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Major League Baseball on Mutual was the de facto title of the Mutual Broadcasting System's (MBS) national radio coverage of Major League Baseball games. Mutual's coverage came about during the Golden Age of Radio in the 1930s, '40s, and '50s. During this period, television sports broadcasting was in its infancy[1][2], and radio was still the main form of broadcasting baseball. For many years, Mutual was the national radio broadcaster for baseball's All-Star Game and World Series.

Contents

History of coverage

Mutual started their baseball coverage back in 1935[3][4][5], when the network joined NBC and CBS in national radio coverage. The three networks continued to share coverage of baseball's "jewels" (i.e. the All-Star Game and World Series) in this manner through 1938, with Mutual gaining exclusive rights to the World Series in 1939 and the All-Star Game in 1942.[6][7][8][9][10] In 1949, Commissioner Happy Chandler[11] negotiated a seven-year, $4,370,000 contract with the Gillette Safety Razor Company[12] and the Mutual Broadcasting System for radio rights to the World Series, with the proceeds going directly into the pension fund. In 1957[13], NBC replaced Mutual as the exclusive national radio broadcaster for the World Series and All-Star Game.

Following the lead of the rival Liberty Broadcasting System, Mutual also aired regular-season Game of the Day broadcasts (a precursor to television's Game of the Week concept) to non-major-league cities throughout the 1940s and '50s.[14][15]

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Attempts at television coverage

In 1950[9], MBS acquired the television broadcast rights to the World Series and All-Star Game for the next six years. Mutual may have been reindulging in TV network dreams or simply taking advantage of a long-standing business relationship; in either case, the broadcast rights were sold to NBC in time for the following season's games at an enormous profit.[16]

Announcers

Game of the Day

World Series

1950s

Year Play-by-play Color commentator(s)
1956 Bob Wolff Bob Neal
1955 Al Helfer Bob Neal
1954 Al Helfer Jimmy Dudley
1953 Al Helfer Gene Kelly
1952 Al Helfer Jack Brickhouse and Bill Corum
1951 Mel Allen Al Helfer
1950 Mel Allen Jim Britt

1940s

Year Play-by-play Color commentator(s)
1949 Mel Allen Red Barber
1948 Mel Allen Jim Britt
1947 Mel Allen Red Barber
1946 Jim Britt Arch McDonald and Bill Corum
1945 Bill Slater Al Helfer
1944 Bill Slater Don Dunphy and Bill Corum
1943 Red Barber Bob Elson and Bill Corum
1942 Red Barber Mel Allen
1941 Red Barber Bob Elson
1940 Red Barber Bob Elson

1930s

Year Play-by-play Color commentator
1939 Red Barber Bob Elson
1938 Red Barber Bob Elson
1937 Bob Elson John O’Hara and David Driscoll
1936 Bob Elson Gabriel Heatter
1935 Bob Elson Red Barber and Quin Ryan

All-Star Game

1950s

Year Play-by-play Color commentator(s) Venue/Host team
1956 Bob Neal Bob Wolff Griffith Stadium, Washington Senators
1955 Bob Neal Earl Gillespie County Stadium, Milwaukee Braves
1954 Jim Dudley Al Helfer Municipal Stadium, Cleveland Indians
1953 Al Helfer Waite Hoyt Crosley Field, Cincinnati Reds
1952 Al Helfer Gene Kelly Shibe Park, Philadelphia Phillies
1951 Al Helfer Mel Allen Briggs Stadium, Detroit Tigers
1950 Mel Allen Jim Britt Comiskey Park, Chicago White Sox

1940s

Year Play-by-play Color commentator(s) Venue/Host team
1949 Mel Allen Jim Britt Ebbets Field, Brooklyn Dodgers
1948 Mel Allen Jim Britt and France Laux Sportsman's Park, St. Louis Browns
1947 Mel Allen Jim Britt Wrigley Field, Chicago Cubs
1946 Mel Allen Jim Britt and Bill Corum Fenway Park, Boston Red Sox
1945 Not held because of World War II
1944 Don Dunphy Bill Slater and Bill Corum Forbes Field, Pittsburgh Pirates
1943 Mel Allen Red Barber and Bill Corum Shibe Park, Philadelphia Athletics
1942 Mel Allen Jim Britt and Bob Elson Polo Grounds, New York Giants
1941 Red Barber Bob Elson Briggs Stadium, Detroit Tigers
1940 Red Barber Bob Elson Sportsman's Park, St. Louis Cardinals

