Broadcaster Red Barber gets ready to call the next pitch as the hitter gets into the batter’s box on 710 WOR Radio New York. The Ol Red Head broadcasted for the Cincinnati Reds 1934-38, Brooklyn Dodgers 1939-53, and the New York Yankees 1954-66 (photo from the baseballhall.org)
Baseball is On the Radio!
That’s Amaury News and Commentary
By Amaury Pi-González
It is that time of the year. Covid in the bottom of the ninth inning, a lockout that lasted for 100 days, the best quarterback in history retired (but did a Sinatra) a comeback, a very dangerous war going on in eastern Europe, and although summer doesn’t officially begin until June 21, the ‘Boys of Summer’ are already playing in Arizona and Florida. The smell of beer, hot dogs and cotton candy is on the air, and so are the sounds of baseball on the radio.
Almost 101 years ago, KDKA radio, Pittsburgh, aired the first-ever live account of a baseball game on the radio, at Forbes Field home of the Pirates in the voice of Harold Arlin, a 25-year-old engineer. The Pirates were hosting Philadelphia.
The pioneer Arlin didn’t think much of this as he said: “To tell the truth, our guys at KDKA didn’t even think baseball would last on the radio. I did it as a one-shot project. No one had an inkling if we’d do baseball again.” KDKA a Westinghouse Electric Company station was the first commercial radio station in the country. Arlin, although an engineer, had some experience at the microphone.
A year before (1920) Mr.Arlin broadcast the results of the 1920 Presidential election, an Ohio event, as Republican Senator Warren G. Hardin from Ohio defeated Democratic Governor James. M. Cox also of Ohio by a landslide victory of every state outside the South and cleaning-up in the popular vote.
Historic KDKA Radio celebrated the 100th Anniversary of its first regular broadcast, radio 100th anniversary on Nov. 2, 2020. Currently, KDKA is well known as “The Voice of Pittsburgh”. 100.1 FM and 1020 AM.
That pioneer radio station opened the way for radio formats all over the country, not only carrying baseball but all other sports. There is no school known that will train to become a play-by-play/commentator announcer in baseball. Columbia School of Broadcasting, in Virginia, is a broadcasting journalism school.
Growing up as a kid in Cuba I was usually glued to the radio during the old Cuban Professional League and listened to such voices as the legendary Rafael “Felo” Ramírez (For a long time the Voice of the Miami Marlins) whom I had the privilege to share the microphone in the late 1990s during the old CBS/MLB Postseason Hispanic Radio Networks for the US and Latinamerica. Also the legendary voices of Cuban announcers like René Cañizales, Orlando Sanchez-Diago, whom I met at the Astrodome in Houston during the 1986 MLB All-Star Game. Manolo de la Reguera, Cuco Conde, Rafael Rubí, René Molina and Fernandito Menéndez, among others.
These were the voices of baseball I grew up listening to on my little radio on my end table inside my bedroom. They were the best companions, during the regular baseball games in the Cuban leagues ,including the Caribbean Baseball Series, as well as the World Series. Cuba was the first country to recreate a World Series for all Cuba and Latin America as the announcers,
Bob Canel and Rafael “Felo” Ramírez would call the games from NBC Studios at Rockefeller Center in New York City, the signal was sent from the stadium the game was played and relayed to a DC-3 airplane flying around the Caribbean. The signal was sent to Cuba and then continued to other countries.
During my years as a teenager in Miami I remember listening to Chicago White Sox voice of Bob Elson on WKAT AM who used to carry the Chicago White Sox games. In New York City, the one and only voice of the NY Yankees Mel “How ’bout that!”Allen and of course, here in the Bay Area, guys like Bill King, Lon Simmons, Hank Greenwald, Monte Moore and others, all which I had the pleasure to have known.
Today radio stations are hanging on to baseball broadcasts. Radio is no longer the king of baseball, like it used to be. First the advent of television and now social media, has reduced the impact of baseball on the radio.
Many stations cannot carry full schedules of 162 games, they cite conflicts with other programming, because of the nature of baseball, some games might go 3 to 4 hours or more in length and this presents a time-format problem for many stations because they might have to pre-empt other shows to make room for baseball and that might not be good business.
However, a radio station that is well managed can appreciate baseball, especially if it is well marketed and committed to serving its community will always represent a prestigious asset to its programming. A radio station owner used to tell me: “even if do not make money with baseball, as long as I do not lose money, I love the prestige that brings to the station and I use it to attract more advertisers”.
Radio is still a very personal thing when it comes to baseball, still, a companion that you can always keep at home, in the car, or in your telephone/computer at home or laptop, some of us remember the days of transistor radios, and how convenient it was to “take the game with you” with your transistor radio to the game, to work, some even took it to school, and got in trouble. I know.
Quote: “He throws a “radio ball”, a pitch you hear, but cannot see”. -Gene Mauch, Manager of the Philadelphia Phillies about Sandy Koufax fastball.
Amaury Pi Gonzalez is the Oakland A’s Spanish lead play by play announcer on flagship station 1010 KIQI Le Grande San Francisco and does News and Commentary at http://www.sportsradioservice.com