Spread the love

How Broadcasting Has Changed


On-Deck Photographers

This clip from the first Boston Braves game of the 1935 season shows Babe Ruth collecting a single and home run in his team debut (he was involved in all of the Boston runs in the 4-2 victory). Of course, it is remarkable to see the Babe in a Braves uniform. But the clip also shows how close photographers were often allowed to stand on the field of play (sometimes in mortal danger of a potential foul ball) in order to obtain their shot. The picture below of photographers shooting Joe DiMaggio’s hit streak is almost impossible to believe. What happens if he fouls a line shot toward the first base dugout? 

In the Ruth video, we see photographers in trench coats scurrying about in an attempt to photograph Ruth as he heads to first, and later, rounds the bases. 

Ruth started strong but cooled off quickly in 1935, eventually announcing his retirement in June. Ruth played only 28 games that season hitting just .181, although he still managed a reasonable .359 OBP and 790 OPS.

Video Copyright Major League Baseball


Watching Hank From Center

Games broadcast in the 1950s and ’60s frustratingly stick with the camera situated above home plate to show the action on the field. Strangely, they had the option of using the centerfield camera had they wanted. Most of the action from the 1957 World Series uses the topdown camera but here we see a rare glimpse from center. Broadcaster Mel Allen seems a bit apologetic about the angle, telling viewers that the mound looks closer to the plate than it really is.

The question is surely, why did it take so long for the switch? The angle seems far superior from center as we can see the pitching motion, batter’s swing, catcher’s signs and often whether the pitch was a strike or ball (Although the various computerized strike zones on broadcasts now have shown us perhaps we knew less than we thought).

Here we have a nice view of  a powerful home run from a young Henry Aaron as he drills a fastball over the fence to the opposite field. Also notable is Don Larsen’s rather angled stretch position.

Video Copyright Major League Baseball


Boys of Innocence

These days baseball players on TV always seem to stay in character.  But in this 1961 Giants-Reds game, we see the San Francisco players displaying a kind of innocence rarely seen anymore. A TV camera pointed at their dugout was apparently still a novelty.  

Video Copyright Major League Baseball  


Back with Time to Spare

A number of interesting things to note from this brief clip of Game 7 of the 1965 World Series. The first is how early NBC is back from commercial break. These days, of course, the networks cut it so close they occasionally will miss the first pitch of the new inning as they attempt to milk each second out of a commercial break. Here, NBC leisurely returns from commercial with enough time to watch Johnny Klippstein warm up.

Also interesting to hear Vin Scully mention that the NBC broadcast was in color. Only about 6% of Americans owned color sets at the time, which is probably why this clip is in black and white. NBC went to all-color programming the next year, as the Peacock helped spur Americans to purchase more sets.

Amazing to contemplate that the legendary Scully was already in his 15th year of Major League broadcasting at the time of this recording, although he had not yet mastered some of the new Latino player names. Here,  Zoilo Versalles has his name butchered.

Copyright Major League Baseball


Man of the People

During Game 3 of the World Series, Tony Kubek interviews Governor Nelson Rockefeller, who at this point still had presidential ambitions.  Unfortunately, Rockefeller calls the Yankee great “Tommy” and the ballpark, “THE Shea Stadium” before reviewing some Met highlights.  

Video Copyright Major League Baseball 


Odd New TV Visuals

No doubt that when baseball fans in the 2050’s look back at current broadcasts, a lot of the special effects will seem cheesy and strange.  But it’s hard to imagine them topping some of the strange overlapping effects from this NBC introduction of the 1971 All-Star Game.  From the tiny mics to Curt Gowdy’s gaudy jacket to the gargantuan headsets, it’s hard to take your eyes off this broadcast. There’s also a great end to end look at Tiger Stadium, where the centerfield wall was 440 feet from home plate and the right field upper deck overhang could take fly balls away from waiting right fielders.

Video Copyright Major League Baseball


The Bird and the Girls

Baseball players were not always as media savvy in the “old days”  as they are today. Before the big money came and baseball TV coverage exploded, ballplayers had not yet honed the craft of talking a lot and saying nothing. Here is a taped interview with Ron LeFlore during the 1976 All-Star game talking about the girls around starting pitcher Mark Fidrych — something you’d be unlikely to hear a player say in an interview today.

Video Copyright Major League Baseball  


Some of the most exciting plays to watch in baseball involve watching more than one thing at once.  This is unlike hockey, basketball, soccer or even football, in which (with rare exceptions) all of the action takes place near the ball. But in baseball, if there is a base hit to left field with a runner on second base, the fan is watching and calculating many things at once: How fast the outfielder will get to the ball, how strong is his arm, how fast is the baserunner, how good a lead did he have and so on. The fan must look in two places at once to judge the action in the outfield and on the bases at the same time. Back in 1984, as we see from this clip of Willie McGee’s double for the cycle in the famous Cubs-Cards July 23rd bash fest, NBC had an interesting way of dealing with this problem on television. They used a box- in-box style graphic that showed the runner and the fielder on the same screen. Ozzie scores easily here and so there isn’t much drama but it was a very useful feature on a close play. TBS later experimented with the box-in-box but you don’t see it much on modern broadcasts. Might be time to bring it back…

Video Copyright Major League Baseball

One of my memories from watching baseball on TV as a kid in the 1980s is how the announcers would always “roll the credits” with an out or two left in the final inning,  This always seemed unfair to me if my team was losing and like an announcer’s jinx if we were winning.  The broadcaster seemed to be callng the game over before the “fat lady had sung.” 

Here we see the practice in play in the 10th inning of the Cubs-Cardinals 1984 classic, as Bob Costas begins with the credits just before Sandberg extends the contest with a dramatic home run. Why did the networks feel this was necessary anyway? There was plenty of time after the game to go through these names that no viewer was paying attention to anyway.

Copyright Major League Baseball


The Elephant in the 9th Inning

The wild and crazy 9th inning of Game 6 of the 1985 World Series featured what is probably the most infamous umpire call in postseason history.  And yet, when you watch it again today, it’s rather shocking how little it is discussed by the broadcasters.  Al Michaels is generally known as a “tell it like it is” announcer, and he and Jim Palmer do recognize that the umpire, Don Denkinger, got the call wrong at first base (which was not close).  But after Herzog comes out and argues, the play seems to be forgotten.  It wouldn’t be in a game today — it would be the story throughout the inning as the Royals rally.  And it would be shown over and over on replay and revisited after the Royals won. It wasn’t forgotten in St. Louis, where Don Denkinger’s name is infamous to this day.

Video Copyright Major League Baseball 

Leave a Comment