Mel Allen and Red Barber, the inaugural recipients of the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasting in 1978, were children when commercial radio made its debut. So they grew up knowing what sportscasting is.
Not so for the 2015 winner announced Wednesday, Graham McNamee, who as the first real voice of the World Series had to make it up as he went along.
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Jeff Idelson, the Hall’s president, wasn’t exaggerating when he said, “without any blueprint, he created a genre.”
McNamee was an opera singer whose career had hit a slow patch when on a whim he auditioned for a radio announcing job at WEAF in New York in 1923.
By that October, he was being paired with sportswriter Grantland Rice for the Yankees-Giants World Series, the first to be fully covered live from inside the stadium rather than with information relayed by wire, as it was done in 1921 and ’22.
Rice knew more about baseball than did McNamee, but McManee knew more about spicing up a broadcast with colorful language and descriptions.
By 1927, he was on the cover of Time magazine. He called World Series games until 1935, the first year Barber did so, as well as dozens of other major sports and news events.
McNamee died in 1942 at age 53. In his obituary, The New York Times printed a list of his 11 most memorable sports events from a story several years earlier.
The list featured 10 different sports, including baseball, naturally. He cited Babe Ruth’s “called shot” in the 1932 World Series among his favorite moments.