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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Play-by-Play: 1924

Play-by-Play: 1924

"Washington baseball, 1924." The broadcasting cage at Griffith Stadium in the early days of commercial radio. Harris & Ewing glass negative. View full size.

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This guy's got it backwards

This type of telegraph sender was made by the Vibroplex Company of Brooklyn, NY, whose logo featured a likeness of something like a Box Elder Bug. Thus the keys themselves came to be known as "bugs."

My now long-deceased neighbor, a railroad telegrapher, taught me the rudements of the trade, though I never got any good at it. Rule No. 1: learn to key with your left hand, leaving your right hand free to write your copy of each word as you send it (or underline what you have already received and are sending back as confirmation). When the computer mouse came out I realized that was a pretty good tactic. To this day, I drive my mouse with my left hand.

Baseball Radio Broadcast: 1924

When I lived in the Washington, DC suburbs in the 1950s and 1960s, I listened to Nat Allbright's broadcasts of the LA Dodgers games. Nat also used the AP wire service to create his own phony "play-by-play." Thus, his broadcasts always lagged a few minutes behind the live action. Once I found out what he was doing, I played a funny trick on my father that must have convinced him that I could predict the future. I wrote a brief story about it, and you can see it on my website.

Teletype baseball

Back in the late 1940's and early 1950's, the Indianapolis Indians road baseball games were broadcast on WISH radio by Luke Walton, a legend here in Indy, using a teletype, the listener could hear it in the background, he would tell us he was using a teletype.

Re: The key

Photographic evidence suggest that the key pictured is a "bug." A straight key, the kind we're more familiar with, doesn't have the side adjustments pictured. In fact, a normal straight key has, for most models, just two adjustments. A bug, depending on which model, can have up to nine adjustments adorning it!

Telegraph ticker broadcasts

When I was a kid back in the very early 50s, Waite Hoyt, the local radio announcer for the Cincinnati Reds would do a play-by-play for out of town games based on information he received from a telegraph ticker. You could hear the ticker clacking away in the background during his broadcasts.

A Telegraph Key

Was used by AP (and other news services) to telegraph news stories to newspapers.

re: Bug?

I think rhhardin is correct, that is a telegraph.

Ronald Reagan told stories about "live" baseball broadcasts in the 1930s where in the studio he narrated the play-by-play from a telegraph operator in the stadium.

OK, not the most reliable source, but still I believe the practice endured for years after 1924.

That's a lot of foul territory but --

I am sure the short fence in the outfield more than made up for any defensive advantage.

Visions of baseball in 1924

This from a Washington Post article from last year...
"...the stadium erupted in mayhem when the home team entered the history books with a walk-off win in the deciding game of the World Series. As The Post reported, the crowd of 35,000, “delirious with joy, broke into a bedlam on the field that had never been duplicated in point of volume and intense excitement in the annals of sporting history.” The Washington mob was so unruly that Walter “Big Train” Johnson, the local team’s ace, fled the ballpark in a fast motorcar, trailed by a “sea of humanity in an endless snake-dance,” and the Secret Service was all but helpless to protect President Calvin Coolidge and his wife, who quaked in the presidential box."


That looks like a semiautomatic telegraph key ("bug") - it makes dots fast if you push right, and one long dash if you push left - which enables you to send very fast morse code. Just going by the visible tops and the guy's arm position.

Everready 770 'B' Batteries

Very common in that era, but putting eight 45 volts batteries in series like that would yield 360 volts of fully exposed shock potential. You'd never be able to get away with such an arrangement today.


If you were in the front row of the bleachers on the third base side, off to the left, odds were you had to ask folks how the game was going. Neat picture of an old Washington landmark, gone these many years.

SHORPY HISTORICAL PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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