They are the voices in the night, the play-by-play announcers, whose calls have spouted from radio speakers after August five, 1921 when Harold Arlin named the very first baseball game over Pittsburgh’s KDKA. That fall, Arlin made the premier college football broadcast. Thereafter, stereo microphones found their way into arenas as well as stadiums worldwide.
The earliest three decades of radio sportscasting provided numerous memorable broadcasts.
The 1936 Berlin Olympics were capped by the stunning performances of Jesse Owens, an African American who won four gold medals, though Adolph Hitler refused to put them on the neck of his. The games were broadcast in 28 different languages, the first sporting events to achieve global 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 fight between champion Joe Louis and Germany’s Max Schmeling. After only 124 seconds listeners were blown away to pick up NBC commentator Ben Grauer growl “And Schmeling is down…and here is the count…” as “The Brown Bomber” scored a beautiful knockout.
In 1939, New York Yankees captain Lou Gehrig developed his famous farewell speech at Yankee Stadium. Baseball’s “iron man”, who earlier had ended his record 2,130 consecutive games played streak, had been recognized with ALS, a degenerative disorder. That Fourth of July broadcast included the well known line of his, “…today, I consider myself probably the luckiest male on the face of the earth”.
The 1947 World Series provided one of the more well known sports radio broadcasts of all time. In game six, with the Brooklyn Dodgers reputable the New York Yankees, the Dodgers inserted Al Gionfriddo in center field. With 2 males on base Yankee slugger Joe DiMaggio, representing the tying run, came to bat. In essentially the most noteworthy calls of all time, broadcaster Red Barber described what happened next:
“Here’s the pitch. Swung on, belted…it’s much a person 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!”
Barber’s “Oh, doctor!” evolved into a catchphrase, as did many others coined by announcers. Several of the most well known sports radio broadcasts are recalled due to those phrases. Cardinals and Cubs voice Harry Caray’s “It might be, it can be, it is…a home run” is a basic. So are pioneer hockey broadcaster Foster Hewitt’s “He shoots! He scores!”, Boston Bruins voice Johnny Best’s “He diddles…” and also fiddles, Marv Albert’s “Yes!”
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A number of announcers are actually so good with words that specific phrases were unnecessary. On April eight, 1974 Los Angeles Dodgers voice Vin Scully watched as Atlanta’s Henry Aaron hit home run number 715, a new record. Scully simply said, “Fast ball, there is a top fly to deep left center field…Buckner moves directlyto the fence…it is…gone!”, then got up to get a drink of water as the crowd and fireworks thundered.
Announcers hardly ever color the broadcasts of theirs with inventive phrases today as well as sports video is becoming pervasive. Still, radio’s voices in the night stick to the trails paved by memorable sports broadcasters of previous years.