B&W TV tennis playerIt was 85 years ago exactly, on the afternoon of May 17, 1939, when 2 college baseball teams were squaring off in Andy Coakley Field on 218th Street & Broadway in Manhattan, the Columbia Lions hosting the Princeton Tigers. It was a baseball game like any other, except for that guy perched on a wooden platform along the 3rd base line pointing a camera at the game, making today


Sports and TV, a marriage made in heaven. That college baseball game (Columbia won, 2-1) was the world’s first televised sporting event.

Next Stop: every sport under the sun being televised. Prize fighting, horse racing, every kind of ballgame, wrestling, hockey, tennis and Big College sports were immediately Must-See TV. Even “regular guy ” sports like golf, billiards and bowling became popular TV fare. We love our sports, and they were a huge selling point in popularizing the new medium of television.

By the early 1950s, almost every home in America was watching local and national sports broadcasts and Friday Night Boxing along with Red Skelton and Edward R. Murrow. Baseball became a daily show for half the year, the long season unfolding like a soap opera, with the World Series becoming a Great National Event.

Today the Superbowl is the most watched television show on Earth, and the Olympics are 2 weeks of TV ratings gold every 2 years, even bizarre sports like Curling and Synchronized Swimming. If they film it, we will watch.

•Suggested Activities: Watching Secretariat’s Triple Crown Races, Willie Mays’ over-the-shoulder World Series catch, and Jack Dempsey fights on YouTube

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