September 2006

Broadcasting the World Series

In 1921 Pittsburgh station KDKA was the first station to broadcast a baseball game, though baseball and radio had both been around for years. After all, baseball owners thought, who would pay to come to a game that they could hear for free?

Of course broadcasted baseball was a success. Baseball didn’t collapse, and people still filled the stands. (Today how often do you see fans in their seats with headphones on? Many ballparks broadcast the play-by-play in restrooms and on concourses so that fans don’t miss any of the action.) But before 1934, Major League Baseball charged no fee for the rights to broadcast games, let alone the World Series.

That changed on September 13, 1934 when Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis sold the rights to broadcasting the 1934 World Series to the Ford Motor Company for $100,000.

The first televised baseball game was a game between Princeton and Columbia on May 17, 1939 (Princeton won 2-1 at Columbia’s Baker Field.) One camera covered the third-base line for the game – a big change from cameras in front of home plate, on catchers’ helmets, and numerous replay cameras all over big-league stadiums today, right? But the technology of television was limited to Americans at the time. In 1948 there were only 190,000 television sets in households.

It was the broadcast of sports that brought the growth of televisions in America. NBC Sports broadcasting pioneer Harry Coyle said that "Television got off the ground because of sports…When we (meaning NBC) put on the World Series in 1947 (among other sporting events) television sales just spurted." And that they did, from 190,000 sets in 1948 to 10.5 million television sets in use in 1950.

Baseball and media since then have always been linked, from the Game of the Week to televised baseball on NBC, CBS, ABC, ESPN, and Fox. In September 2000, Fox Broadcasting purchased the rights to show Saturday baseball games, All-Star Games, selected Division Series, both Championship Series, and the World Series (and recently signed an extension through the 2013 season) worth $2.5 billion. An increase of 25,000% from Commissioner Landis’ post-season rights in 1934.

This is just one of the aspects of the Business of Baseball, the Baseball Hall of Fame Education Department’s standards-based thematic unit on economics, suitable for grades 3-8 (but can be expanded for grades 9-12). If you would like to schedule a videoconference or an on-site visit for your class to participate in this module and 12 others, give us a call at 607.547.0347 or e-mail us today!

1918 World Series – Game 1

1918wsprogramOn this date – September 5, 1918 – Boston pitcher Babe Ruth took the mound versus Chicago’s Hippo Vaughn in the first game of the annual "Fall Classic," though it was played a little bit earlier than normal. Why was the World Series being played earlier? It was the first of many times that baseball would respond to the country’s call to arms.

Major League Baseball had ended the 1918 season on Labor Day due to the "Work or Fight" order as baseball went to war. As Dan Holmes describes in his article, baseball was not considered an essential industry for the war effort, and many players had jobs either in the service or in factories waiting on them when the season was over.

So the World Series began on September 5. The Boston Red Sox met the Chicago Cubs at Comiskey Park – not Weeghman Park where the Cubs played their home games in 1918 – because of the increased seating at Comiskey before 19,274 fans. Babe Ruth – who won 13 games, batted over .300, and led the league with 11 home runs – had split time in the regular season in both the outfield and on the pitcher’s mound. He faced the Cubs’ Hippo Vaughn, whose 22 wins led the National League.

While Ruth and Vaughn both pitched complete games, it was Ruth’s Red Sox who struck for the first (and only) time in Game 1. Red Sox 1st baseman Stuffy McInnis drove in 2nd baseman Dave Shean in the 4th inning for the only run in the 1-0 Red Sox win. While that solitary run – and the pitcher’s duel – was exciting, it was what happened in the 7th inning stretch that started a tradition lasting 88 years…and counting.

In the middle of the 7th inning with a tight game on the line as Chicago’s 8-9-1 hitters were ready to bat, a military band walked on the field and played the "Star Spangled Banner." From that point forward, the song (though not adopted as the National Anthem until 1931) was played at every World Series game and every home opener.

The Red Sox won that opening game 1-0, and the World Series (their last championship until 2004) four games to two over the Cubs. The Star Spangled Banner, though played situationally during the season, was not played before every game until another time of war, World War II, when patriotism was among its highest levels and ballplayers lined up to serve their country (and after baseball-wide installation of public address systems was complete). Today our National Anthem is played before every game, and God Bless America is performed during every World Series game, as well as many regular season games.

This is just one of the topics that the Education Department covers in our standards-based educational modules covering American History as the game of baseball is inextricably linked with the history of our country through wartime and peace. To participate in either a videoconference or an on-site visit, e-mail us or call 607.547.0347.