1930s

Year Play-by-play Color Commentator(s) Venue/Host team
1939 Red Barber Bob Elson Yankee Stadium, New York Yankees
1938 Bob Elson Dick Bray Crosley Field, Cincinnati Reds
1937 Mel Allen Jim Britt Griffith Stadium, Washington Senators
1936 Fred Hoey Linus Travers National League Park, Boston Bees
1935 Bob Elson Eddie Vander Pyl Municipal Stadium, Cleveland Indians

References

  1. ^ SPORTS AND TELEVISION
  2. ^ Baseball on television began to take hold in the late 1950s. The Yankees were the first team to sell their TV rights (in 1946, for $75,000; in 1987 the Yankees earned 250 times as much for their TV rights). The first televised World Series was the memorable 1947 event. Harry Coyle, NBC's dean of baseball producers, was there. In Chicago, Jack Brickhouse was announcing White Sox telecasts in 1948. By 1950, the World Series was televised as far west as Omaha; 38 million people watched. The next year World Series television coverage reached the West Coast. (Radio still had its strengths: the 1953 Brooklyn Dodgers Radio Network linked 117 stations, making the Bums the first "America's Team.")
  3. ^ 1934-37 World Series radio rights to Ford for $100,000/year.
  4. ^ 1938 World Series radio rights "sustaining."
  5. ^ 1939-45 World Series radio rights to Gillette for $100,000/year.
  6. ^ 1946 World Series radio rights to Gillette for $150,000.
  7. ^ 1948 World Series rights: $140,000 TV, $150,000 radio to Gillette; All-Star Game TV rights for $2,500.
  8. ^ 1949 World Series rights: $200,000 TV, $150,000 radio to Gillette; All-Star Game TV rights for $25,000.
  9. ^ a b 1950 World Series rights: $800,000 TV, $175,000 radio to Gillette; $50,000 more for All-Star Game.
  10. ^ 1951 World Series rights: $925,000 TV, $150,000 radio; All-Star Game $110,000 from radio and TV.
  11. ^ Albert Benjamin "Happy" Chandler: Second Commissioner of Baseball
  12. ^ The amount of money involved in baseball broadcasting was growing. Gillette, the razor blade manufacturer and one of the first companies to realize the power of sports as an advertising vehicle, tried to flex its muscles by offering Red Barber a substantial amount to walk out on his Dodger contract and join Gillette on a new Yankees/ Giants network. Barber refused. It's no wonder Gillette felt powerful; in 1946 the company was rich enough to sign a 10-year, $14-million deal for exclusive radio sponsorship of the World Series and All-Star Games.
  13. ^ 1957-61 Five-year NBC/Gillette contract: MLB gets $3 million/year for the World Series, $250,000 for the All-Star Game.
  14. ^ In 1951, Liberty broadcast more than 200 games, or almost 600 hours of baseball; Mutual aired 145 games. This was more than four times the amount of total network time (via television and radio) that baseball would receive in 1984. More importantly, the Liberty/Mutual style set a pattern for successful TV coverage in the years to come.
  15. ^ But the moguls of baseball still feared too much free publicity. A rule banned the Game of the Day from many areas because of fears that it might conflict with local broadcasts within a 75-mile (121 km) area. The paradoxical result, according to Curt Smith, was that "if you lived in Butte, Montana, or Amarillo, Texas, you got to hear every club in baseball"-as many as 10 games a week. But if you lived in or near a major league town, you could hear only the local games, and only when the club decided the broadcasts wouldn't "interfere" with attendance. McLendon's gold mine didn't last long; he lost a suit against Organized Baseball and folded. The Mutual Broadcasting Network mimicked his strategy and succeeded.
  16. ^ Marshall (1998), 384; Day (2004), 230–231. Note that Marshall and Day describe the details of the original deal very differently, agreeing only that it was for six years at $1 million a year. Marshall says that a contract was signed on December 26, 1950, between baseball's major leagues, in the person of Commissioner Happy Chandler, on one side and MBS and the Gillette Safety Razor Company on the other for the television rights. Day says baseball's contract was solely with Gillette, that it was for both radio and television rights, and that Gillette "[l]ess than a year after acquiring the broadcast rights...transferred" them to Mutual. They also characterize the original contract rather differently. Marshall calls it "one of the outstanding achievements of the Chandler commissionership." Day credits Chandler with "deftly avoid[ing] a financial crisis," but agrees with the prevailing opinion of the players that Chandler "vastly underestimated the value" of the rights. The fact, which Day provides, that Mutual sold the package to NBC for $4 million a year lends support to his position.
