Came across this while perusing some old newspapers looking for baseball media stories. This is not exactly baseball media, but it’s close enough to mention here.
In the late 1930s, the Big Thing on radio was quiz shows. The airwaves were lousy with ask-me-another type programs like Vox Pop, Professor Quiz, Uncle Jim’s Question Bee, and the highbrow Information Please, so high-falutin’ it spawned an almanac that remained popular decades after the show’s demise.
Far be it from Baseball to ignore so obvious a trend, so Chicago powerhouse WGN (or, more exactly, “W-G-N”) got into the game with Bob Elson’s Baseball Quiz. Teams of seven (why stop at seven? Why not nine?), handpicked by area chambers of commerce or service organizations, would be questioned on their knowledge of the game and the players who play it.
There are two really cool things about this, in my opinion:
- Actual players from the Cubs and the White Sox were to appear on the program as judges. Why you need judges in a quiz show is a little beyond me–after all, you get the question correct as written on the card or you don’t, right? Or is it really not that simple? Either way, having major league players involved in the program can’t be bad for the Crossleys, right?
- After the quiz season plays out, the two “grand champion” teams were to receive all expense paid trips to the World Series. That’s a pretty ambitious prize for a local quiz show, I think. Then again, the 50,000-watt blowtorches of the day were more like regional stations than local affairs, as their signal would cut across a double-digit number of states, somewhat similar to how a regional sports network like ROOT Rocky Mountain does today. So these stations were mighty big deals, and generated very high numbers of listeners, maybe even a lot more than today’s iteration of WGN does 77 years later. As it turns out, ‘GN dodged a bullet somewhat: the Cubs made it to the 1938 series against the Yankees, so they only had to pay the winners’ expenses to travel to one city instead of two.
No word on who the “grand champions” ended up being. They are lost to the ephemera of history.
Here’s the short original article about the show, accompanied by a short blurb about a similar show out of New York, in the March 15, 1938 Chicago Tribune: