Tag Archives: Sporting News

Here is the Actual 1939 Contract That Ended the Baseball Broadcast Moratorium For Good

Yesterday we posted a 1932 article published by the Sporting News revealing the results of a poll the paper took of their readers as to the latter’s feelings about broadcasting games live on the radio.  Almost 260,000 votes were cast, with the Sporting News concluding that public opinion in favor of live broadcasts was “practically unanimous”.

This overwhelming fan sentiment did not prevent eight of the sixteen teams from banning broadcasts of their games by local radio stations the following season.  (In fact, the Indians ended up dropping radio in 1933 before picking it up again for the 1934 campaign.) But eventually the teams and the leagues did come to see the light, and that light led them to enter into the Major League Broadcasting Agreement just prior to the 1939 season.

So, what did this Major League Broadcasting Agreement actually look like?  What were its provisions, and what practices did it allow and forbid?  Fortunately for us, this is something we can see for ourselves, thanks to the miracle that is the Internet.  Goldin Auctions, a company that conducts auctions of sports memorabilia, had conducted one consisting specifically of baseball documents this past August, and which included a signed copy of this 1939 broadcasting agreement, complete with original signatures from representatives of all 16 clubs, including many club presidents who are still well-known today.

A certificate of authentication included with the auction lot indicated that the agreement was executed on 20 copies, each signed by all 16 team representatives, and the web page on which the auction was conducted indicates that the winner paid $23,800 to add the document to his or her collection.

However, the best part about all of this is that there are .JPG files for each page of the document on that web page.  You can go there and peruse the entire agreement if you like—or you can simply click on the images below to see and read the document.

Having read the agreement myself, I am struck by how short and simple it is by today’s standards.  Even allowing for names of the participating parties and for definition of terms, it looks like they were able to bring in the entire agreement under 2,000 words. By contrast, the iTunes Store terms and Conditions yawns on interminably for over 20,000 words.

Secondly, there are several interesting aspects to the agreement that I think are worth mentioning here:

  • The agreement prevented a team from broadcasting its games on any radio stations located within fifty miles of any other team’s stadium.
  • In two-team cities, the agreement prevented one team from broadcasting any of its games as long as the other team was playing a home game, at least until that other team’s game had concluded.
  • The New York Giants and New York Yankees together constituted a two-team territory, but the Brooklyn Dodgers, only about a dozen miles away and even then technically located within New York City for the prior 40 years, constituted its own one-team territory.  So, if the Giants were away and the Yankees were at home, the Giants could not broadcast its away game (and vice versa, of course).  However, if the Giants and the Yankees were both away, the Giants could broadcast its away game even if the Dodgers were playing a home game.
  • The agreement specified that ball clubs could broadcast only between 550 and 1600 on the AM band, but specifically forbade broadcasting on shortwave or other “high frequency” stations.  (FM was not contemplated because the first FM station in a major league city did not sign on until that November.)
  • The agreement defined “broadcasting” as including not only radio, but telephone.
  • The corporate name of the New York Giants was the very bland-sounding “National Exhibition Company” and were, in fact, incorporated in New jersey.  And the best part of that is, they maintained this corporate name long after they moved to San Francisco!

After this agreement was signed onto, no baseball team ever again refused to broadcast its games live for any reason other than financial. (As it happens, both the Giants and Yankees did not air their games during the 1941 and 1943 seasons due to inability to sell broadcasting rights for what they deemed to be their minimum asking price).

Click on any of the images below to open them in a new tab.  Enjoy!

 

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1932 Sporting News Article Reveals Shocker: Fans Want to Hear Baseball on the Radio!

Among people who have read up on the history of baseball broadcasting, it’s pretty well known that putting games on the radio was a very controversial topic during the first decade-plus of the practice. Many owners believed that broadcasting live games, especially home games, would cost them at the gate.  This opinion was prevalent especially in the crowded Northeast corridor, where fandom extended generally to the ends of the transit lines needed to get to the ballpark. The Midwestern teams (as well as the Boston clubs) were the first to regularly broadcast starting in the late Twenties.  By contrast, the three New York teams entered into a formal agreement in 1934 placing a moratorium on all game broadcasts. This agreement remained in place until the major leagues signed the Major League Broadcast Agreement just before the 1939 season (more on that in a post tomorrow).

