Phillies' on-the-air history

October 26th, 2023

Every Phillies game these days is on radio and television, while also being available online where fans from across the globe can access live TV and radio broadcasts via their desktop and wireless devices. It wasn’t always that way.

Initially, only home games were aired live. Road games were recreated by an announcer sitting in a studio in Philadelphia. The announcer would read a Western Union teletype account of the game. Using sound effects, he would emulate the crack of the bat and insert pre-recorded crowd noise.

Research indicates the Phillies' first radio broadcast was the season opener, April 14, 1936, a 4-1 win over the Boston Braves at Baker Bowl. Home games were aired on WCAU.

On the air were Bill Dyer, a Philadelphia sportscaster, and Dolly Stark, an umpire. Yes, an umpire. Stark was a National League umpire (1928-35; '37-40). Dissatisfied with his $9,000 salary, the 38-year-old quit in 1936 and turned to broadcasting with the Phillies. He returned to the field the following season.

Other Radio Firsts

The Phillies were part of the first live baseball game ever broadcast on the radio, Aug. 5, 1921, when they played the Pirates in Forbes Field in Pittsburgh. Harold Arlin, a KDKA nighttime announcer, broadcast the game from behind home plate. In 1966, the Phillies selected right-handed pitcher Steve Arlin in the amateur draft, Harold’s grandson.

Another radio first for the Phillies came in 2005 when their games started to be aired in Spanish. The first Spanish broadcasting team was Bill Kulik and Danny Martinez.

First TV Game

Thanks to research by Bob Warrington, a native Philadelphian who is a SABR member, baseball historian and author, the Phillies' first telecast has been documented.

“Rich Westcott, in his landmark book, The Phillies Encyclopedia, notes the year (1947) and adds the broadcasts were carried on NBC’s WPTZ Channel 3,” Warrington writes. “The fact Phillies games began to be televised in 1947 is further confirmed by a WPTZ advertisement that appears in the Phillies 1950 World Series program. Its text states in part: ‘For the past four seasons [i.e. 1947-1950] the games of the Phillies have been brought to Philadelphia television homes through the eyes of WPTZ cameras.’

“But I’ve never discovered in any secondary sources an empirically based exact date for when the first televised Phillies home game occurred that year. The sources never go beyond identifying the year (1947). Well, I’ve done some sleuthing and came up with the answer.

“It was none other than Opening Day on Tuesday, April 15, 1947, a game that featured the Phillies versus the visiting New York Giants. In that day’s edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper, there is a column on page 27 titled, Radio Features on the Air Today. (Keep in mind radio was king in 1947, while television was just emerging from its infancy.) The column is dominated by a listing of programs on Philadelphia’s numerous radio stations, but there is a small box incorporated within the column with the subtitle, Television Program: WPTZ -- Channel 3 Today. There are exactly two program entries for the station that day, reflecting the primitive state of the television broadcast industry.

"This Inquirer entry provides unmistakable proof the first Phillies regular-season home game ever televised took place on April 15, 1947.

As noted in the above copy of Atlantic Refining Company’s ad, Claude Haring was the TV announcer; By Saam on radio (WIBG).

Not all home games were televised. For many years, only Sunday games were televised. When a game was postponed by rain or inclement weather, the station aired “Rain Out Theater.”

Did You Know

The 1939 World's Fair showed the new technology called television. An experimental station W2XBS aired the first televised Major League Baseball games, a doubleheader between the Cincinnati Reds and the Brooklyn Dodgers from Ebbets Field on Aug. 26, 1939.

Baseball’s first nationally televised Spring Training game was March 13, 1954, White Sox vs. Phillies at Clearwater Athletic Field. ABC paid $2,000 for the right to televise the game. Because of confusing territorial rights in some Major League cities, ABC was forced to halt transmission of the game after three innings.

On July 23,1962, the Phillies played the Cubs in Chicago’s Wrigley Field, the first game televised via the Telstar satellite which had been launched two weeks earlier. Johnny Callison’s third-inning single was the first hit seen by live television in Europe.

On Sept. 1, 1975, NBC's last Monday Night Baseball telecast took place. The Montréal Expos beat the host Phillies.

The first ABC Monday Night national telecast for the Phillies at Veterans Stadium was July 5, 1976. The crew included the legendary broadcaster Howard Cosell. Spotted him in the booth a couple of hours prior to game time. Introduced myself, “Let me know if I can do anything for you.” He responded, “Son, can you get me a bottle of vodka?” Mission accomplished.

Phillies over-the-air TV was joined by cable TV with Prism doing the games from 1986 through 1997. Comcast SportsNet came into being in 1998.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Vision Cable of Clearwater televised a few Spring Training games from Jack Russell Stadium to subscribers in Pinellas County. Brian Aungst, who later became the Clearwater's Mayor, was the announcer.

During the 2021 season, a three-game series was played between June 18 and June 20 between the Phillies and the San Francisco Giants. The regional television rights for each team were held by the NBC Sports Regional Networks. The games were the first to be aired nationally on NBC's streaming service, Peacock.

MLB signed a contract to have games exclusively televised on Apple TV. The Phillies debut on “Apple TV Friday Night Baseball” was Sept. 2, 2022, from San Francisco.