Archive for the ‘Broadcasters’ Category

Harry Caray became a popular baseball broadcaster, in part, because he seemed so familiar to listeners and viewers. It’s not until someone digs under the surface that a much fuller, sometimes surprising, version of him emerges.

Mike Mitchell has written the definitive Harry Caray biography, “Holy Cow St. Louis!” An entertaining and informative read, the book is available on Amazon and at the author’s webpage.

A superb researcher, Mitchell separates fact from myth about Caray’s life, and shows how he became a cultural icon. In addition to telling a compelling story about Caray, the book explores how radio and television shaped baseball. Bonuses for readers include insights into Harry’s son, Skip Caray, and other broadcasters.

“Holy Cow St. Louis!” is Mitchell’s third book. He’s also written “Mr. Rickey’s Redbirds: Baseball, Beer, Scandals and Celebrations in St. Louis” and “Show-Me Kings: Bootheel Ball, the Cookson Clan and a Run-And-Gun All-Star Show.”

Here are excerpts from a March 2023 e-mail interview with the author about the Harry Caray book:

Q: Congratulations on the book, Mike. Other books have been written about Harry Caray. What makes yours different?

A: Thank you. This is the first book to focus on Harry’s St. Louis years. Because he spent so many seasons calling baseball on television in Chicago, many forget that Harry spent more time with the Cardinals than any other team. I interviewed a relative of Harry’s in Webster Groves, Mo. (where Harry graduated high school in 1932). I was the first journalist he had spoken with. I have pictures and stories about a young Harry and his parents that no one has ever published. Beyond his youth, focusing on his time in St. Louis allowed me to delve into details of Harry’s professional career that many have either forgotten or never known.

Q: Harry Caray died 25 years ago, but yet he remains a prominent baseball figure. Why is that?

A: A big part of it is the breadth and depth of his career. Harry spent more than 50 years broadcasting baseball. He deeply connected with fans in two cities (St. Louis and Chicago) and three fan bases _ Cardinals, White Sox and Cubs (and don’t forget two years of Browns games and a season calling baseball in Oakland). Combine thousands of games with a man who loved to spend a night on the town means everyone has a favorite Harry story. Fans look at sports as fun and entertainment. So did Harry.

Q: Was Harry Caray a good baseball broadcaster or a good showman?

A: He was both, but it all started with his broadcasting ability. Long before he ever stood up to sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” Harry was a voice on the radio that stirred great emotion among fans. I have a chapter in the book titled “Listening to Harry.” He influenced a generation of sportswriters and broadcasters, with more than one saying they were disappointed the first time they ever attended a baseball game. The actual contest paled in comparison to Harry’s descriptions. “He could make a foul ball sound exciting,” said Indiana University broadcaster Don Fischer.

Q: What did you learn in your research about Harry that most surprised you?

A: Many things. We primarily think of Harry as a baseball broadcaster, but he worked year-round. Besides the Cardinals, he broadcast more seasons of University of Missouri football than any other team. He called St. Louis University and later St. Louis Hawks basketball in the winter. Early in his career, he broadcast wrestling, boxing, hockey, and even some high school football. When he wasn’t describing a game, he was making appearances and doing speaking engagements all over the Midwest. As far back as the 1940s, someone, somewhere, was listening to Harry nearly every night of the year.

I spent a lot of time researching the papers of Al Fleishman, the man who ran public relations for Anheuser-Busch. He and Harry had a stormy relationship almost from the moment the brewery bought the ballclub. The sheer amount of memos that flew between Fleishman-Hillard and Anheuser-Busch makes it clear that many people spent an awful lot of time worrying about things Harry said or did. Even after Harry left the Cardinals and Anheuser-Busch, the brewery still kept tabs on him. As I write in “Holy Cow St. Louis!,” any surprise at Harry’s dismissal in 1969 is replaced by another thought: How did he last as long as he did?

Q: Was Harry Caray as big a drinker and partier as his reputation makes him out to be?

A: There is no doubt Harry enjoyed his alcohol and loved to go out. He was an extrovert who drew his energy from being around people. He enjoyed a quality adult beverage or two and a good bar argument. At the same time, Harry was a master of public relations and a beer salesman. He was directly employed by breweries his entire St. Louis career. Harry knew that if fans thought he was drinking and having a good time, they would be more inclined to do the same. Harry’s best friend, Pete Vonachen, spoke of many nights in bars where they would leave drinks on the counter if Harry didn’t like the atmosphere. The buzz and the vibe were more important than the beverage.

