Rosen: 1939 baseball broadcast with Walter Johnson captures a crueler, simpler game

From Armin Rosen at The Atlantic on April 2, 2013, with mention of SABR member Bob Boynton:

On Thursday, September 21st, 1939, Washington, D.C.’s WJSV decided to record an entire day of broadcasting. They captured a major address by President Roosevelt, as well as Aunt Jenny’s Real Life Stories, the Ask-It Basket, and 30 minutes of a performance by New Orleans Jazz great Louis Prima. And they preserved the last five innings of a baseball game at Washington’s Griffith Stadium, whose former site is now occupied by Howard University Hospital, played between the first iteration of the Washington Senators (a dismal 63-83 at the time), who are now the Minnesota Twins, and the Cleveland Indians.

Heard today, the voices in this broadcast originate on the other side of an unbridgeable distance of time and culture. But they speak a language that present-day baseball fans can nevertheless recognize. I’ve encountered no other cultural artifact that makes the game’s history seem more jarringly immediate or real. And I’ve found few others that so clearly rebut the nostalgia and idealization that dominates American society’s engagement with the game’s past.

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Originally published: April 2, 2013. Last Updated: April 2, 2013.