They are the voices in the night, the play-by-play announcers, whose calls have spouted from radio speakers after August 5, 1921 when Harold Arlin known as the first baseball game over Pittsburgh’s KDKA. That spring, Arlin made the premier college football broadcast. Thereafter, stereo microphones found the way of theirs into stadiums as well as arenas worldwide.
The initial three decades of radio sportscasting provided numerous memorable broadcasts.
The 1936 Berlin Olympics were capped by the gorgeous performances of Jesse Owens, an African American who won four gold medals, nevertheless, Adolph Hitler refused to put them on his neck. The games were broadcast in twenty eight different languages, the initial sporting events to achieve world-wide radio coverage.
Many famous sports radio broadcasts followed.
On the sultry evening of June 22, 1938, NBC radio listeners joined 70,043 boxing fans at Yankee Stadium for a heavyweight battle between champion Joe Louis and Germany’s Max Schmeling. After just 124 seconds listeners were astonished to hear NBC commentator Ben Grauer growl “And Schmeling is down…and here is the count…” as “The Brown Bomber” scored a gorgeous knockout.
In 1939, New York Yankees captain Lou Gehrig created his famous farewell speech at Yankee Stadium. Baseball’s “iron man”, who earlier had ended the record of his 2,130 consecutive games played streak, had been identified with ALS, a chronic condition. That Fourth of July broadcast included his famous line, “…today, I consider myself probably the luckiest male on the face of the earth”.
The 1947 World Series provided one of the most famous sports radio broadcasts of all time. In game six, with the Brooklyn Dodgers best the New York Yankees, the Dodgers inserted Al Gionfriddo in center field. With two males on base Yankee slugger Joe DiMaggio, representing the tying run, came to bat. In essentially the most memorable calls of all time, broadcaster Red Barber described what happened next:
“Here’s the pitch. Swung on, belted…it’s a long one to deep left-center. Back goes Gionfriddo…back, back, back, back, back, back…and…HE MAKES A ONE-HANDED CATCH AGAINST THE BULLPEN! Oh, doctor!”
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Barber’s “Oh, doctor!” became a catchphrase, as did many others coined by announcers. Some of the most prominent sports radio broadcasts are remembered due to those phrases. Cardinals and Cubs voice Harry Caray’s “It could be, it may be, it is…a home run” is a standard. So are pioneer hockey broadcaster Foster Hewitt’s “He shoots! He scores!”, Boston Bruins voice Johnny Best’s “He fiddles and diddles…”, Marv Albert’s “Yes!”
A number of announcers are actually extremely good with language that specific phrases have been unnecessary. On April 8, 1974 Los Angeles Dodgers voice Vin Scully watched as Atlanta’s Henry Aaron hit home run number 715, a new history. Scully simply stated, “Fast ball, there’s a high fly to deep left center field…Buckner heads directlyto the fence…it is…gone!”, then got up to get a drink of water as the group and fireworks thundered.
Announcers seldom color the broadcasts of theirs with inventive phrases now and sports video is now pervasive. Still, radio’s voices in the evening stick to the trails paved by memorable sports broadcasters of previous times.