Keene: Major-leaguers recall memories of the first televised baseball games

From SABR member Anne Keene at the Saturday Evening Post on August 26, 2019:

“Television made sports,” says Dodgers pitcher Carl Erskine, 92, who came up in the Boys of Summer era. “If there was ever a marriage that you could say two became one, you’d have to give television huge credit for taking the game America has loved right into your living room.”

Eighty years ago, on August 26, 1939, NBC aired the first Major League Baseball game on television. “Red” Barber called the Brooklyn Dodgers-Cincinnati Reds double-header at Ebbets Field, where a pair of “electric eyes” transported grainy black and white images of players about one-inch tall to a Kindle-sized screen.

Big league ballclubs like the New York Yankees were initially leery of the “magical” radio-plus boxes introduced that year at the World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows Park. Millions toured RCA’s “World of Tomorrow” showcase — some thought television was a trick.

Dodgers president Larry MacPhail, one of the most enterprising minds of baseball, jumped at the chance to televise the first major league game. As a tradeoff, MacPhail received a free television set for the Dodgers’ press room where reporters and club execs marveled at the screen that brought the game to millions.

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Originally published: August 27, 2019. Last Updated: August 27, 2019.