Q: Will we ever see the likes of a baseball broadcaster like Harry Caray again?

A: What Harry accomplished will never be repeated. He dominated two entirely different media eras. He began his broadcasting career with radio as the dominant medium. His St. Louis years are preserved in his radio calls. He joined the Cubs as cable television exploded in popularity. That’s our Chicago memory of Harry. With KMOX, his voice reached fans nationwide. With WGN, his image was beamed across North America. No one better navigated the transition from 50,000-watt clear-channel radio to cable television superstation than Harry.

Q: What do you think Harry would have thought about grandson Chip Caray becoming the Cardinals’ TV broadcaster?

A: I’m sure he’d be extremely proud. Chip was supposed to work with Harry in 1998, then Harry passed away. Twenty-five years later, Chip joins the Cardinals. His grandfather called Cardinals baseball for 25 seasons. If Chip can make it until 2045 with the Cardinals (the year he turns 80), baseball will celebrate a century of Carays (Harry, Skip, and Chip) broadcasting major league baseball. No other family can say that.

Q: Harry Caray spelled backwards is Yrrah Yarac. Think he’d enjoy trying that one out on the air?

A:  No one enjoyed spelling _ or attempting to pronounce names _ backward more than Harry. My favorite was listening to Harry’s attempt to pronounce Mark Grudzielanek _ forward or backward.

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In the early days of baseball on television, Cardinals owner Fred Saigh was one of the first to go dialing for dollars.

In November 1952, Saigh tried to get a form of revenue sharing started among National League franchises regarding broadcast rights fees.

To Saigh, baseball’s television audience was an extension of the ballpark audience, and he wanted a split of the television money that home teams were getting for broadcasting Cardinals road games.

If Saigh was denied a share of those television revenues, he threatened to unplug the broadcasts.

On the air

The first televised major-league game was Aug. 26, 1939, when New York’s NBC station aired the Reds versus the Dodgers from Brooklyn, but it wasn’t until after World War II ended that TV sets became widely available and more affordable to mass markets.

The first television station in St. Louis, and the 13th in the United States, was KSD-TV, Channel 5. A NBC affiliate, the station was owned by Pulitzer Publishing, also the owners of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Pulitzer became the first to own both a newspaper and a television station.

(In 1979, when Pulitzer sold the station, its call letters were changed to KSDK.)

KSD-TV began broadcasting on Feb. 8, 1947, with a 90-minute local information afternoon program. In one of the program’s segments that day, Post-Dispatch sports editor J. Roy Stockton interviewed Cardinals catcher and future broadcaster Joe Garagiola.

The KSD-TV studio was located with the Post-Dispatch building on Olive Street in St. Louis. According to the station, the newspaper’s press operators also handled the studio lights. Sometimes, when needed to put out the latest edition of the afternoon paper, they’d leave the studio, delaying the start of a local program.

Show time

KSD-TV management recognized immediately the potential audience and advertising value of baseball programming, and entered into agreements with the Browns of the American League and the Cardinals of the National League to televise some of their games.

The first televised games in St. Louis were KSD-TV broadcasts of two Browns versus Cardinals exhibitions at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis on April 12-13, 1947, just before the start of the regular season.

KSD-TV also broadcast the Browns’ season opener against the Tigers on April 15 in St. Louis, and the Cardinals’ home opener against the Cubs on April 18.

From then on, Browns and Cardinals games in 1947 were a programming staple on KSD-TV.

Rights and wrongs

Sam Breadon, who made the deal with KSD-TV for the Cardinals, sold the club to Robert Hannegan and Fred Saigh in November 1947. Hannegan died in 1949, leaving Saigh as majority owner.

Saigh had no options in negotiating a local TV deal for the Cardinals. By 1952, St. Louis had 372,000 TV sets but still only one television station, KSD-TV. According to The Sporting News, the franchises reaping the most in broadcast rights fees then were all in New York _ the Yankees ($500,000), Giants ($375,000) and Dodgers ($300,000).

