Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Check Your Local Listings (1971 games on TV) Part 1

For years this blog has devoted time to finding out where a clip came from or what station may have shown it.  Rarely do we take a look to see what COULD be out there and hasn't been found yet.  As we get into the early 1970s, we see the phasing out of kinescopes and the rise of videotape and satellite hook-ups.  It becomes easier for stations to broadcast games coast-to-coast and beyond.  

As a disclaimer, not a single regular season game from the 1971 season has survived (to my knowledge).  There a few partials that exist of regular season tilts. Also, we have the glorious color videotape of the 1971 All-Star game and various post-season games have survived.  However, 1971 featured quite a few historical moments and hopefully we can try to account for which of them actually made it on-air.  Once we have a true account of what games were broadcast, then we can take a look at some of the partials and get more in-depth into each of them.

Part One of this feature focuses on the American League and their distribution of their product. By the time we reached 1971, the American League was finally starting to catch up with the National League talent wise following a slow integration process.  While their approach to talent had been slow to change, let's take a look to see how their approach to television grew.

Yankees (WPIX-11)
The Yankees brought with them into 1971 a long tradition of televised baseball broadcasts.  With their 20th consecutive season on WPIX-11, the Yankees broadcast team was helmed by Frank Messer, Phil Rizzuto and newcomer Frank Bill White.  WPIX started the season scheduled to broadcast a whopping 96 Yankees games that year.  Unlike many other teams, the Yankees allowed 49 of their home games to be shown on television along with 47 of their road tilts.  

Orioles (WJZ-TV)
The Orioles continued a pattern of paranoid television policies.  Beginning the season with 51 regular season games scheduled, the Orioles planned to show less than half the number the Yankees would broadcast.  This was during a time that the Yankees found themselves the dredges of the American League and the Orioles dominated at the top.  Of their telecasts, only six of them were at home as to avoid the perceived threat to home game attendance.  The six games shown were April 10 (DET), April 18 (NYY), May 6 (CAL), May 22 (BOS), June 13 (CHI), and July 11 (CLE).  Not included in that sampling would be Washington, whose fans the Orioles surely thought they could sell more tickets to.  Chuck Thompson continued his tenure with the club as head play-by-play announcer and teamed with Bill O'Donnell to announce the games for WJZ-TV.  On September 13th, Frank Robinson would hit homerun 499 in Game 1 and homerun 500 in Game 2 of a double-header vs Detroit.  Neither of those games were scheduled to be covered by WJZ-TV.

Red Sox (WHDH-5)
WHDH-5 would provide a hardy showing of Red Sox games in 1971.  Ken Coleman returned alongside Ned Martin for WHDH's final season as the Red Sox flagship station. In that final year they broadcast Red Sox games, 60 total contests were chosen to be shown.  The difference between WJZ-TV and WHDH-5 was only 9 games overall, however the balance of showing 27 home games and 33 away games gave television viewers more of a peek into Fenway Park.

Twins (WTCN-11)
With 50 games being shown on WTCN-TV (11), the Twins structured their broadcast schedule much like the Orioles.  A measly four home games were televised that year.  Those dates were May 7 (WSH), May 14 (CHI), June 22 (OAK) and July 7.  That means the last regularly scheduled home broadcast happened before the All-Star break.  The remaining 46 broadcasts put them one ahead of Baltimore but one behind the Yankees.  Of note from this schedule is the date August 11. The game was not carried by WTCN-TV however it WAS carried by WJZ.  That means, at least for one day, a television broadcast of Harmon Killebrew hitting his 500th homerun existed.

White Sox (WFLD-32)
While I don't have the exact list of the games shown, I do know that the White Sox provided the best television representation of their franchise.  After wrangling away the rights from WGN, WFLD was fully committed to filling their programming time with live sport content, amongst other non-traditional programming.  Due to this and their non-affiliation to a major network, they could run a full schedule of White Sox games and the franchise did not bristle at it after seeing the exposure WGN provided.  In 1971, WFLD was scheduled to carry 129 of the teams 162 games.  

For 1971 games to survive, one of two things would need to happen.  One way is if the videotape from the original broadcast station had been preserved, walked out the door and was misplaced on a shelf and not recorded over.  The second is kinescoped by a (wealthy) private collector or the Armed Forces.  If an Armed Forces kinescope were made, it would most likely be of a NBC GOTW and not a local affiliate.

In the next part of this feature, we will take a look at some of the National League franchises and see just how few games the Cardinals put on television. 


  1. Interesting to read about the 129game WFLD-White Sox TV schedule in 1971. A while back, I was wondering if any video of Minnie Minoso's 1976 base hit had survived, but upon checking, I had concluded that hardly any 1970's White Sox video still existed, outside of Disco Demolition night. (The Chisox TV affiliate in 1976 was WSNS. As Minoso got his sole 1976 base hit in a game against the California Angels, KTLA may have broadcast the game as well.) If anybody has ever even seen Minoso's September, 1976 base hit (at the time Minoso was thought to be the oldest player to ever hit safely), I'm quite curious about it.

  2. As usual.....really great stuff! Really enjoy your content! Keep up the fine work!

  3. There are clips of the Phillies' first game at Veterans Stadium, Opening Day 1971. Check out "Field of Memories" on YouTube. I wouldn't be surprised if some significant chunks of the game exist in the Phillies archives. The YouTube video, which is 1/3 of a DVD sold at the stadium, shows the first hit at the new stadium and a few other moments from that day.

  4. WGN has at least a portion of the June 17th game saved, with Don Kessinger going 6-for-6 against the Cardinals. (Steve Carlton was the STL starter.) They showed highlights of it (with the original Jack Brickhouse game call) during the telecast on that date in 2014.

    Also, the last out of the Rick Wise no-hitter + 2HRs game against Cincinnati is on YouTube. Harry Kalas on the call, so local from Philly.

  5. For the Yankees you mean Bill White (Rizzuto: Hey White, you huckleberry)

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  8. I suspect that the White Sox probably televised all or nearly all their home games in 19871 and 48 or so of the away games, likely excluding west coast or weekday daytime away games (other than holidays and the season opener if the team began the season on the road).

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