Seventy two years ago today, history was made. The first ever World Series game was televised.
Tuesday, September 30, 1947 – In a game that took all of 2 hours and 20 minutes, the Yankees defeated the Dodgers, 5-3, before 73,365 in the Bronx. It was carried on TV in only four markets, New York, Philadelphia, Albany and Washington. Bob Edge did the game alone. Home television sets were hardly prevalent. Most viewing was consumed in taverns. It was estimated that there were 5,400 TV sets in taverns at the time. America had about 44,000 sets in use, total. The country’s population was 144 million. The TV screens were tiny back then.
It is said that President Harry Truman watched a few innings of one of the ’47 games from the Oval Office. Other announcers who presided over later games that fall were Bob Stanton and Bill Slater.
Still, the 1947 World Series will be remembered for two classic calls by Red Barber on radio which was still king then. The radio broadcasts, particularly in New York, were bouncing off porches, front steps, cars and store fronts.
Game # 4 With the Dodgers trailing in the last of the ninth 2-1 in Brooklyn, Yankees’ pitcher Bill Bevens had a no hitter going. Two Dodgers got on via walks. Dramatically, Cookie Lavagetto broke up the no hitter with a double to right. The double also gave Brooklyn the victory. Barber’s classic call was, “Here comes the tying run and here comes the winning run!” With bedlam on the field, Barber added, “It will take a police escort to the get the Dodgers away from Lavagetto!”
Game # 6 In another high drama moment, Barber described the Dodgers’ Al Gionfriddo’s amazing catch of a Joe DiMaggio drive ticketed for the left field bullpen. There were two Yankees on base and the Dodgers up 8-5. Had the ball sailed into the pen, the game would have been tied. Both DiMaggio and Barber lost it, at least by their standards. Neither ever emoted. They did then. When DiMaggio saw the ball caught, he kicked the dirt. As for Barber, “Gionfriddo goes back, back, back and makes a one handed catch against the bullpen. Oh doctor!” Barber was generally unflappable. Brooklyn ended up winning it 8-6, forcing a game seven which the Yankees won. “Oh doctor” was about as excited as Barber ever got.
Television expanded coverage with some games available in the Midwest
Series TV was available through much of the East Coast
The broadcasts are carried by a combination of ABC, CBS and NBC stations in most of the country. ABC was a fledgling network then
NBC gets exclusive coverage of the World Series – which it maintained through 1976
Barber couldn’t come to terms on an acceptable fee for doing the Yankees-Dodgers World Series. So at age 25, a precocious Vin Scully works smoothly with Mel Allen, sharing the play-by-play
This is the first Fall Classic televised in color
Curt Gowdy does his first Series, teaming with Mel Allen on Yanks-Braves
The Dodgers sweep the Yankees in four games. Mel Allen has to bow out late in the fourth game because of laryngitis. Vin Scully had to fill Mel’s innings. The acerbic and powerful columnist Dick Young in New York’s Daily News called it “psychosomatic laryngitis,” suggesting that Mel couldn’t stand witnessing the demise of his beloved Bronxites
The Yankees were in it but Mel Allen was not. The team nominated Phil Rizzuto to replace Mel. Allen’s contract with the Yankees was not renewed, a move that shocked the baseball world. He had also done every World Series since 1947 on either radio or TV with the exception of 1954. He never did another Series
Ray Scott, known for football, was also a Voice of the Twins. He teamed with Vin Scully on the Twins-Dodgers Series
When the Dodgers met the Orioles, the team announcers worked only their representative home games on NBC TV. The telecasts were anchored by NBC’s Curt Gowdy. Scully and the Orioles’ Chuck Thompson were on radio in Baltimore and Los Angeles, respectively joining Jim Simpson
In an experiment, game # 4 in Pittsburgh between the Orioles and Pirates was played at night, the first ever under the lights
Al Michaels, representing the Reds, whose games he called in Cincinnati, joined Gowdy on the NBC telecasts of the Reds-A’s Series. Al was 27 at the time
Joe Garagiola replaces Gowdy as NBC’s lead baseball announcer. It was rumored the sponsor Chrysler used its influence to get Joe the gig
ABC which by then owned a piece of the MLB package, carries the Series. Keith Jackson is teamed with Howard Cosell and Tom Seaver. It was the Yankee against the Dodgers and the local announcers were not invited to partake in the telecast. Rumor had it that Scully was asked to assume a cameo role, like introduce the line-ups. Vin said no thank you. One of his Dodgers broadcast partners Ross Porter worked with Bill White on CBS Radio
Michaels splits the World Series with Jackson who was embedded with college football broadcasts for ABC
Dick Enberg calls part of the Series for NBC, the middle innings, with Garagiola remaining the lead voice
Michaels becomes ABC’s lead baseball voice
Art Watson at NBC hires Scully as its lead baseball voice for the Game of the Week and post season which it continued to split with ABC. Dick Enberg, a baseball man at heart, was disappointed. He, of course, remained as the network’s lead NFL announcer
Jim Palmer and Tim McCarver become Michaels’ analysts at ABC
This is the first World Series when all games are played in primetime
Michaels does a remarkable job at Candlestick Park when the Bay Area was hit by an earthquake during the Series. Al was familiar with the area. He had lived there when doing Giants game in the 1970s
CBS runs the first of four straight World Series. It had planned to have Brent Musburger on the call but he was fired by CBS Sports head Neal Pilson on the eve of the season at the Final Four. Jack Buck, first hired to do back up games, was elevated to the lead team. Jack did the first two Series that CBS aired
Sean McDonough replaces Buck on the Series call. After 1993, CBS didn’t renew. Pilson said the network lost dough on the package
A forgettable baseball year. There was no World Series because of a major labor disagreement
The Baseball Network was set up by MLB and owned the rights to the Series. The games were split between NBC and ABC. Bob Costas did the first of 3 Series he would call, those games that aired on NBC and Michaels the others on ABC
Fox gets a piece of the package with NBC. Joe Buck, 27, does his first Classic. He will do his 22nd later this month
Fox gets exclusive rights to the World Series which it has owned since
McCarver does the last of his 24 as an analyst. Some say he pontificated and wore out his welcome
Joe Buck is partnered with John Smoltz. They’ll work their fourth together this year
And so it goes!