Baseball had no unified television policy then. “Each team signs private agreements with the others, giving the home club permission to televise the games,” Saigh explained to The Sporting News.

In the summer of 1952, a Cardinals versus Giants series became a flashpoint for a broadcasting battle.

“We signed an agreement permitting the Giants to televise our games at the Polo Grounds in New York,” Saigh told The Sporting News, “but were turned down by the Giants when we asked to televise our games in New York back to St. Louis. Our reaction was to prohibit the Giants from televising our two remaining games in New York. The Giants said they would televise anyway. So we threatened to keep our team off the field. The commissioner (Ford Frick) stepped in and warned us that these games would be forfeited if our team failed to take the field.”

Saigh stewed about what he viewed as bullying by the Giants to control broadcast revenue, and was determined to fight back.

Show me the money

In November 1952, Saigh said he would seek compensation from the Giants for the two home games they televised without the Cardinals’ permission.

Saigh also said he would refuse to allow any team to televise a Cardinals road game in 1953 unless the home club agreed to share its broadcast revenue with the Cardinals. At that time, a home club received all revenue from its telecasts.

“Saigh proposed to the National League that television and radio revenues be regarded as part of the gate receipts and that visiting clubs be cut in on these funds as they had been on the box-office takes,” The Sporting News reported.

Predictably, most team owners called Saigh’s idea “socialism,” The Sporting News noted.

One exception was maverick Browns owner Bill Veeck, who usually was in conflict with Saigh in competing for a chunk of the St. Louis baseball market. Veeck supported Saigh’s suggestion that visiting teams share in the broadcast revenue. “It is odd to find Veeck and Saigh on the same side of any campaign, but they are fighting for a split of the TV and radio money,” The Sporting News reported.

Saigh suggested a visiting team get 30 percent of a home team’s broadcast revenue, or 50 percent when the home team was the Giants or Dodgers.

Meet the new boss

Saigh succeeded in changing some minds. The Cubs and Reds agreed to share broadcast revenues with the Cardinals. The Phillies were close to joining in, too, the Associated Press reported.

Owners of the Giants and Dodgers “were aghast” and showed “no intention of backing down on their determination not to pay Saigh a dime for permitting the telecasts of Cardinals games at their parks,” The Sporting News reported.

Saigh had a bigger problem than broadcast revenue rights. On Jan. 28, 1953, he was sentenced to 15 months in prison and fined $15,000 for federal income tax evasion. Unable to keep the team, he apparently considered an offer from buyers who wanted to move the franchise to Milwaukee, but sold the Cardinals to St. Louis brewery Anheuser-Busch, which was run by Gussie Busch

Eager to ingratiate himself into the old boys network of club owners, Busch reversed the revenue sharing stance of Saigh. Busch said he would not demand a share of TV revenue for any Cardinals road game televised by a home club. “Anything we can do to bring the game to more and more people, we hope to be able to do,” Busch told The Sporting News.

Busch had a business reason for his decision. He viewed televised baseball games as an outlet for pitching Anheuser-Busch products to a broad audience. “Under the new ownership, Cardinals television will become a vital asset,” Dan Daniel wrote in the New York World-Telegram and Sun.

Learning to share

In 1966, Major League Baseball sold its first national television package, netting $300,000 per team.

Soon after the players’ strike in 1994, the capitalists who own Major League Baseball and its franchises entered into a comprehensive revenue sharing arrangement. It eventually included the evenly split sharing of revenue from sources such as broadcasts, merchandising and Internet.

Baseball socialism wasn’t so bad, management discovered. In 2022, each team got $110 million from revenue sharing.

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Dizzy Dean always could talk a good game, so given the choice of being a coach or a broadcaster, the former Cardinals ace grabbed the microphone.

On July 7, 1941, Dean quit as Cubs coach and signed a three-year deal with Falstaff Brewing to call Cardinals and Browns home games on St. Louis radio station KWK.

“I can make enough in radio in three years to put me on easy street,” Dean told The Sporting News. “There is no future coaching in baseball.”

Desperate measures

Dean made a dazzling debut in the majors with the Cardinals in 1930 and went on to become one of the game’s best and most popular players. He led National League pitchers in strikeouts four times and had 30 wins for the 1934 Cardinals, plus two more in the World Series.

