Friday, August 5th, 2011

Baseball Takes to the Airwaves

Fans have numerous ways to consume baseball games in the 21st Century. MLB's Gameday allows us to watch any game on our computers and receive pitch-by-pitch updates. Thanks to cable TV agreements, fans can watch any game from any market on any given day. MLB Network provides live look-ins at games throughout the day. But 90 years ago today, a radio station took a chance and revolutionized coverage of America's game.

On Friday, August 5, 1921, the Philadelphia Phillies and Pittsburgh Pirates met at Pittsburgh's Forbes Field. The hometown Pirates won the game 8-5 with Jimmy Zinn pitching six innings in relief to record his fifth win. The PIrates won their fourth game in a row and found themselves atop the National League with a record of 64-35.

But that wasn't the story.

Harold Arlin, a 25-year-old foreman with Westinghouse, sat in a box seat at Forbes Field with a modified telephone and a desire to experiment. His experiment was the first radio broadcast of a Major League Baseball game. Aside from being a foreman, Arlin was also an evening studio announcer for KDKA in Pittsburgh. At the time, KDKA staff assumed baseball would not prove commercially viable on the radio. Some even referred to the game as "too boring" to air. Why would you listen to game? Fans needed to attend games. Even teams frowned upon the idea. They believed fans would prefer games on the radio and stop visiting the ballpark. It turned out that Arlin's experiment worked. Radio broadcasts piqued the interest of the fans and sparked significant increases in attendance around the league.


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