QUICK SEARCH
CATEGORIES
   Adventure
   All Shows
   Children
   Comedy
   Compilation
   Detective
   Drama
   Gossip
   Historical
   Holiday
   Music
   Mystery-Horror
   News
   Personality
   Quiz
   Rare
   Religious
   Sci Fi
   Serials
   Soap Operas
   South African
   Sports
   Westerns
   WWII
   On Sale
   Newest Additions
   Quick Order
BROWSE BY DECADE
   1910s
   1920s
   1930s
   1940s
   1950s
LISTENER FAVORITES
01.Sam Spade
02.Philip Marlowe
03.Sherlock Holmes
04.Have Gun Will Travel
05.Best of Suspense
06.Amos and Andy
07.I Love a Mystery
08.Johnny Dollar (Yours Truly Johnny Dollar)
09.Gunsmoke
10.Inner Sanctum Mysteries
SHOPPING CART
You have no items in your cart
Baseball in Old Time Radio
 
  Tim DeForest by Tim DeForest

 
.   .
 

Babe Ruth

Cincinnati Red StockingsThe first baseball game was played in 1846 between the Knickerbocker Club of New York City and The New York Nine. By the time the Civil War ended, the game had gained in popularity and was well on its way to becoming the National Pastime.

The first professional team, the Cincinnati Red Stockings, was formed in 1869. By 1876, sixteen pro teams formed the National League.  That's the same year Custer fought his last stand at Little Big Horn. We don't often connect baseball with the Wild West, but it actually wasn't unusual for professional teams to barnstorm from town to town, taking on the local amateur clubs.

Howard McNear who played Doc on Gunsmoke "Doesn't that make it hard for the pitcher"?That's the situation we find in the August 2, 1959 episode of Gunsmoke, titled "Ball Nine, Take Your Base." A pair of murderous gamblers keep Matt Dillon busy, but this entertaining episode also reminds us that the rules of the game were still evolving throughout the 19th Century. There's a scene in which Doc Adams, who has been selected umpire, is meeting with the two team leaders to finalize the rules. One of the managers is shocked at the idea of a batter being allowed to take first base after only nine balls, asking "Doesn't that make it hard for the pitcher?"

Gunsmoke:
Ball Nine Take Your Base

 

John McGrawOld Time Radio returned to baseball many times for both comedy and drama. Often, the colorful lives of real-life players provided plenty of storytelling fodder. The Cavalcade of America presented us with the story of John McGraw, the quick-tempered tyrant who managed the New York Giants for thirty years. ("The Great McGraw"--4/15/1946)

Cavalcade of America:
The Great McGraw

 

Satchell PaigeDestination Freedom did an imaginative and entertaining biography of Satchel Page, a star of the Negro Leagues and perhaps the best pitcher in baseball history. The episode smoothly combined both spoken narration and song to tell the story of a man who "struck out so many men the outfielders were scared they be jailed for vagrancy, loitering around the ballparks with nothing to do." The story milks a lot of drama out of Page's quest to strike out Josh Gibson, the best hitter in the Negro Leagues, and Page's later efforts to get signed with a Major League team.

Destination Freedom:
The Ballad of Satchell Paige

 

Gary Cooper Pride of the YankeesOn October 4, 1943, The Lux Radio Theater gave us an adaptation of The Pride of the Yankees, which recounted the tragic but inspiring life of Lou Gehrig. Gary Cooper reprised his Oscar-winning performance for the broadcast.

Lux Radio Theater:
The Pride of the Yankees

 

Baseball remained our nation's most popular sport throughout most of the 20th Century and pretty much every long-running show on radio touched on the subject from time to time. In fact, if you were to judge from the crime and mystery shows, you might come to the conclusion that it was impossible to attend a baseball game without stumbling over a dozen or so gamblers and killers.

Boston Blackie in action.Boston Blackie dealt with crime on the baseball diamond at least twice. The April 14, 1946 episode had him investigating the murder of a player who was shot while sliding into second base. A year later, on April 29, 1947, the murder of a gambler drew Blackie into a plot involving a player who had a lot of slugging power but very little brain power: the villains were using him as a patsy for their nefarious scheme.

Boston Blackie:
Baseball Player Shot

Ellery Queen

Ellery Queen investigated the inexplicable disappearance of a baseball player's lucky bat on the eve of the World Series. In this April 3, 1957 episode, the key to solving the crime was figuring out how the bat was stolen, which in turn would put the finger on who stole it.

Adventures of Ellery Queen:
Adventures of World Series Crime

 

The Saint spent his September 3, 1950 episode looking into the possibility that an up-and-coming minor league pitcher might be on a gambler's payroll. Vincent PriceBefore long, the Saint is knocked out and someone is murdered. But that's pretty much a typical day in the life of Simon Templar and he both fingers the killer and gives the pitcher a chance for redemption before show ends.

