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TV History: 1952 World Series

by Christine Becker

This clip was uploaded for an assignment in Prof. Christine Becker's FTT 30461: History of Television class at the University of Notre Dame in Spring 2017. Check the commentary dropdown menu for a student's analysis of the clip.

A Change in Sports Television

by Casey Fraleigh

A telecast of a sporting event is your ticket at home to view the action as if you were at the actual game. It is the best seat in the house, second only to being there in person, and your key to witnessing the events taking place on the field. Given today’s technology, watching a live sporting event can be equally as educational and entertaining, sometimes even more so, than being at the actual game. This clip from Game 7 of the 1952 World Series is eye opening and highlights how advanced and engaging television broadcasts have become since then. Back in the 1950s, fans at home did not expect to be educated and entertained the way fans do today. Through this clip, it is evident how television broadcasts of sporting events have advanced in content, entertainment and purpose over time.
One detail that stands out to me when watching this clip is the lack of graphics and informative details that are an integral part of today’s broadcasts. I chose this clip because it clearly illustrates the major advancements featured in today’s broadcast as compared to ones back in the 1950s. Back then, fans viewing live sporting events didn’t expect to have access to all of the history, statistics and details that fans do today. The audience was thrilled to simply have the ability to view a game without having to purchase a ticket. They had not been exposed to the graphics available today. The differences today versus the clip I chose are astounding. Today, when hitters come to bat the on-screen graphics include the hitter’s name, number, position, batting average, summary of performance, balls, strikes, outs, pitch speed and runners on base to name a few. There were no expectations, nor was there any disappointment, that these type of graphics were not available and shared back in the 1950s because they had not been introduced yet.
Another example of the advancements in broadcasting live events is related to the announcement of the starting line-ups. As evidenced in the clip, the broadcaster announced each individual player in the starting lineup. As he did so, the camera would pan the dugout trying to find the respective player as he was being introduced. While this was welcomed and acceptable in the 1950s, it appears very disorderly as compared to current practices. Today, player introductions are well choreographed and feature a live tight shot on the player being introduced along with one or two timely and important on-screen graphics to highlight the player. This is capable because of the technology available today due to the fact that many more cameras are available than were in the Yankees – Dodgers clip. Current technologies allow the overall production to be much more scripted and choreographed.
These same sorts of advancements are evident when it comes to transitioning in and out of innings and commercial breaks. As shown in my clip, at the end of every half inning, the camera would clumsily pan to the actual stadium scoreboard to show the viewers the respective stat-line which included the inning and score, along with the number of hits, errors, etc. Today, however, on-screen graphics showcase all of that information and more, as well as who is coming to bat the next half inning.
The number of cameras used in a broadcast along with the specific camera positions and angles also add immensely to the style and intensity of a particular broadcast. In the 1950s clip of the World Series, there were a limited number of cameras and associated camera angles that could be featured. In Columbia Histories of Modern American Life: The Columbia History of American Television by Gary Edgerton, he talks about why it is harder to shoot a sport like baseball as compared to boxing. He said, ” from the outset, NBC producers recognized that the specifics of boxing- a small, confined arena with only two participants-lent-itself much better to the technical and aesthetic limitations of early television than baseball’s broad field, its wide dispersion of players, and its comparatively fast and unpredictable play” (Edgerton 85). During the 1952 World Series the main camera position was located high behind home plate and the camera angle showcased the pitcher, batter and catcher. No other part of the field or team was exposed. Based on the positioning of the main camera, the catcher and the home plate umpire would oftentimes shield the pitch as it crossed home plate. When there was a hit, the broadcast would cut to another camera on the first or third baseline who would follow the path of the ball. In contrast, today, the standard camera is situated in center field, allowing the audience to watch the catcher signal the pitch to the pitcher, show the trajectory of the ball as leaves the pitcher’s hand and the reaction of the hitter, catcher and umpire. This view allows the fan at home to witness the same things the infielders and outfielders do as if they were on the field with them. Because of this unobstructed view, fans we have the ability to argue balls and strikes from their home and be a part of every pitch throughout the game. In addition, cameras imbedded in the dirt, in bases, in dugouts and on catcher’s helmets allow fans at home to interact much more within a game. This adds to the overall immersive viewing experience since one can truly feel like they are actually sitting in the seats or standing on the field during the game and are exposed to everything happening in the ballpark at all times during the game.
The experience of a live television broadcast of a sporting event during the 1950s was without a doubt very different than it is today. The main objective during this era was to provide fans the ability to watch the game in the comfort of their own home. The luxury of simply being able to watch the game was enough. In today’s world, fans expect much more due to personal experiences and advancements in technology. It is because of these expectations and advancements, today’s sports broadcast has shifted towards offering everything possible to allow the fan to interact with the game, as if they were actually participating. As time passes, expectations and experiences will continue to grow and it is up to the sports broadcasting industry to continue to develop innovative ways to draw the fans in and provide them with at home interactive experiences that are not available to the fans in the ballpark. In many ways, the at home experiences are directly competing with the experiences at the ballpark. Let the games begin.

Works Cited

Edgerton, Gary. Columbia Histories of Modern American Life : The Columbia History of American Television. New York, US: Columbia University Press, 2010. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 27 February 2017.

The opening of Game 7 of the 1952 World Series.

This clip is from the start of an NBC broadcast of Game 7 of the 1952 World Series, believed to be, along with Game 6, the oldest surviving broadcasts of the World Series thanks to sponsor Gillette preserving them via kinescope recording.

from Game 7 of the 1952 World Series (1952)
Creator: NBC & Gillette
Distributor: YouTube
Posted by Christine Becker