Baseball Goes to TV

On this day in 1939, television station W2XBS in New York City broadcasts a doubleheader between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Cincinnati Reds from Ebbets Field in Brooklyn. The game, filmed with two cameras, was the first Major League Baseball night game ever aired on television.

Red Barber had the call; the Reds took the first game 5-2, and the Dodgers avenged at 6-1 for the second. Barber called the game without the benefit of a monitor and with the two cameras capturing the game. One camera was placed behind home plate, in the second tier of seating, while another was positioned near the visitors’ dugout, on the third-base side.

Attendance for Major League Baseball was down in for 2018 for the regular season, but that’s not the case when it comes to one critical facet of television. Ratings for MLB games in primetime on the regional sports networks (RSNs) that host them are up slightly for the 2018 regular season compared to 2017. The numbers include the 29 U.S.-based RSNs covered by Nielsen.

Until the disastrous national Covid-19 response, baseball continued to rank incredibly strong in the television ecosphere compared to other content in primetime during the spring and summer months. To wit, 12 of the regional sports networks that hosted MLB teams ranked #1 in their markets in primetime, beating the primetime average of all other TV networks in their respective designated market areas (DMA). In this year’s abbreviated season, as of August 18, 104 MLB players had tested positive for the Corona Virus.

Putting aside recent disruptions, notwithstanding technological progress, baseball remains notoriously traditional, abjuring trends and changes. It took until 2008 for any form of instant replay to be implemented, and 2009 for New York Yankees broadcaster Suzyn Waldman to become the first woman to work a World Series game from the broadcast booth.

And here our tale of green grass, laces, leather, tubes and wires endeth.

Author: Bill Urich

A tail-end baby-boomer, Bill Urich was born in Cleveland to a grade school teacher and her Navy vet husband, and reared in Greater Detroit. Working his way through school primarily at night, Mr. Urich holds a Bachelor’s in Journalism, Phi Beta Kappa, and a Juris Doctorate from Wayne State University. In his legal career he has acted as an assistant state prosecutor, city attorney, special prosecutor, mediator, magistrate, private practitioner and mayor of Royal Oak, a large home-rule city in Michigan. Mr. Urich continues in private practice and municipal prosecution, is on faculty to DePaul University, pens regular contributions to political publications, and remains active in selected campaigns and causes related to labor, social and criminal justice. A father of three mostly-grown sons, he spends his precious free time on family, friends, the pursuit of happiness, beauty and truth, three rescue cats, and fronting the rock band Calcutta Rugs from behind the drum kit.

What say you, the people?