Baseball broadcasting firsts
The first-ever televised baseball game was on May 17, 1939, between Princeton and Columbia; Princeton beat Columbia 2–1 at Columbia's Baker Field. The contest was aired on W2XBS, an experimental station in New York City which would ultimately become WNBC-TV. The game was announced by Bill Stern. Dawson L. Farber, Jr. was Princeton's pitcher in that game.
On August 26 of the same year, the first ever Major League Baseball game was televised (once again on W2XBS). With Red Barber announcing, the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Cincinnati Reds played a doubleheader at Ebbets Field. The Reds won the first, 5–2 while the Dodgers won the second, 6–1. Barber called the game without the benefit of a monitor and with only two cameras capturing the game. One camera was on Barber and the other was behind the plate. Barber had to guess from which light was on and where it pointed.
By 1947, television sets (most with five and seven-inch screens) were selling almost as fast as they could be produced. Because of this, Major League teams began televising games and attracted a whole new audience into ballparks in the process. This was because people who had only casually followed baseball began going to the games in person and enjoying themselves. As a result, the following year, Major League attendance reached a record high of 21 million.
1947 saw the first televised World Series. The games were shown in the New York area by NBC and sponsored by Gillette and Ford. The 1947 World Series brought in an estimated 3.9 million people, becoming television's first mass audience.
On April 16, 1948, Chicago's WGN-TV (run by Jake Israel) broadcast its first big-league game, with Jack Brickhouse calling the White Sox' 4-1 defeat of the Cubs in an exhibition game at Wrigley Field. WGN televised each Cubs and White Sox home game live. According to Brickhouse,
|“||It worked because the Cubs and White Sox weren't home at the same time. You aired the Sox at Comiskey, or Cubs at Wrigley Field. Daytime scheduling gave the Cubs a decided edge, as Wrigley didn't have lights, so kids came home from school, had a sandwich, and turned the TV on.||”|
On July 11, 1950, the All-Star Game out of Chicago's Comiskey Park was televised for the first time. On November 8, 1950, Commissioner Happy Chandler and player reps agreed on the split of the TV-radio rights from the World Series.
On August 11, 1951, WCBS-TV in New York City televised the first baseball game (in which the Boston Braves beat the Brooklyn Dodgers by the score of 8-1) in color. On October 1 of that year, NBC aired the first coast-to-coast baseball telecast as the Brooklyn Dodgers were beaten by the New York Giants in the first game of a playoff series by the score of 3-1 on a Bobby Thomson's 3-run game-winning home run. Thomson's famous now-legendary home run) would occur in the third game of the best of 3 series.
In 1958, KTTV in Los Angeles, California aired the first regular-season baseball game ever played on the West Coast, a Los Angeles Dodgers-San Francisco Giants game from Seals Stadium in San Francisco, California, with Vin Scully announcing. In its first year airing Major League Baseball, KTTV aired only the Dodgers' road games.
What may be the first sports instant replay using videotape occurred on July 17, 1959, during a broadcast of a New York Yankees game by New York TV station WPIX. It came after a hit by Jim McAnany of the Chicago White Sox ended a no-hitter by the Yankees' Ralph Terry. Since the game was being videotaped, broadcaster Mel Allen asked director Terry Murphy to play a tape of McAnany's hit over the air.
On July 23, 1962, Major League Baseball had its first satellite telecast (via Telstar Communications). The telecast included portion of a contest between the Chicago Cubs vs. the Philadelphia Phillies from Wrigley Field with Jack Brickhouse commentating.
On July 17, 1964, a game out of Los Angeles between the Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers contest became the first Pay TV baseball game. Basically, subscription television offered the cablecast to subscribers for money. The Dodgers beat the Cubs by the score of 3-2, with Don Drysdale collecting 10 strikeouts by the way.
On March 17, 1965, Jackie Robinson became the first black network (ABC) broadcaster for Major League Baseball. That year, ABC provided the first-ever nationwide baseball coverage with weekly Saturday broadcasts on a regional basis. Some time later, Bill White became the first black man to regularly do play-by-play work for Major League Baseball.
On October 13, 1971, the World Series held a night game for the first time. Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, who felt that baseball could attract a larger audience by featuring a prime time telecast (as opposed to a mid-afternoon broadcast, when most fans either worked or attended school), pitched the idea to NBC. An estimated 61 million people watched Game 4 on NBC; TV ratings for a World Series game during the daytime hours would not have approached such a record number. In subsequent years, all weekday games would be played at night.
Except for Game 1 in both series, all League Championship Series games in 1975 were regionally televised. Meanwhile, Game 3 of both League Championship Series were aired in prime time, the first time such an occurrence happened.
In 1985, NBC's telecast of the All-Star Game out of the Metrodome in Minnesota was the first program to be broadcast in stereo by a TV network. Also in 1985, ABC announced that every game of the World Series would be played under the lights for the biggest baseball audience possible. It marked the first time that all World Series games were played at night.
In 1990, CBS Sports' Lesley Visser became the first female to cover the World Series, serving as their lead field reporter. In addition to working the World Series from 1990-1993 for CBS, Visser covered the 1995 World Series for ABC Sports via The Baseball Network.
In 1996, ESPN began a five-year contract with Major League Baseball worth $440 million and about $80 million per year. ESPN paid for the rights to a Wednesday doubleheader and the Sunday night Game of the Week, as well as all postseason games not aired on Fox or NBC. As a result, Major League Baseball postseason games were aired on cable for the very first time.
On July 8, 1997, Fox televised its first ever All-Star Game (out of Jacobs Field in Cleveland). For this particular game, Fox introduced "Catcher-Cam" in which a camera was affixed to the catchers' masks in order to provide unique perspectives of the action around home plate. Catcher-Cam soon would become a regular fixture in Fox's baseball broadcasts.
2001 marked first year of split coverage of one League Championship Series game as well as the first cable involvement in LCS. Game 5 of the NLCS and Game 4 of the ALCS were split between the Fox Broadcasting Company and Fox Sports Net. 2001 also featured the first cable League Division Series game to be aired in prime time.
With TBS acquiring rights to air one half of the League Championship Series (the other half going to Fox), 2007 marked the first time that an LCS was broadcast exclusively on cable. It also marked the first time that cable television produced postseason games weren't available on over-the-air television in the participating teams' home markets.