Monday, August 18, 2014

The 1972 Season: What has survived?

The charm of baseball exists in the peaks and valleys of a full season.  If you catch a World Series or a playoff game, you are getting a truly small sample size.  The six month scale of a season is what allows sabermetrics to have almost enough data to be relevant and allows fans to develop an opinion of their team’s players.  The World Series or All-Star game does not tell us the narrative of the season.  Instead, we get to hear the opinions of writers and broadcasters formulated through the lens of history, rather than as it is seen unfolding.   If baseball broadcasts today were archived in the scattered manner of years past, fans 30 years from now wouldn’t get to appreciate the two month long phenomenon of Puig-mania from 2013 or other like stories that come and go during the marathon of a season. 

When trying to find the most complete sampling of the oldest baseball season, it becomes a tough task with surviving baseball broadcasts.  While there are a few seasons with the All-Star Game and the entire World Series (1965, 1968) very few regular season games exist to flesh out a season.   Rolling back through the years, the 1972 season stands out, if for no other reason, because of the high volume of retained broadcast footage.

1972 is a merging of two eras, videotape and kinescope.  The early 70’s saw technology changes that ended cycles on the reuse of materials.  It also brought about easier methods of disseminating games, which eventually brought an end to the kinescope era.  It should also be noted that, while no baseball games have been found in this format from this year, the first Cartrivision consoles were sold in June of 1972.  As the first major consumer home video unit, Cartrivision opened the possibility of viewers at home recording and keeping tapes of game broadcasts.  Such a broadcast was brought to light by MSG’s recent restoration of a 1973 NBA Finals game.  Unfortunately, no such 1972 discoveries have been made for baseball broadcasts.

The list below will serve as a gathering place for all the links on each of these pieces.

Below is a list of MLB materials that are known to exist:
  • 04/15 - Pirates vs Mets (NBC)  B&W Kinescope (Pregame thru Top 3)
  • 04/16 - Phillies vs Cubs (WGN) Color (2 early outs/complete 27th out)
  • 05/31 - Dodgers vs Giants (KTTV) B&W (Pregame thru Bot 2)
  • 06/10 - Cubs vs Giants (NBC) B&W Kinescope (complete)
  • 06/24 - Cardinals vs Mets (NBC) B&W Kinescope (Top 2 thru Top 5)
  • 07/01 - Orioles vs Tigers (NBC) B&W Kinescope (Pregame thru Bot 7)
  • 07/08 - Cubs vs Reds (NBC) B&W Kinescope (complete)
  • 07/09 - Dodgers vs Mets (KTTV) B&W Kinescope (Bot 4 thru Top 7)
  • 07/16 - Angels vs Brewers G1 (KTLA) B&W Kinescope (complete)
  • 07/22 - Athletics vs Boston (NBC) B&W Kinescope (Top 3 thru Top 6)
  • 07/23 - Angels vs Yankees (KTLA) B&W Kinescope (Bot 3 thru End)
  • All-Star Game - First 6 inn. B&W Kinescope/Last 3 inn. color (NBC)
  • 07/29 - Cardinals vs Cubs (NBC) B&W Kinescope (Last 3 innings)
  • 09/02 - Padres vs Cubs (WGN) Color (Top of 9th and postgame)
  • 1972 ALCS Game 1 - Highlights from Detroit feed
  • 1972 ALCS Game 2 - Complete(-ish) w/footage of Campy bat throw
  • 1972 ALCS Game 3 - Highlights from Detroit feed
  • 1972 ALCS Game 4 - Highlights from Detroit feed
  • 1972 ALCS Game 5 - Highlights from Detroit feed
  • 1972 World Series Game 4 (NBC) - (Complete Game)
  • 1972 World Series Game 5 (NBC) - (Complete Game)

How we have many of the regular season games are through the Armed Forces kinescoping program.  They provided entertainment for our troops overseas by creating these kinescopes of games for delayed presentation.  Those kinescopes could not be reused, so they weren’t at risk of being dubbed over.   They were ordered to be destroyed (mostly for space saving concerns).  Thankfully, some of these films were stashed away and worked their ways into private collections.  Many of these would eventually find their way into the hands of Doak Ewing and his RareSportsFilms production company.  

It is important to note that the regular season kinescope dry up at the end of July for that year.  This is when the use of satellites allowed the Armed Forces to transmit broadcasts easier.  The more historical point of the end of these kinescopes relates to the Vietnam War.  The middle of August saw the last of the United States ground troops removed from South Vietnam.  While the war did not officially end, the need to send these games overseas to the combat troops no longer existed.  These films also likely made it out because there was no longer a space crunch in storage and the film department troops were headed home, keepsakes in hand.

The remainder of the broadcast footage is from color videotape.  At this point, archiving still was not a priority for many broadcast groups.  However, these tapes have lived on with various origin stories.   Some of these games exist in an unknown quantity inside the MLB Archives.  I left off the list partials from Games 1 and 2 of the World Series because it is nearly impossible to know just how much MLB has of these.  Highlights from the NBC feed have been shown on MLB's YouTube Channel.  

Over the coming months, the games on the list will get their own features.  When completed, hopefully it gives a fuller picture of what survives from 1972 and how the season unfolded.


  1. Nice! Very nice work as usual!!! Curious about when they started to broadcast all games? And do they keep a copy of each and every game broadcasted?

    1. That's a tough question to answer because even into the last decade, there were teams that still didn't broadcast over 150 games (although the other teams feed gave you an option of viewing it)

  2. Very interesting--I look forward to reading the series! I just received Doak Ewing's mailing and it has that three-inning snippet from 7-29-72 in there; maybe you got it too and that was your inspiration for this post?

    Now I'm off to look up "Cartrivision."

    1. I've actually had this idea brewing for awhile. Doak acquired that print over a year ago, he's just now releasing it. Unfortunately, unlike some that are just missing one of the three reels, that game is missing two of the three. The good news it that at least some of it survived.

    2. Actually, there is one piece of 1972 baseball that exist via home recording- the hour or so in color of the 1972 All-Star Game was recorded off-the-air from WMAQ, Chicago.

    3. Was that an off-the-air recording or a recording done at the local station? There is some footage from 1977 that is recorded over a bit of the game during that hour, so I was not sure if this was a reel from the station or a home recording with a near catastrophic mistake.

  3. The VHS bio "Nolan Ryan: Feel the Heat". issued in 1990 and available to view on yt, features color VT highlights from the 7/9/72 Red Sox/Angels game, unfortunately covered by typically obnoxious 1990-era graphics. (twib77)

  4. how in the heck does "rare ssports film" get domain rights for a game broadcast over armed forces tv??????