Sports fans have always found a way to ‘watch’ the game
I’m going to admit something in public. I am not a huge sports fan. Don’t get me wrong, I love watching sports, in person. I have just never been a huge fan of watching sports on television. I have participated in sports my entire life, just not the kind of sports that most people spend hours watching. Sailing, cycling, rowing, hiking, running and kayaking have all been part of my life at one time or another. You might consider these to be non-sports. You would be wrong. Check the Olympics.
I’ve spent a lifetime working at newspapers with entire departments devoted to sports. As a photographer I have covered hundreds of games. In fact, my first assignment I ever did for The Times was covering Belpre playing at Fort Frye in football 1977. When I eventually retire, I think it would be fitting for it to be the last thing I do.
To attend a game, sit in the stands and watch every play of the game, the number is likely much smaller, if you exempt games that one of my children were playing in. Likely a few dozen, total, in my life. Professional sports are a slightly different matter since attending them is as much of an event as is watching the game, but that number is still very small, likely less than 10.
To watch a game on television for me is extremely rare. I will watch the Super Bowl each year, and I will watch the end of the seventh game of the World Series — that is pretty much it. This presents a bit of a problem for me because the series does not always go to seven games, and I miss the end. If this is the case it wasn’t close anyway and I didn’t waste the time watching a lopsided contest.
Please don’t hate me because I don’t watch NASCAR. I did attend a race as a child at Daytona and had a great time in the infield as an 11-year-old. To watch other people driving on TV is not my thing. Nor is watching other people play golf.
Newspaper stories about contests serve as after-the-fact summaries of the game, meet or race being covered. It takes a few minutes to read them, and for me that is enough.
I know a lot of people enjoy watching and listening to a game while it happens. With modern technology this can be done wherever they happen to be. Streaming allows you to pick your game and listen to it on whatever device you want. This was not always the case. When the Pittsburgh Pirates played the Washington Senators 96 years ago this week, fans only had one choice, radio, and they barely had that.
KDKA in Pittsburgh was the first station in the nation to broadcast a game when they delivered a play-by-play of the Pittsburgh vs. Philadelphia baseball game on Aug. 5, 1921. The RCA network started broadcasting the World Series in 1924.
The photo on page 2 of today’s Times is remarkable because it shows people gathered in the street to listen to a game from the 1925 World Series matchup of the Pittsburgh Pirates and Washington Senators being broadcast on a public radio. The photo shows hundreds of people filling Second Street near the Washington County Courthouse to hear the game being played. Look closely and there are actual bleachers set up along the curb on the east side of the street. The bleacher seats were likely sold, the people in them appearing slightly better dressed than the ones that were forced to stand in the street. Sponsored by The Marietta Register, the set up included a billboard-sized scoreboard complete with a picture of the field showing the current position of the players. It was a scene repeated around the country. Until people had radios in their homes, it was the only way to listen.
If I had been around in 1925, I might have been standing on Second Street alongside the others on Oct. 15 for the seventh game. The Pirates won the series after Kiki Cuyler hit a two-run double in the eighth inning to put Pittsburgh ahead 9-7. The fans must have been dancing in the streets, since they were already standing in the middle of one.
Art Smith is online manager of The Times, he can be reached at