Baseball and radio – they said it wouldn’t last

August 5, 1921 | PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA – Major league baseball was heard on the radio for this first time on this date in 1921. KDKA radio studio announcer Harold Arlin became the first play-by-play man as he described the Pittsburgh Pirates‘ 8-5 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies from Forbes Field in Pittsburgh. Baseball and radio – they said it wouldn’t last.

Not everyone in major league baseball welcomed the exposure on this new medium called “radio.” Many were concerned games on radio would keep fans at home rather than at the ballpark, an observation that seems shortsighted today.

Staff at KDKA looked at that first broadcast as a one-time thing; baseball would be too slow moving to become regular programming. It turned out radio’s intimacy made it and baseball an ideal match.

Radio’s portability helped too; at home, in the car, at the office, a transistor radio under the pillow. Still, it took years for many teams to recognize the marketing ability of broadcasting games. It was 1938 before major league games were regularly broadcast in New York City, the country’s largest market.

CONTRIBUTING SOURCES:
“Radio and its impact on the sports world,” by Eric C. Covil  
Baseball’s future