The Saint:
Baseball Murder

 

On June 26, 1946, The Damon Runyon Theater told the story of "Baseball Hattie," the wife of a pitcher who falls back into a wild lifestyle and soon wracks up a lot of gambling debts, leading to an offer to throw a game. But Hattie loves baseball as much as she loves her wayward husband and will take drastic action if necessary to keep him from shaming the game.

Damon Runyon Theater:
Baseball Hattie

 

Heck, even the Devil himself tried to horn his way into the national pastime. The June 15, 1946 episode of Family Theater presented us with Jack Webb as a mysterious baseball scout who tries to convince an idealistic young pitcher that the only way to get to the Major Leagues was to play dirty and think only of himself.

But not all baseball stories on radio were dripping with blood or potential corruption. On April 17, 1948, Favorite Story did a wonderful adaptation of the poem "Casey at the Bat," in which the star of the Mudville team is given a back story that gives the events of the poem an entertaining context.

Favorite Story:
Casey at Bat

 

Old BaseballThe Columbia Workshop took the field on several occasions, including "The Day Baseball Died" (9/28/1946) in which a pitcher comes up with an unhittable pitch, sparking a debate over whether the game can survive this innovation.

Columbia Workshop:
The Day that Baseball Died

 

And "You Can Look It Up" (7/7/1957) was an adaptation of James Thurber's humorous short story about a manager that sends a midget to the plate, hoping to draw a walk. All the midget has to do is NOT swing at a pitch—so what could possibly go wrong?

CBS Radio Workshop:
And You Can Look It Up

 

AliensThurber wrote the short story in 1941 and proved to be prescient. In 1951, the St. Louis Browns really did send a midget named Eddie Gaedel to the plate in hopes he'd draw a walk. He did and was then replaced by a pinch runner, ending a very short but unique Major League career.

Radio looked to the game's future when X Minus One gave us "Martian Sam" (4/3/1957), about the first non-human player in the game's history: A Martian with a very long arm who can strike out every batter he faces. Or he can at least until a rival team sends to the plate a Venusian with a certain physical advantage of his own.

X Minus One:
Martian Sam

 

Fibber and MollyRadio's best comedies often used baseball as fodder to generate laughs. On May 21, 1946, we find out that Fibber McGee once had a fastball that "fanned more men than Sally Rand." But now, as he gets ready to return to the mound for a local game, it seems that he's lost his stuff. Fortunately, he has a wife who's smarter than he is and Molly spots the problem in time to save the day.

Fibber McGee and Molly:
Fireball McGee

 

On October 13, 1940, a World Series bet between Jack Benny and Phil Harris became a hilarious running gag throughout the episode.  

Jack Benny:
Phil Tries to Collect a World Series Bet

 

Great GildersleeveAnd The Great Gildersleeve spent his April 7, 1948 episode stuck with the job of finding land for a kid's ball field after he accidentally pitched a baseball through the windshield of the mayor's car.

The Great Gildersleeve:
Baseball Field

 

Madison High School, where Our Miss Brooks often clashed with the penny-pinching principal, suffered yet another financial crisis on March 26, 1950, when the school couldn't afford uniforms for the baseball team. This interfered with Miss Brooks plans to woe Mr. Boyden, the romantically impaired biology teacher, by taking him to the big game. Our Miss BrooksMiss Brooks figured "If he spends enough time looking at curves and watching fellows trying to get to first base, it might give him an idea." But conflicting plans by Miss Brooks,Mr. Boyden, Principal Conklin and student Walter Denton to raise the needed money lead to chaos and her romantic plans crash and burn yet again.

Our Miss Brooks:
Baseball Game

 

Baseball has a rich and colorful history, full of drama, excitement, and humor; populated by players with unique and often exuberant personalities. America wouldn't be America without nine men out on the diamond, a batter at the plate and an umpire yelling "Play ball!" It's no wonder that the best old time radio shows turned to the sport again and again.

For great additional Baseball listening, see also:

Baseball
Baseball in Old Time Radio Collection

Baseball & World Series Broadcasts

 


Radio By the Book
Tim DeForest
has been geeking out on various elements of early 20th Century pop culture for most of his life. He is the author of several books on old-time radio, comic strips and pulp fiction. His first book—Storytelling in the Pulps, Comics and Radio: How Technology Changed Popular Fiction in America--was published in 2004. Radio by the Book: Adaptations of Fiction and Literature on the Airwaves, was published in 2008. Tim also maintains a blog about comics, radio and pulp fiction.

Tim has also written magazine articles on military history and the American West. He regularly teaches several Bible studies and has served as a short-term missionary in Haiti and south Sudan.



 
.   .

<< RETURN TO OLD TIME RADIO ARTICLES


Current Parse Time: 0.195 s with 24 queries (0.006651)