Tuning In to the World Series Before TV

The title of the 1939 Arthur Rothstein photograph below indicates that the men gathered on this Montrose, Colorado, sidewalk are watching the scoreboard, a blackboard mounted outside the entry of Daily Press Printing. But the two loudspeakers flanking the Daily Press storefront suggest the assembled may also be following a radio broadcast or perhaps very localized play-by-play call from someone inside as the game unfolds in one of the New York Yankees’ four straight wins over the Cincinnati Reds in the ’39 Fall Classic.

Watching World Series Scoreboard, Montrose, Colorado. Photograph by Arthur Rothstein, October 1939.

Watching World Series Scoreboard, Montrose, Colorado. Photograph by Arthur Rothstein, October 1939. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/fsa.8a12564

The following year, Russell Lee snapped the crowd of men pictured below listening to a 1940 World Series ballgame outside Dixie Radio Service in Saint George, Utah. This time the Reds prevailed in a seven-game thriller of a series over the Detroit Tigers. I wish I could peek inside that open door to see if the space inside is already jam-packed, as I suspect we are seeing the overflow baseball fans outside. In any case, I’d guess that not much in the way of radio sales or service occurred that afternoon during game time!

A Crowd of Men Listening to World Series Game, Saint George, Utah. Photograph by Russell Lee, September 1940.

A Crowd of Men Listening to World Series Game, Saint George, Utah. Photograph by Russell Lee, September 1940. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/fsa.8a29632

Both of these photographs, from the era preceding television’s ubiquity, are contained within the Farm Security Administration – Office of War Information (FSA/OWI) Collection of about 175,000 black-and-white negatives capturing American life between 1935 and 1944. And, of course, the pictorial documentation includes Americans love of baseball!

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