80 Years Ago Tomorrow — on May 17, 1939 — NBC Broadcasts Princeton-Columbia College Baseball Game, Featuring Pro Football Hall of Fame QB Sid Luckman at Shortstop for Columbia
Sportscaster Bill Stern Had Historic Call at Columbia’s Baker Field
Landmark Airing Paved Way for Future of Sports Broadcasting
STAMFORD, Conn. – May 16, 2019 – Eighty years ago tomorrow, NBC Sports forever changed the media landscape with its broadcast of a Princeton-Columbia college baseball game, making it the first televised sporting event in U.S. history. The game aired on Wednesday, May 17, 1939, as Columbia hosted Princeton in the second game of a doubleheader at Columbia’s Baker Field in New York City.
A single camera perched on a 12-foot wooden stand down the third-base line broadcast the contest on NBC’s experimental station, W2XBS. American Sportscasters Association Hall of Famer Bill Stern called the game, which saw Princeton defeat Columbia 2-1 in 10 innings. On the field that day was future Chicago Bears Hall of Fame quarterback Sid Luckman, who was then Columbia’s starting shortstop.
The landmark airing of the Princeton-Columbia game led NBC to expand its television coverage of sporting events. A few months later, on August 26, 1939, NBC aired its first-ever Major League Baseball telecast between the Brooklyn Dodgers and Cincinnati Reds at Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field. Building on the success from the Princeton-Columbia game, the inaugural MLB broadcast incorporated two cameras and featured Red Barber as the game announcer.
On September 30, 1939, NBC was home to the first-ever televised football game, a Waynesburg vs. Fordham college game in New York City, also announced by Stern.
Eighty years after the historic broadcast, NBC Sports Group continues to be synonymous with innovation, storytelling, iconic moments, legendary voices and record audiences, with more “firsts” than any other media company. To learn more about the history of NBC Sports, click here.
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