A right-hander, he was 27 when he injured his pitching arm in 1937. A year later, in April 1938, the Cubs sent $185,000 and three players to the Cardinals to acquire Dean.

“When the Cubs purchased Dean, they said they made the move with their eyes wide open,” The Sporting News noted. “They knew his arm was bad, but were confident that proper treatment would take care of everything. It didn’t.”

Dean was 7-1 in 1938 for the National League champion Cubs and 6-4 in 1939, but his arm ached and his availability was limited.

In June 1940, with his ERA for the season at 6.18, Dean, 30, accepted a demotion to the Cubs’ Tulsa farm club.

“Diz is supposed to have made the suggestion,” The Sporting News reported. “He told club officials he wanted to develop a new sidearm delivery.”

The Cubs assigned scout Dutch Ruether, a former big-league pitcher, to work with Dean at Tulsa. “It will be Ruether’s job to keep an eye on Dean’s conduct and assist him in his professed aim to master the sidearm delivery,” The Sporting News reported.

Dean returned to the Cubs in September but “still had the nothing ball,” according to the Chicago Tribune. He was 3-3 with a 5.17 ERA for the 1940 Cubs. All three losses were to the Cardinals.

Different role

Dean, whose top salary as a player was $25,000 in 1935 with the Cardinals, signed with the Cubs for $10,000 in 1941, according to The Sporting News.

Cubs manager Jimmie Wilson, a former catcher who was Dean’s teammate with the Cardinals, endorsed the signing, saying Dean provided the club with “color and pep.” Wilson indicated he’d start Dean against second-division opponents. “Whatever he wins is gravy,” Wilson told The Sporting News.

On April 25, 1941, Dean started against the Pirates, pitched an inning and gave up three runs. Boxscore

“The arm simply went dead and the best doctors in the country couldn’t fix me up,” Dean told the St. Louis Star-Times.

Dean, 31, wrote a letter to Cubs general manager Jim Gallagher, asking to be placed on the voluntary retirement list.

“I have tried everything I know about to get my arm in shape, and this is a step I deeply regret having to take,” Dean wrote. “I sincerely and gratefully appreciate the many kindnesses the club have extended me. I only hope some day, some way, I may be able to repay in part, at least, the debt I owe it.”

On May 14, 1941, the Cubs gave Dean his unconditional release and then signed him to be a coach.

“Dean’s wife had urged him to retire for several weeks before he took the step that made him a coach,” the Chicago Tribune reported.

According to The Sporting News, “Arrangements were made for the remainder of his season’s salary to go into an annuity and a new salary was agreed for the coaching job.”

Follow the money

Dean’s coaching role primarily was to “pitch batting practice and lead cheers in the dugout,” the Chicago Tribune noted.

After a couple of weeks, The Sporting News declared, “Dean is taking his new job as coach as seriously as Diz could be expected to take anything.”

On June 6, 1941, Dean was ejected from a game at Brooklyn for arguing that Dodgers batter Billy Herman interfered with a throw from catcher Clyde McCullough. After being tossed, Dean headed for the clubhouse but returned and had to be chased a second time, The Sporting News reported. League president Ford Frick punished Dean with a $50 fine and five-day suspension. Boxscore

Three weeks later, Cubs first-base coach Charlie Grimm resigned to become manager of a farm team in Milwaukee and Dean replaced him.

Dean was the first-base coach for two weeks before he, too, resigned to accept the offer to become a broadcaster in St. Louis.

According to The Sporting News, Dean would be paid $5,000 to broadcast for the remainder of the 1941 season and $10,000 per season for the next two years.

“I only hope I’m as great an announcer as I was a pitcher,” Dean said to national columnist Walter Winchell.

Meet me in St. Louis

After attending the 1941 All-Star Game in Detroit, Dean boarded a train to St. Louis to begin his broadcasting job. When he arrived at Union Station at 8 a.m. on July 9, he was greeted by a band playing and a welcoming committee of about 300 people, the St. Louis Globe-Democrat reported.

Arriving on the train with Dean was Joe DiMaggio, who played in the All-Star Game and was joining the Yankees in St. Louis for a series with the Browns.

