72 years ago today, on Saturday, August 26, 1939, the first televised Major League Baseball game in history was broadcast. In fact the first TWO major league games were televised, as it was a doubleheader* between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Cincinnati Reds.
Your blogger at a Brooklyn Dodger exhibition at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, 1984.
Legendary broadcaster Red Barber was the announcer for the games, which were seen on W2XBS, the station now known as WNBC in New York City. Just 3 months earlier the same station televised the first baseball game of any kind — a college game between Princeton and Columbia Universities.
The teams split the doubleheader at Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field, with Cincinnati winning the first game 5-2 and the Dodgers winning the second, 6-1.
Apparently, only two cameras were used, but there are differing reports on what they showed. It’s agreed that one was stationed behind home plate – some say it was from a high angle to show a wide shot of the field. The second camera may have been near the third base line to show throws to first base… or the second camera may have been on announcer Red Barber himself. Either way, to make the historic day even harder, Barber had no monitor and couldn’t see what the viewers were seeing.
It must have been a success because today Major League Baseball is practically run by television; the length of breaks between innings is dictated by TV commercials and all World Series games are at night.
*Doubleheader: A doubleheader was when two baseball teams played two games in one day, with fans paying just a single admission to see both games. It was once a common occurrence until major league baseball realized they were not maximizing their revenue. Now, on the rare occasion of a doubleheader, the stadium is cleared and a second admission is charged.
37 years ago tonight, on Monday, April 8, 1974, baseball slugger Hank Aaron hit his 715th career home run, breaking Babe Ruth’s record.
It was a TV event.
Atlanta Braves right fielder Henry “Hank” Aaron began the 1974 season just one career home run behind the legendary Babe Ruth. In his first at bat of the season, in Cincinnati against the Reds, Aaron hit #714 tying the “Bambino.” Days later a crowd of more than 53,000 crammed into Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium to see Aaron and the Braves play the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Still photo taken off my TV at home as Hank Aaron follows through in his historic at-bat, April 8, 1974.
As I watched the game on national TV with my Dad, and his friend Gene Flanagan, the excitement was palpable… And in the 4th inning Aaron went deep off Dodgers pitcher Al Downing. Aaron’s historic home run went over the left field wall and into the home team’s bullpen where it was caught by Braves’ reliever Tom House.
After the 1974 season Hank Aaron was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers so he could finish his major league career, as a designated hitter, in the city where it began. In total Aaron hit 755 career home runs.
In the mid-2000s some media reported that Hank Aaron’s career home run record had been surpassed by a player from a west coast team. When that has been proven, I will be happy to acknowledge it. Until then, in MY book, Hank Aaron remains major league baseball’s all-time home run champ.
In 1982 Aaron was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, with 97.8% of the ballots cast. (No player in history has ever received 100%)
In 2001 Hank Aaron was presented with the Presidential Citizens Medal by President Bill Clinton… and in 2002, Aaron received the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush.