83 Years Ago Today, a New York TV Station Made Baseball History
162 days and nights each year during the spring and summer months, baseball is on television.
The game that's regarded as "America's national pastime" has become ubiquitous during summer nights in the United States, as well as the state of New York. Whether you're turning on the YES Network, SNY, or even NESN, odds are that a baseball game will be on the television for you to enjoy.
It wasn't always this way, however. Less than a century ago, it was impossible to find baseball on television, and the only hope for fans who weren't at the ballpark that day, was to tune-in on the radio.
Then, on May 17, 1939, 83 years ago to the day of writing this article, a news station in New York City propped a camera up at a ballpark, and changed sports history forever.
83 Years Ago Today, a New York News Station Changed Baseball History
The station that executed this historic broadcast, was W2XBS in New York. The station would later rebrand to their permanent call letters, WNBC, call letters that are world-reknown today.
Back in 1939, however, W2XBS was in its experimental stages. The television had been invented just 12 years prior, and the technology was still extremely archaic. That didn't face those involved with the television station, however, as they made the trip to Baker Field, home of the Columbia Lions' baseball team. The field is now called Hal Robertson Field at Phillip Satow Stadium, but in 1923, when it opened its doors, it was simply Baker Field.
Baker Field was the setting, and Bill Stern was the broadcaster, as Columbia took on Princeton on May 17, 1939. A single camera was set up, and pointed at the field, and according to a story from The National Baseball Hall of Fame, the first baseball broadcast was underway.
It wasn't exactly a cinematic masterpiece, either. Players were described as resembling flies on the screen, and the worst seat at Baker Field was still exponentially better than trying to watch the game on a 9x12 inch screen.
That being said, the game was on the television, and a new era of sports in America had begun.
The History of New York Baseball on Television
It was not the New York Yankees, nor the New York Mets, who were the first MLB team to play on television. It was the Brooklyn Dodgers, who played on that same NBC station on Aug. 26, 1939.
The New York Yankees first hit the television airwaves on a regular basis in 1947, with legendary broadcaster Mel Allen bringing the action to fans on WABD in New York City. The team would move their broadcasts to WPIX in 1951, remaining on that station in either a full-time or part-time capacity until 1998. The team spent time on SportsChannel New York and the MSG Network, before the YES Network launched in 2002.
Over in Queens, the New York Mets began play in 1962, and had their broadcasts on WOR-TV (later rebranded to WWOR-TV) for decades. Beginning in 1979, SportsChannel New York began to split broadcasts with WOR. Beginning in 1999, the Mets would be broadcast on a combination of Fox Sports New York (now MSG Plus), WPIX, and the MSG Network. It was in 2006 when the Mets launched Sportsnet New York (SNY), and they've been on SNY and PIX ever since.