Today is a special day for the baseball fan and Major League Baseball. 75 years ago today, August 26 2014, the first baseball game was televised. On August 26 1939, baseball and television became one as a doubleheader between the Brooklyn Dodgers and Cincinnati Reds was televised from Ebbets Field.
Prior to August 26 1939 fan could only watch their favorite teams or players by actually going to a game. Other than that, fans had to listen on the radio or read the box score in the next day’s newspaper. The honor of broadcasting the first televised baseball game fell to Red Barber. Barber was given the task of broadcasting with the help of only two cameras to catch all the action. The first camera provided a view from above home plate while the other picked up all the infield action.
W2XBS, a fledgling network in New York City earned the honor of broadcasting what would become a national rite of passage, watching televised baseball. The station would eventually become WNBC-TV New York. The legendary announcer, Vin Scully, had a chance to talk about the first televised baseball game although it was only for a couple of minutes during a broadcast on August 26 2012.
Video Courtesy of MLB.com’s 2012 Highlights
The result of the first games ever televised was a split as the Reds won the first game, 5-2, and the Dodgers took game two, 6-1. Clearly fans did not see the close ups, slow motion and other items that we all take for granted today. There was no slow motion of Yasiel Puig hitting a home run or strikeout box to show where a David Price fastball was placed. Instead they were able watch baseball from their homes and that alone was huge. Cameras in the late 1930s were not exactly built with technology that handled fast motion like the ball or swinging of the bat very well. To the fan, that did not matter, it was all about being able to watch a game.
The first baseball game drew a viewership of 3,000 homes. By comparison the World Series last year drew over 14 million viewers. It is amazing how technology, economics and the years have changed how we view the game that we love. Just take a minute tonight, while watching any of the televised games throughout the country, and remember how lucky we are that “America’s Pastime” can come right into your home.