Schuster: Television and baseball, a modest beginning

From SABR member Joe Schuster at The National Pastime Museum on August 23, 2017:

In season, it’s nearly impossible to be out of range of a televised Major League Baseball game, whether through a cable or satellite service courtesy of one of the sport’s billion- or multibillion-dollar local or national broadcasting contracts or streaming through mlb-dot-tv. Even Facebook is part of our TV connection to America’s pastime since, this year, it has a deal allowing it to stream a game every Friday.

Despite how ubiquitous the sport is on screens these days, baseball’s initial entry into television was slow and modest.

First, to put its earliest connection to the medium into historical context: Engineers began experimenting with TV broadcasting in the 1920s, and in April 1939 RCA formally introduced television broadcasting in the United States at the World’s Fair in New York. RCA transmitted programming to homes in the New York area that had receivers, as well as to fairgoers who stood in line outside an exhibit hall for a chance to see five minutes of a broadcast of what the New York Times was then calling, “sight-seeing by radio.” At the end of the first week, the Times reported, more than 50,000 people had seen the exhibit.

It didn’t take long for baseball to try out the medium: Roughly four months later, on August 26, 1939, Major League Baseball debuted on television with a doubleheader in Brooklyn between the Dodgers and the Cincinnati Reds.

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Originally published: August 23, 2017. Last Updated: August 23, 2017.