It’s not as though the fans kept their thoughts on the matter to themselves, though.  The Sporting News conducted a poll on the question in 1932, in conjunction with a vote for the most popular baseball broadcaster (won by Arch McDonald, then at WDOD calling Chattanooga Lookouts games) and a contest paying cash prizes (up to $25!) for the best-written letters sent in.  In the words of the paper, the results of the poll were “practically unanimous”: fans demanded the “continuance of radio broadcasting of baseball games”, with a “remarkable number of women” responding “showing an increased interest in the game by the fair sex” and revealing that, directly as a result of the broadcasts available at the time, interest was “particularly empathic from the small hamlets, where baseball enthusiasm apparently (ran) higher than in the larger cities.”

The article, shown below in its entirety, featured several of the winning letters sent in by respondents, some of whom confirmed that were it not for the broadcasts, they would scarcely be aware that the major league baseball even existed, and that listening to the games only whetted their appetite to see games live at the ballpark. According to the article, a staggering 259.865 votes were cast in the poll which concluded that only five percent of respondents would have rather listened to the game on radio than see the game in person.

One interesting revelation is that fans wanted all games broadcast, both home and away—except for Saturday and Sunday games, since “the fans usually have leisure on these days to attend the games and that the radio should not be a substitute for attendance on those days.”

This article ran in the issue of September 29, 1932, a season during which only nine of the sixteen major league teams were broadcasting their games.  Click on the article to open it in a new tab, then click the article in that new tab again to see it in full size. Yes, we know the very bottom of the article is practically illegible.

Listeneres Want Radio

In Case You Missed It …

It’s been a long time since we’ve posted anything in the way of news here.  Bad on us, and we’re working to be better in 2015.  We have to, because it’s our New Year’s resolution.

So we’re jumping back in by providing links to some of the top baseball media stories that have broken just since the end of the season.

World Series TV Ratings: Giants/Royals Game 7 Nears Ten-Year High: Game Sevens really do matter. The only game with a higher rating in the past ten years was also a Game 7 (2011 Rangers/Cardinals).

MLB’s Low National Ratings vs. Record-High Local Ratings: I love dichotomies, and not just because it’s a fun word to say.  Although as the Sporting News says in that first linked article, it might be more of a Fox problem than a general national problem. If you want to know what I think, ask me offline.

DIRECTV and Disney sign long-term agreement; adds WatchESPN and Longhorn Network: Oh my god, THANK you. Finally. This means you (and I) as a D*TV subscriber will soon be able to watch baseball on your smartphone or tablet without begging a friend for their Dish or WOW login credentials.

Early overdose: Even without Jeter, ESPN still loves Yankees for Sunday night: You probably already saw this in Chad Osborne’s post from last week.  Eye rolls, yeah, I know, but let’s face it: almost 9% of the entire US lives in the New York and Boston TV markets, but also, according to Facebook, the Yankees and Red Sox are among the top teams in basically every county in the United States. Just goes to show you: you don’t always have to rob banks to know where the money is.

Chicago news: Harrelson pumped up about White Sox moves; won’t cut back schedule: Vin Scully isn’t the only multiple decade-tenured broadcasters working well into his golden years.  And just think, Hawk Harrelson is 13 years younger than Vin, so maybe he’s got a long way to go?

ESPN goes all in on Cubs to open 2015 baseball season: And really, who doesn’t want to spend a chilly Sunday night in April gazing at a Jumbotron rising from the surrounding wreckage whence people once watched baseball games?

Networks will be active in quickening the pace in baseball; New commish expected to be ‘open to new ideas’: This is one of those rare instances in which the interests of fans and of broadcasters are well-aligned.

Long-time Detroit baseball writer retiring after 29 years on the beat: Did you know that John Lowe invented the quality start?  He may be ink-stained, but he’s not a wretch.

The Sportswriter of the Year is Si’s Tom Verducci: Tom is both a baseball journalist and a baseball broadcaster, so he’s double trouble, and thus a favorite.

SportsNet LA standoff was top story: Because of TWC’s strong-arm methods, 70% of the LA market did not have Dodger games available to them, and there doesn’t appear to be any thawing for 2015 as of yet.

Scully may travel less in 2015: And really, who can blame him? After all, the guy is 86 freaking years old.  Most people born the same year as he was aren’t traveling anywhere anymore.  (Yes, it’s because they’re dead.)

Fox’s Chatty Booth Makes Few Good Points to Speak of During World Series: Two’s company, three’s a crowd?  Four is definitely a British Invasion band, though.

Postseason Vanishing From Broadcast Networks: But with the combination of cable and “alternate delivery systems” penetrating about 90% of TV households, will anyone really miss it?

Enberg, Gage Named Ford C. Frick Award Winners: Big shout out to two Detroiters made good in baseball media.  Hat tip to you both.  Congratulations.