According to the St. Louis Star-Times, “A parade was formed and Dizzy was taken to the Park Plaza hotel for a breakfast reception. DiMaggio joined in the festivities.”

Dean’s first broadcast on KWK was the July 10 game between the Yankees and Browns at Sportsman’s Park. He joined sportscasters Johnny O’Hara and Johnny Neblett in describing the 1-0 Yankees victory. The game was called after five innings because of rain, but DiMaggio got a single in the first, extending his record hitting streak to 49 games. Boxscore

Dean was an immediate hit that summer. The Sporting News credited him with attracting “many new listeners because of his conversational style.”

Some examples of Dean’s style:

_ On the inability of Red Sox pitcher Mickey Harris to throw strikes: “A pitcher can’t pitch that way in the majors, or in the minors either, and parade up to the cashiers window every first and fifteenth.”

_ On Red Sox slugger Ted Williams: “I don’t know if Ted’s got a nickname, but I’m going to give him one: Goose. That’s what he looks like to me _ tall, skinny, loose-jointed.”

_ On batters who complain about an umpire’s strike zone: “It just don’t do you any good to think when you’re up there hitting that the ump has given you a bum call. The ump does his thinking first and that settles it all.”

Dean went on to have a long career in broadcasting, including national telecasts for ABC and CBS.

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Harry Caray built a broadcast career in St. Louis based on baseball and beer, but his relationship with the Anheuser-Busch brewery became as flat as a cup of Budweiser left outside in the summer sun.

On Oct. 9, 1969, Caray, the voice of the Cardinals for 25 years, was fired by the sponsor of the broadcasts, Anheuser-Busch.

Caray said he wasn’t told why he was fired.

Cardinals owner Gussie Busch, president of Anheuser-Busch, said the brewery’s marketing department recommended Caray’s dismissal.

In his 1989 book, “Holy Cow,” Caray scoffed at widespread speculation his departure came because he was having an affair with the wife of an Anheuser-Busch executive.

“At first, these rumors annoyed me,” Caray said. “Then they began to amuse me. They actually made me feel kind of good. I mean, let’s face it … I wore glasses as thick as the bottom of Bud bottles, and as much as I hate to say it, I was never confused with Robert Redford.”

Wild about Harry

In 1945, Caray, a St. Louis native, began broadcasting Cardinals games on radio station WIL. Griesedieck Brothers Brewery was the sponsor. Caray and former Cardinals manager Gabby Street formed the broadcast team.

Cardinals games also were broadcast on two other radio stations then. Johnny O’Hara and former Cardinals pitcher Dizzy Dean called the games on KWK. On KMOX, the broadcast team was France Laux and Ray Schmidt.

Caray’s colorful broadcasting style made him popular. In 1947, the Cardinals chose Griesedieck Brothers Brewery as the exclusive broadcast sponsor and Caray’s career soared.

In his book “That’s a Winner,” Cardinals broadcaster Jack Buck said, “In the Midwest, no announcer has been more revered or respected than Harry. He told it like he thought it was, and that’s different from telling it like it is. He never hesitated to give his opinion … He had the guts to do it. That was his style.”

In February 1953, Anheuser-Busch purchased the Cardinals and took over sponsorship of the broadcasts. Caray went from pitching Griesedieck Brothers beer to advertising Anheuser-Busch products.

Anheuser-Busch sales increased, and Caray and Gussie Busch became pals.

“Harry and Gussie Busch were close friends,” said Buck. “They used to drink and play cards at Busch’s home at Grant’s Farm.”

Said Caray: “Gussie and I rarely talked about baseball. Ours was not a business relationship. It was social.”

When Caray was struck by a car and severely injured in November 1968, Busch gave him use of a Florida beach house to recuperate during the winter. Caray made a triumphant return to the broadcast booth in the Cardinals’ 1969 opener.

Trouble brewing

A few months into the season, speculation about Caray’s job status became a hot topic in St. Louis. In August 1969, Pirates broadcaster Bob Prince told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette he was offered a five-year contract for “excellent money” to join KMOX.

Prince decided to stay with the Pirates’ broadcast team, but Caray was worried. Gossip about Caray’s alleged womanizing was rampant, so he met with Gussie Busch to talk about it. In his book, Caray said Busch laughed and told him, “You’ve got nothing to worry about.”

