series featured the Detroit Tigers and the Chicago Cubs, with the Tigers winning in six games for their first championship in five Series appearances. They had lost in 1907, 1908, 1909, and 1934.

Ted Husing American sportscaster

Edward Britt "Ted" Husing was an American sportscaster and was among the first to lay the groundwork for the structure and pace of modern sports reporting on television and radio.

Though radio grew quickly as a medium for baseball, many teams were still apprehensive about it, fearing negative effects on attendance. Nevertheless, each team was allowed to reach its own policy by 1932, [5] and the Chicago Cubs broadcast all of their games on WMAQ in 1935. [3] [11] [12] The last holdouts were the New York teamsthe Giants, Dodgers, and Yankees combined to block radio broadcasts of their games until 1938. [3] [5]

Chicago Cubs Baseball team and Major League Baseball franchise in Chicago, Illinois, United States

The Chicago Cubs are an American professional baseball team based in Chicago, Illinois. The Cubs compete in Major League Baseball (MLB) as a member club of the National League (NL) Central division. The team plays its home games at Wrigley Field, located on the city's North Side. The Cubs are one of two major league teams in Chicago; the other, the Chicago White Sox, is a member of the American League (AL) Central division. The Cubs, first known as the White Stockings, were a founding member of the NL in 1876, becoming the Chicago Cubs in 1903.

WMAQ (AM) former clear-channel radio station in Chicago

WMAQ was an AM radio station located in Chicago, Illinois, United States, and broadcast at 670 kHz with 50,000 watts. The station was in existence from 1922 to 2000, and was the oldest surviving broadcast outlet in Chicago. It was a class A clear channel station, and could be heard, particularly at night, over most of the eastern United States. WMAQ was owned in its later years by CBS Radio, but for much of its life it was owned by the National Broadcasting Company (NBC), and later Westinghouse Broadcasting. The station's original owner was the Chicago Daily News newspaper, but its longest-running ownership was as an NBC Radio owned-and-operated station. Its transmitter was located in Bloomingdale, Illinois just off Army Trail Road, with a 238-meter (780-foot) tower where it remains today, with the callsign still on the exterior facade. The AM 670 transmitter is now in use by WMAQ's successor, All Sports Radio WSCR, and remains under the ownership of Entercom, which merged with CBS Radio in 2017.

By the end of this period, radio had become increasingly commercialized. Wheaties started its long relationship with baseball in 1933, [13] and in 1934, sponsorship rights to the World Series were first sold. [14] [15]

Golden age

During the Golden Age of Radio, television sports broadcasting was in its infancy, and radio was still the main form of broadcasting baseball. [12] Many notable broadcasters, such as Mel Allen, Red Barber, Harry Caray, Russ Hodges, Ernie Harwell, and Vin Scully, started in this period.

However, broadcasting still did not look like the way it does todayrecreations of games based on telegrams, the original means of broadcasting, were still widely used. [16] The Liberty Broadcasting System operated solely through recreations of games, because live games were too expensive. [17] Gordon McLendon broadcast games throughout the South from 1948 until 1952, when new blackout regulations forced him to stop. [14] [18] [19] The Mutual Broadcasting System also broadcast a Game of the Day in the 1950s. [14] [20]

Modern period

However, as the Golden Era wound down, radio was gradually eclipsed by television. [12] The World Series continued to be broadcast on the radio, with NBC Radio covering the Series from 1960 1975, and CBS Radio from 19761997. [21] However, after Mutual's Game of the Day ended in 1960 there would not be regular-season baseball broadcast nationally on the radio until 1985, when CBS Radio started a Game of the Week . [22]

Since 1981 the two teams' flagship radio stations were regularly permitted to produce their own local World Series live broadcasts. The affiliate stations in the teams' radio networks continued to be obligated to carry the national broadcasts.

In 1998, national radio broadcasts moved to ESPN Radio. [22] ESPN Radio currently broadcasts games on most weekends. [23] Sister network ESPN Deportes Radio airs Spanish-language coverage of Sunday Night Baseball and the World Series.

Since 2005, Major League Baseball has a partnership with XM Satellite Radio, launching a 24-7 channel MLB Home Plate which carries every major league game. [24] [25] Games are also carried on MLB Gameday Audio. [26]

While all teams maintain a network of stations carrying their games in English, many teams also maintain a Spanish-language network as well. In addition, when the Washington Nationals were based in Montreal as the Montreal Expos, their games were broadcast in both English and French. Selected games of the Los Angeles Dodgers are broadcast in Korean by KMPC. [27]

See also


  1. ^ Detroit's WWJ also claimed to have broadcast the first baseball game, as well as the 1920 World Series. [28]

Related Research Articles

Pittsburgh Pirates Baseball team and Major League Baseball franchise in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States

The Pittsburgh Pirates are an American professional baseball team based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Pirates compete in Major League Baseball (MLB) as a member club of the National League (NL) Central division. The Pirates play their home games at PNC Park; the team previously played at Forbes Field and Three Rivers Stadium, the latter of which was named after its location near the confluence of the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio Rivers. Founded on October 15, 1881 as Allegheny, the franchise has won five World Series championships. The Pirates are also often referred to as the "Bucs" or the "Buccos".

