Ronald Reagan, the broadcaster…

Spencer_1THIS MORNING, (MAR. 8 SUNDAY) IN THE GAZOO I HAD A LITTLE FUN WITH MY BUDDIES GARY BULLIS, GARY MACHABEE AND TY COBB, ONE SEGMENT DEVOTED TO COBB’S CALLING PLAY-BY-PLAY AS A YOUTH IN RENO ON FM STATION KNEV. I HAD THIS PIECE BUT SPACE DIDN’T PERMIT ITS INCLUSION SO HERE YOU ARE. IT’S PROBABLY COPYRIGHTED SOMEWHERE BUT I DON’T SEE IT SO I’LL PRETEND NOT TO LOOK! ENJOY

PS: That’s Ty Cobb with President Reagan

In the 1930s, Reagan was a sports broadcaster in Davenport, Iowa, and later at Des Moines station WHO. From the studio there, he recreated Chicago Cubs baseball games with “play-by-play” based on teletype reports.

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Here’s something you should know about the early days of radio in baseball. There was a lot of resistance to it. Baseball owners thought that if games were broadcast on radio no one would actually come out to the ballpark to see the game. To give you an idea of how ambivalent baseball owners were about radio back then the broadcasters were not actually at the ballpark. Rather they would call the game from a remote location and rely on a ticker tape for the play by play. Color commentary was left to the imagination. Reagan was certainly no exception. He called Cubs games on WHO radio in Des Moines, Iowa.

Suffice it to say, the ticker tape didn’t always work as it should and Reagan had to rely on his wit as was the case one afternoon when the Cubs were playing the archrival St. Louis Cardinals who had Dizzy Dean pitching and a unusually long at bat by Cubs shortstop Billy Jurges. Well, I’ll let Reagan tell the story as he told it during a White House Luncheon for Members of the Baseball Hall of Fame on March 27, 1981:

What isn’t in the record book is Billy Jurges staying at the plate, I think, the longest of any ballplayer in the history of the game. I was doing the games by telegraphic report, and the fellow on the other side of the window wa a little slit underneath, the headphones on, getting the dot-and-dash Morse code from the ballpark, would type out the play. And the paper would come through to me – it would say,”S1C.” Well, you’re not going to sell any Wheaties yelling “S1C!” (Laughter) So, I’d say, “And so-and-so comes out of the wind-up, here’s the pitch, and it’s called a strike, breaking over the outside corner to so-and-so, who’d rather have a ball someplace else and so forth and backed out there.”

Well, I saw him start to type, and I started-Dizzy Dean was on the mound – and I started the ball on the way to the plate — or him in the wind-up and he, Curly, the fellow on the other side, was shaking his head, and I thought he just – maybe it was a miraculous play or something. But when the slip came through it said, “The wire’s gone dead.” Well, I had the ball on the way to the plate. (Laughter) And I figured out real quick, I could say we’ll tell them what had happened and then play transcribed music. But in those days there were at least seven or eight other fellows that were doing the same ball game. I didn’t want to lose the audience.

So, I thought real quick. “There’s one thing that doesn’t get in the score book,” so I had Billy foul one off. And I looked at Curly, and Curly went just like this; so I had him foul another one. And I had foul one back third base and described the fight between the two kids that were trying to get the ball. (Laughter) Then I had him foul one that just missed being a home run, about a foot and a half. And I did set a world record for successive fouls or for someone standing there, except that no one keeps records of that kind. And I was beginning to sweat, when Curly sat up straight and started typing, and he was nodding his head, “Yes.” And the slip came through the window, and I could hardly talk for laughing, because it said, “Jurges popped out on the first ball pitch.” (Laughter)

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