Columbia Lions 1-2 Princeton Tigers (partially found footage of college baseball game; 1939)

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Columbialionsprincetontigers1.jpg

TV camera used to broadcast the game.

Status: Partially Found

On May 17th, 1939, Columbia Lions and Princeton Tigers played a doubleheader at Baker Field. The second game made television history, for not only being the first televised baseball game, but for also becoming the first televised sporting event in the United States.

Background[edit | edit source]

Also the first televised college baseball game, this doubleheader between Columbia Lions and Princeton Tigers saw them resume their Ivy League rivalry. In the first game, Princeton defeated Columbia 8-6. Nevertheless, the second half of the doubleheader would prove to be the more historic. The National Broadcasting Company (NBC) had shown Columbia's sports information director Bob Harron a television that was presented at the 1939 World Fair. Upon seeing this new medium, Harron suggested NBC broadcast a sporting event.[1] NBC, intrigued by the suggestion, chose the second Columbia-Princeton college baseball game at Baker Field to carry out an experiment that would ultimately be received by less than four hundred sets capable of receiving the broadcast signal. A single TV camera was therefore placed on a wooden stand that was situated above the stadium, broadcasting the game live on NBC's WSXBS station.[2] Additionally, Bill Stern provided commentary for the game, while Burke Crotty was the TV director.[3] The entire experiment cost around $3,000, approximately $58,099.64 in 2021.

While technical limitations at the time meant that most viewers could barely see the ball, the broadcast proved successful. Columbia took the lead in the fifth inning thanks to a home run from Ken Pill. However, a wild pitch from Hector Dowd meant that Princeton were able to nullify Columbia's advantage in the sixth inning. By the tenth and final inning, the game was still 1-1. Princeton's Dan Carmichael started the inning by scoring a single. Bill Moore then made a sacrifice bunt, with the third man ending up being fouled out. Mark Hill then managed to steal the second base, while Carmichael was safe on third. Eventually, a hit from Stanley Pearson slowly rolled towards second, giving Carmichael enough time earn Princeton its second run. This allowed the team to win 2-1, in a game deemed more exciting than the first.[4]

The historical nature of this television broadcast meant it received coverage from both Life Magazine and The New York Times, the latter sending Louis Effrat to cover the game. Although the game was not the first ever televised sporting event, with the 1936 Summer Olympics receiving live television coverage and the BBC televising various live sports from 1937 onwards in the United Kingdom, it was definitively the first baseball match and US sporting event to be televised. Effrat proclaimed the game to be "the first regularly-scheduled sporting event to be pictured over the air waves." NBC, satisfied with the experiment, would later go on to broadcast the first Major League Baseball game between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Cincinnati Reds at Ebbets Field on 26th August, 1939.[5]

Availability[edit | edit source]

A small snippet of footage of the game remains accounted for, featuring a number 10 batsman successfully hitting the ball and running towards the first base.[6] Aside from this, the rest of the game is permanently missing, as it was broadcast live with no means of being able to directly record live broadcasts existing back in the 1930s.

Gallery[edit | edit source]

Videos[edit | edit source]

WVTM 13 News reporting on the game's 80th anniversary, and providing footage of the match.

Images[edit | edit source]

See Also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]