The first commercial Dodgers broadcast, 70 years ago today

Cynthia Littleton of Variety and Tom Hoffarth of the Daily News have pieces on today’s 70th anniversary of what’s said to be the debut of commercial television – with both noting that a Dodgers-Phillies (Brooklyn loses, 6-4) game was part of the original programming. The Dodgers also played in the first televised baseball game, in 1939.

… Television sets had been available in Gotham department stores such as Macy’s since the 1939 World’s Fair broadcast got early adopters excited about the potential of television. But most of the sets in use in 1941 were set up to receive 441 lines of picture while the FCC had set the commercial telecasting standard at 525. That made for some muddy visuals early on.

Variety was unimpressed by the overall presentation, the hucksterism and production value.

“It was all pretty corney,” Daily Variety reported on July 2, 1941. “Especially a crowd of announcers and radio hangerson eating chocolate layer cake made with Spry and yumyumming. Practically all the sets in the New York area were picking up 525 line images on old sets adjusted to 441 lines. This cut down definition, but it was not engineering definition that was hard to bear. It was the low grade showmanship.”

WNBT and WCBW broadcast about 15 hours a week in those first few months. But the flagship stations for the Peacock (NBC) and the Eye (CBS) didn’t get much time to refine their product before the U.S. entry into WWII put the kibosh on virtually all commercial telecasts. The technology and resources that David Sarnoff and William Paley were plowing into TV were immediately diverted to the war effort.

The growth of TV would be stymied for the better part of the 1940s, until a manic vaudevillian named Milton Berle hit it big with “Texaco Star Theater” in 1948 and TV sets starting flying off the shelves.

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  • Ken Arneson, retired Baseball Toaster chieftain, has a guest piece on Baseball Prospectus today. As I always say, ‘nuf said.
  • Here’s a new baseball cartoon blog: Gary Finkler’s 7th Inning Sketch, complete with requisite Frank McCourt image.
  • The Collected Sins of the Frank & Jamie McCourt era, by Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness. Unenjoy!

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