  17. ^ BUDDY BLATTNER: 26 seasons and retired…Liberty Game of the Day (1949-51), St. Louis Browns (1950-53), Mutual Game of the Day (1952-54), ABC Game of the Week (1953-54), CBS Game (1955-59), St. Louis Cardinals (1960-61), Los Angeles Angels (1962-65), California Angels (1966-68), Kansas City Royals (1969-75), NBC (1964, 1969)…As a player for St. Louis Browns, Blattner made some off-season income writing for local television shows in St. Louis…After his career, it was obvious to the Browns that his media experience would make him a great addition to radio station KWK's baseball coverage…Buddy worked the final seasons for the Browns and worked the early years for two expansion franchises, the Kansas City Royals and Los Angeles/California Angels…He broadcast the famous at-bat by Eddie Gaedel in 1951 as orchestrated by Bill Veeck…Became widely known as the broadcast partner for Dizzy Dean on ABC and CBS national television broadcasts from 1953-59.
  18. ^ GENE ELSTON: 43 years (Cubs, 1954-57; Astros, 1962-86) and retired…Also broadcast Mutual Game of the Day (1958-60); NBC Game of the Week (1967) and CBS Game of the Week (1987-97)…Worked 8 years calling minor league games in Des Moines of the Western League and Waterloo of the Three-I League...The first voice of the expansion Houston Colt 45s in 1962…Continued to call the action in Houston through the 1986 season, helping popularize baseball throughout the Southwest…elected to the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame in 1992 and Texas Radio Hall of Fame in 2002.
  19. ^ AL HELFER: 23 years (Pirates, 1933-34; Reds, 1935-36; Yankees, 1937-38; Brooklyn Dodgers, 1939-41, 1955-57; Yankees, 1945; New York Giants, 1945, 1949; Phillies, 1958; Houston, 1962; Oakland, 1968-69; Mutual, 1950-54), and retired…Former college athlete, once offered baseball contract by Connie Mack but instead got into broadcasting…Play-by-play broadcaster for Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Brooklyn Dodgers, Phillies, New York Giants, Houston and Oakland A's…In 1950, began a five-year stint calling the Mutual "Game of the Day," where he got his nickname "Mr. Radio Baseball"…At its peak during Helfer's tenure, the "Game of the Day" had almost 1,500 radio outlets throughout the world…During his career he traveled an estimated five million miles…Also broadcast a number of World Series for NBC…Claimed to have formed, with Red Barber, the first play-by-play broadcast team…Broadcast 14 no-hitters, the last being Catfish Hunter's perfect game in 1968, as well as Johnny Vander Meer's second consecutive no-hitter in 1938…Also broadcast collegiate football, including Army-Navy tilts and numerous Rose Bowl contests…Passed away on May 16, 1975.
  20. ^ FRANCE LAUX: 18 years (1929-48) and retired…The voice of St. Louis Baseball and a pioneer in Baseball radio broadcasting with the Browns (1929-43, '48) and Cardinals (1929-43, '45)… Also called network games for CBS (1933-38), and Mutual Game of the Day (1939-41, '44)… Behind the microphone for KMOX, he called Cardinals and Browns home games live from Sportsman's Park and recreated road games…A quiet, low-key broadcaster…Was CBS Radio's World Series announcer from 1933-38 and broadcast the All-Star Game from 1934-41…Other highlights include broadcasting the first night game from Sportsman's Park, Pete Gray's debut, Carl Hubbell's five strikeout performance in the '34 mid-summer classic and Ted Williams' game-ending three run home run in the '41 game.
  21. ^ HAL TOTTEN: 21 years (1924-50) and retired, as the voice of baseball in Chicago with the Cubs (1924-44) and White Sox (1926-44)…Helped solidify Baseball on radio…Became the first regular-season radio announcer on April 23, 1924, calling the play-by-play of the Cubs' 12-1 win over the Cardinals on Chicago's WMAQ…Had a self-effacing, gentle broadcast style…Called the World Series twice for CBS radio and three times for NBC, also broadcasting Mutual Game of the Week from 1945-50.

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