In September 1969, before he went on a trip to Europe, Busch told Caray “to keep his mouth shut” about his concerns until Busch returned, Buck said.

On Sept. 20, 1969, the Cardinals, whose hopes of qualifying for the postseason were fading, played the Cubs in Chicago when a journalist informed Caray of a report saying he would be fired. During the game broadcast, Caray told his audience, “The Cardinals are about to be eliminated and apparently so am I.”

According to Buck, Busch was livid with Caray for making the remark and for disobeying his edict to stay mum.

The ax falls

On Oct. 2, 1969, before the Cardinals played their season finale at St. Louis, Caray said he approached Buck, his broadcast partner since 1954, and asked him, “Do you know something I should know?”

Caray said Buck revealed he had been asked by Anheuser-Busch publicist Al Fleishman and KMOX general manager Robert Hyland to recruit other broadcasters. In his book, Caray said he and Fleishman “had been enemies for decades” and Fleishman wanted Caray fired.

A week later, Caray was at the Cinema Bar in downtown St. Louis on a Thursday afternoon when the bartender told him he had a phone call. An Anheuser-Busch advertising executive, who knew Caray’s hangouts, was on the line. The ad man informed Caray, 55, he was fired and Buck would replace him as head of the Cardinals broadcast team.

“I’m bruised, I’m hurt and I feel badly about it,” Caray said to the Post-Dispatch.

Caray also was miffed he didn’t hear about the decision from Gussie Busch. “You’d think after 25 years they would at least call me in and talk to me face to face about this,” said Caray.

Buck said, “I had nothing to do” with the decision to fire Caray.

“I always wanted to be No. 1 on the broadcast team,” Buck told the Post-Dispatch, “but not at the expense of Harry or anyone else.”

Special order

On his way home, Caray stopped at Busch’s Grove restaurant in the suburb of Ladue _ despite its name, the restaurant wasn’t affiliated with Anheuser-Busch _ and “decided to get some revenge,” he said.

Caray ordered a Schlitz, a beer made by an Anheuser-Busch rival. The restaurant didn’t carry the brand, so the bartender went across the street to a liquor store and bought cans of Schlitz.

As news photographers and television cameramen arrived, Caray posed with a can of Schlitz in his hand and “drew applause from a large number of patrons,” the Associated Press reported.

The bartender made several runs to the liquor store to stock up on Schlitz because customers kept ordering the beer in support of Caray, according to the Associated Press.

“I thought it was funny at the time because I was angry and hurt,” Caray said. “It seemed like the right gesture to make, but now I realize it was petty.”

After former players Bill White and Elston Howard each rejected a chance to join Buck in the Cardinals booth, Jim Woods, who did Pirates games with Bob Prince, was hired to be Buck’s broadcast partner.

According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, the Reds were interested in Caray. Their general manager, Bob Howsam, was the Cardinals’ general manager from August 1964 to January 1967. “You know Harry and I are good friends,” Howsam said.

Instead, Caray joined the Athletics broadcast team in 1970. He left after one season, went to the White Sox and capped his career with the Cubs, for whom he hawked Budweiser with the line, “I’m a Cubs fan and a Bud man.” Video

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Dodgers president Larry MacPhail, accustomed to rocking the status quo, was the first executive in the major leagues to go to bat for television.

On Aug. 26, 1939, a big-league baseball game was televised for the first time when NBC aired the opener of a doubleheader between the Reds and Dodgers at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn.

MacPhail, an innovator who introduced night games and yellow baseballs to the big leagues, approved the experiment to televise a Dodgers game when the opportunity was presented to him by team broadcaster Red Barber.

Today, television is as much a part of baseball as bats and gloves, but in 1939 the medium barely was part of American culture.

Greatest showman

MacPhail, a lawyer and colleague of Cardinals executive Branch Rickey, worked in the Cardinals’ system as president of their Columbus, Ohio, farm club before getting to the big leagues as general manager of the Reds in 1934. MacPhail installed lights at Cincinnati’s Crosley Field and introduced night baseball to the big leagues on May 24, 1935, when the Phillies played the Reds.

