Original KDKA header Art
Early Pittsburgh Pirates logo
Aug. 5, 1921,
First Radio Broadcast of a Baseball Game
Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Philadelphia Phillies
Play-by-Play by Harold Arlin over KDKA
(Pirates 8 - Phillies 5)
Fightin' Phillies logo

It's August 5th, 1921 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Harold Arlin, a twenty-five year old Westinghouse foreman and nighttime studio announcer, took his place in Baseball History, from a ground-level box seat in Forbes Field. Using only a converted telephone as a microphone and some jerry-rigged equipment set up behind home plate, Arlin called the world's first baseball game broadcast--on KDKA, the nation's first commercial radio station.

Arlin later reflected that this broadcast was merely an experiment, a "one-off", and that most of the staff at KDKA thought that baseball would never be commercially viable on radio. "Too boring," was the observation most often cited. Who could have forseen that Radio's marriage to Baseball--America's Game--would become a match made in Heaven.

Radio swept across America, capturing the hearts and imagination of an entire nation. Radio coverage of the national pastime became an integral part of Baseball's success. Initially, team owners were reluctant to broadcast home games for fear that fans would stay home and listen rather than pay to see the games at the ballpark. They soon discovered that local broadcasts only further heightened interest in the game and dramatically increased attendance.

Listening to a baseball game is all well and good. But add a cool bottle of pop, some hot roasted peanuts, a ballpark hotdog, and the sights, sounds, and smells of teams warming up on a freshly manicured field and it's magic. . . one of Life's cosmic experiences.

Forbes Field

For all intents, Harold Arlin created the profession of 'radio announcer'
For all intents, Harold Arlin created the profession of 'radio announcer'. As programming expanded, others were hired to assist Arlin. It should be noted that most announcers in the earliest days of radio were not permitted to identify themselves over the air, the stations apparently fearing that radio announcers might become "too popular" and harder to control.

KDKA Bldg c.1935
KDKA Bldg c.1935

KDKA Studio c.1935
KDKA Studio c.1935
That fall, Harold Arlin worked the first-ever football broadcast as well, a college game between Pitt and West Virginia.

KDKA, for its part, continued to broadcast Pirates games for the next eighty-six years, with the exception of a few years during the 1940s and 1950s..

Old Forbes Field Color

About Forbes Field

Forbes Field At Night

Forbes Field was named for a British general of the French and Indian War, and most of its 35,000 seats were in a covered grandstand that extended from third base around home plate and into right field (unfortunate fans in the upper left corner of the bleachers along the left field line couldn't even see the batter). The park featured a huge foul territory behind home plate, an extremely hard infield, and spacious left and center fields contained by an ivy covered brick wall.

Lights were added in 1940, and during WWII a 32-foot-high Marine towered over the left field wall. Left field bullpens were added briefly to reduce the handicap facing Pirate sluggers Hank Greenberg and Ralph Kiner, and the area became known as both Greenberg Gardens and Kiner's Korner. No no-hitters were pitched at Forbes Field in 68 seasons, but it was the scene of Bill Mazeroski's Game Seven home run in the 1960 WS, and on May 25, 1935 Babe Ruth's final career home run was the first ball ever to clear the right field roof.

The field is now the site of a University of Pittsburgh library and dorms, but home plate still remains on display in its final location.