Baseball And Radio, After 99 Years Is The Relationship Faltering?

By Evan Weiner

One of the reasons the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team has a large regional following was the team’s broadcasts on KMOX, which was and is a clear channel station which means at night the signal did not compete with other stations and was picked up hundreds of miles away from St. Louis. In the 1930s, KMOX began a relationship with the team, and by the 1950s, became the flagship station of Cardinals baseball.

Radio and baseball had a rather unique relationship. It was not uncommon to hear Vin Scully’s voice at Los Angeles Dodgers home games in the 1960s as people brought transistor radios to the game to listen to Scully describe what they were seeing live in the stadium. Those days are long gone.

The Oakland A’s baseball franchise does not have a San Francisco Bay Area flagship radio station and has moved to streaming games either with the hope of getting younger fans to listen through mobile devices or because no radio station wanted to carry the games. The move means that A’s ownership is willing to abandon Bay Area fans who only have access to the games on radio.

Baseball was first heard on KDKA in Pittsburgh in 1921, but baseball owners did not trust the then new medium because they felt if they gave the product away for nothing, people would not come to the parks.

In the 1930s, that thinking began to change. Larry McPhail sold a piece of the Cincinnati Reds to WLW radio station owner Powell Crosley and suddenly Cincinnati Reds games were on WLW. McPhail was able to promote his Reds, and Powell had programming that gave a boost to WLW’s ratings. It was one of the reasons to this day that the Reds franchise is a regional team. 

Baseball and radio’s 99-year relationship is going through the first stage of separation.

Evan Weiner is a journalist who specializes in the politics of sports as a business. This article originally appeared on Sports Talk Florida and is reposted with the author’s permission.

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