In 1938, MacPhail became general manager of the Dodgers and was promoted to team president a year later. MacPhail chose Leo Durocher, the fiery former Gashouse Gang Cardinals shortstop, to manage the Dodgers and brought Barber to Brooklyn from Cincinnati, where they had worked together with the Reds.

Barber’s folksy Southern charm and catchy phrasing on his Dodgers radio broadcasts entertained and attracted listeners. According to The Sporting News, Barber in 1939 helped “to establish a record attendance at Ebbets Field by the interest he aroused in the team.”

Modern technology

Television sets were demonstrated to the American public at the New York World’s Fair in 1939. A television set cost about $600, the same price as a new car.

The U.S. had fewer than 500 television sets in 1939 and most were in New York City, but advancements rapidly were occurring. In April 1939, Franklin D. Roosevelt became the first U.S. president to have a speech televised. A month later, in May 1939, a college baseball game featuring Princeton and Columbia was televised. A heavyweight bout between Lou Nova and Max Baer was televised in June 1939.

Alfred Morton, a NBC vice president in charge of their fledgling television division, was looking for more opportunities to test the technology. He called his friend, Barber, and asked whether he thought MacPhail would allow NBC to televise a major-league game from Ebbets Field. Barber agreed to find out.

In his 1968 book, “Rhubarb in the Catbird Seat,” Barber said he went to MacPhail’s office and said, “Larry, would you like to be the first man ever to put on a television broadcast of a major-league baseball game?”

MacPhail replied simply, “Yes.”

Barber said MacPhail didn’t charge NBC any rights fees. He only asked for the network to install a television set in the Ebbets Field press room so club officials and media could watch the telecast.

New world

In August 1939, NBC”s New York station, W2XBS, was on the air for four hours a day (2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.) and five days a week (Wednesday through Sunday).

“Television then was on about the same level of speculation as a trip to the moon is now,” Barber said. “It was feasible, within reach, about to happen, actually happening, but, even so, it was still away out in the future.”

Barber was chosen to be the broadcaster for the Saturday afternoon telecast from Ebbets Field. Only the first game of the doubleheader was televised.

NBC set up two cameras. One was near the visitors’ dugout on the third-base side and the other was on the second deck behind home plate.

Barber did his announcing from a seat among the fans in the upper deck behind third base because the radio broadcast was being done from the press box booth.

“I had to guess which way the camera was pointing, and I never knew for sure what was on the picture,” Barber said. “Burke Crotty was the director and every once in a while he would holler at me through the earphones that the camera was on second base now, or it was on the pitcher.”

Barber ad-libbed commercials for the three telecast sponsors _ Wheaties, Mobil Oil and Ivory Soap.

“They put the camera on me and I held up a box of Wheaties and poured them in a bowl,” Barber said. “I took a banana and a knife and I sliced the banana onto the Wheaties. Then I poured in some milk and said, ‘That’s the breakfast of champions.’

“I put on a Mobil service station cap and held up a can of oil. For Ivory Soap, I held up a bar of soap.”

After the Reds won the game, 5-2, before 33,535 spectators, Barber did television’s first postgame show on the field, interviewing Durocher, Reds manager Bill McKechnie, Dodgers first baseman Dolph Camilli and Reds pitcher Bucky Walters. Boxscore

“I got Camilli to show his hands on camera,” Barber recalled. “I had always been much impressed with the size, the agility, the dexterity, the grace, the beauty, the strength of Camilli’s hands.”

That’s entertainment

Public response to the telecast was “instantaneous and amazing,” according to The Sporting News.

The Television Building at the World Fair, which showed the telecast, had to shut its doors because the crowd wanting to get in was so great. A Broadway theater which showed the game on its television set “was swamped” with curious viewers, The Sporting News noted.

International News Service marveled at how the game could be seen by television viewers “as far as 50 miles away” from Brooklyn.

As for the quality of the telecast, International News Service reported, “At times, despite the great speed of play, the baseball was visible in the television image, particularly when pitchers Luke Hamlin and Bucky Walters resorted to slower delivery, or when the batter drove out a hit directly away from the iconoscope camera.”

According to The Sporting News, “The players were clearly distinguishable, but it was not possible to pick out the ball.”

On Sept. 30, 1939, a college football game between Waynesburg and Fordham was televised. A NFL game featuring Philadelphia and Brooklyn was televised a month later.