Vin Scully American sportscaster

Vincent Edward Scully is an American retired sportscaster. Scully is best known for his 67 seasons calling games for Major League Baseball's Los Angeles Dodgers, beginning in 1950 and ending in 2016. His run constitutes the longest tenure of any broadcaster with a single team in professional sports history, and he is second only to Tommy Lasorda in terms of number of years associated with the Dodgers organization in any capacity. He retired at age 88 in 2016, ending his record-breaking run as their play-by-play announcer.

Red Barber American radio broadcaster, television broadcaster, sportscaster

Walter Lanier "Red" Barber was an American sports commentator. Barber, nicknamed "The Ol' Redhead", was primarily identified with radio broadcasts of Major League Baseball, calling play-by-play across four decades with the Cincinnati Reds (1934–1938), Brooklyn Dodgers (1939–1953), and New York Yankees (1954–1966). Like his fellow sports pioneer Mel Allen, Barber also gained a niche calling college and professional American football in his primary market of New York City.

Graham McNamee American journalist

Graham McNamee was an American radio broadcaster, the medium's most recognized national personality in its first international decade. He originated play-by-play sports broadcasting for which he was awarded the Ford C. Frick Award by the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2016.

Major League Baseball on NBC is the de facto branding for weekly broadcasts of Major League Baseball (MLB) games produced by NBC Sports, and televised on the NBC television network. Major League Baseball games first aired on the network from 1947 to 1989, when CBS acquired the broadcast television rights; games returned to the network in 1994 with coverage lasting until 2000. There have been several variations of the program dating back to the 1940s, including The NBC Game of the Week and Baseball Night in America.

MLB Network Radio is an American sports talk radio station on Sirius XM Radio that features Major League Baseball related talk shows, as well as archives and live reports.

Major League Baseball on CBS Radio was the de facto title for the CBS Radio Network's coverage of Major League Baseball. Produced by CBS Radio Sports, the program was the official national radio broadcaster for the All-Star Game and the postseason from 1976 to 1997.

1921 in radio details the internationally significant events in radio broadcasting for the year 1921.

Al Helfer American football player

George Alvin "Al" Helfer was an American radio sportscaster.

Major League Baseball on Mutual was the de facto title of the Mutual Broadcasting System's (MBS) national radio coverage of Major League Baseball games. Mutual's coverage came about during the Golden Age of Radio in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. During this period, television sports broadcasting was in its infancy, and radio was still the main form of broadcasting baseball. For many years, Mutual was the national radio broadcaster for baseball's All-Star Game and World Series.

Major League Baseball has several blackout rules. Games are blacked out based on two criteria:

The Los Angeles Dodgers Radio Network is a network that consists of 27 radio stations that air Major League Baseball games of the Los Angeles Dodgers in parts of seven states and one U.S. territory and in three languages. As of June 2012, 20 stations broadcast games in English, while another six broadcast them in Spanish. In 2013, Korean broadcasts were added, making it the only tri-lingual network in Major League Baseball.

The Baltimore Orioles Radio Network comprises 39 stations in five states and the District of Columbia.

Major League Baseball on DuMont refers to the now defunct DuMont Television Network's coverage of Major League Baseball. More specifically, DuMont broadcast the World Series from 1947-1949.

In 1950, the Mutual Broadcasting System acquired the television as well as radio broadcast rights to the World Series and All-Star Game for the next six years. Mutual may have been reindulging in dreams of becoming a television network or simply taking advantage of a long-standing business relationship; in either case, the broadcast rights were sold to NBC in time for the following season's games at an enormous profit.

NBC television's relationship with Major League Baseball technically dates back to August 26, 1939. It was on that particular date that on W2XBS, the first-ever Major League Baseball game was televised. With Red Barber announcing, the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Cincinnati Reds played a doubleheader at Ebbets Field. The Reds won the first game 5–2 while the Dodgers won the second, 6–1. Barber called the game without the benefit of a monitor and with only two cameras capturing the game. One camera was on Barber and the other was behind the plate. Barber had to guess from which light was on and where it pointed.


  1. Walker and Hughes, James R. and Pat (1 May 2015). Crack of the Bat: A History of Baseball on the Radio. U of Nebraska Press.
  2. KDKA Firsts
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 On the Air
  4. 1 2 3 TSB Heritage Archived 2007-09-28 at the Wayback Machine
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Radio and its Impact on the Sports World
  6. First Radio Broadcast of a Baseball Game
  7. 1 2 3 RW Special Report
  8. Frick winner to be announced [ permanent dead link ]
  9. Book Review
  10. Voices TIME , October 3, 1927
  11. A look back at the Q. Archived 2007-09-27 at the Wayback Machine
  12. 1 2 3 Baseball, Radio, and Jackie Robinson Archived 2007-07-03 at the Wayback Machine
  13. General Mills: History of Innovation Archived 2010-02-15 at the Wayback Machine
  14. 1 2 3 Diz by Robert Gregory ISBN   0-670-82141-1
  15. Summer 1997: 75 Years of National Baseball Broadcasts Archived 2007-06-25 at
  16. Radio Baseball That Never Was...
  17. Gordon McLendon
  18. The Liberty Broadcasting System
  19. End of LibertyTIME, June 9, 1952
  20. Flashing Back...
  21. "Voices of the World Series: Television and Radio". Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2007-07-15.
  22. 1 2 Major League Baseball CBS Radio History
  23. MLB on ESPN Radio
  25. MLB Home Plate FAQs Archived 2007-09-26 at the Wayback Machine
  26. Gameday Audio
  28. PioneerTIME, September 3, 1945