About 2,000 television sets were in use in the U.S. by 1940, but World War II slowed development because people and resources were needed for the military effort. At the close of World War II in 1945, there were 7,000 television sets in the U.S. and nine stations on the air. By 1960, the number of TV sets nationwide was 52 million.

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Five months after he suffered multiple injuries when struck by a car, Harry Caray returned with a flourish to broadcast the season opener for the Cardinals.

On April 8, 1969, when the two-time defending National League champion Cardinals opened the season against the Pirates at St. Louis, Caray called the game from the Busch Memorial Stadium broadcast booth.

Caray’s appearance was a testament to his determination to recover from compound fractures of both legs, a broken right shoulder, a broken nose and facial cuts and he made certain his comeback was noticed. Given center stage as emcee for pre-game ceremonies on the field, he put on a performance for the audience.

Road to recovery

At about 1:15 a.m. on Nov. 3, 1968, Caray, 51, was hit by a car while he attempted to the cross the street outside the Chase Park Plaza Hotel in St. Louis.

Caray’s injuries were disabling and he spent several weeks in a St. Louis hospital. After his release just before Christmas in 1968, Caray went to Florida and continued his recuperation near St. Petersburg at the beach house of Cardinals owner Gussie Busch.

In his 1989 book “Holy Cow!,” Caray said he was under the care of a male nurse at Busch’s residence and dutifully did isometric exercises daily. According to The Sporting News, he also did a daily radio show from the beach house for St. Louis station KMOX.

Though both legs were in casts, Caray said in his book, “I managed to keep myself entertained. I had a lot of friends there and they were always coming by the house or taking me out to restaurants. I could get around in a collapsible wheelchair.”

In early February 1969, Caray went to St. Louis to be evaluated by his doctors. He convinced them to remove the casts from his legs and returned to Florida as the Cardinals were arriving in St. Petersburg for spring training.

“I was determined to get myself in shape right along with the players,” Caray said.

Caray reported daily to Cardinals trainer Bob Bauman at the club’s spring training facility. “Caray has spent more time in the rubbing room than the adhesive tape,” The Sporting News noted.

Said Caray: “I worked hard, kept on the leg exercises and by the end of spring training I had advanced from crutches to canes to the point where I didn’t really need anything to help me walk.”

Ribbed at roast

On April 7, 1969, on the eve of the Cardinals’ opener, Caray was the guest of honor at the annual Knights of the Cauliflower Ear banquet at the Stouffer’s Inn in downtown St. Louis. The event was similar to the famous Friars Club roasts where the guest of honor was expected to be skewered, or “roasted,” by colleagues.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Caray used a cane to maneuver his way around the banquet hall.

Jack Buck, Caray’s Cardinals broadcast partner, was master of ceremonies for the event and delivered several zingers at the guest of honor.

“What nice things can I say about Harry that you haven’t heard from the man himself?” Buck said in his opening remarks.

Referring to Caray getting hit by a car, Buck said to the audience, “What can I say to make you believe I didn’t do it?”

As the event ended, Buck told the crowd, “Please drive carefully. Harry’s walking again.”

St. Louis showman

The Cardinals opened the 1969 season on a Tuesday night.

When Caray emerged from the dugout to begin the pre-game ceremonies at home plate, he used two canes to walk onto the field. He received polite applause while “hobbling along rather pathetically,” he said in his book.

As Caray approached the first-base line, “I whirled one cane over my head and flung it as far as I could,” he said.

With the crowd cheering and urging him on, Caray started toward home plate with the help of the remaining cane. Just before he got to his spot, Caray stopped and tossed the cane into the air as spectators roared in approval.

After the ceremony, Caray made his way to the dugout and was approached by pitcher Bob Gibson. According to Caray, they had the following exchange:

Gibson: “Harry, what the hell was that all about?”

Caray: “Hey, Gibby, it’s like I’ve always told you, pal. This isn’t just baseball. It’s show biz.”

During the broadcast of the game, won by the Pirates in 14 innings, Caray interviewed baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn and let him do some play-by-play. Boxscore

The 1969 season turned out to be Caray’s last with the club. On Oct. 9, 1969, he was fired after serving as the voice of the Cardinals for 25 years.

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