Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Walter Barber, June 27, 1987

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:09 - Television and baseball

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Partial Transcript: Um, one thing I was really surprised, I shouldn't have been about how beautiful Tallahassee is.

Segment Synopsis: Barber talks briefly about the television broadcast game that he announced in 1939, the first Major League game to be televised. He also talks about the influence that television has had on modern (1987) culture.

Keywords: Broadcasters; Broadcasting; College football; Popularity; Scandals; Television rights; World Series

Subjects: Barber, Red, 1908-1992; MacPhail, Larry, 1890-1975; Reagan, Ronald.; Sportscasters.; Television.

00:03:07 - A potential job offer from NBC / getting permission for a television broadcast at Ebbets Field

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Partial Transcript: Doc-- D-O-C-- that was his nickname-- Doc Morton-- M-O-R-T-O-N, uh, was in charge of uh, this infant industry...

Segment Synopsis: Barber talks briefly about his getting a potential offer from NBC to broadcast, but states that he was turned down after he asked what his potential salary would be. He also tells how he got Larry MacPhail's permission to televise a game at Ebbets field. It was the first Major League game to be televised.

Keywords: Alfred H. Morton; Baseball games; Bill Stern; Broadcasters; Doc Morton; Double-headers; Favors; Horace Stoneham; John Royal; NBC; Radio stations; Salary; Television; WLW

Subjects: Broadcasting.; Brooklyn Dodgers (Baseball Team); Cincinnati (Ohio); Cincinnati Reds (Baseball Team); Ebbets Field (New York, N.Y.); MacPhail, Larry, 1890-1975; Major League Baseball (Organization); National Broadcasting Company.; New York (N.Y.); New York Giants (Baseball Team); New York Yankees (Baseball Team); Rickey, Branch, 1881-1965; Sportscasters.

00:09:35 - Sportscasting the first Major League game on television

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Partial Transcript: We had two announcers at, uh, Brooklyn, and-- Al Helfer, and myself.

Segment Synopsis: Barber shares his experiences announcing the first Major League game to be broadcast on television. He describes the equipment used and talks about the players and managers he interviewed. He also describes the commercials that he did for the corporate sponsors, stating that they were mainly ad-libed.

Keywords: "Breakfast of Champions"; Al Helfer; Announcers; Audience; Bill McKechnie; Bucky Walters; Burke Crotty; Cameras; Commercials; Directors; General Mills; Interviews; Ivory Soap; Mobile Gas; Mobile Oil; NBC; Phone lines; Play-by-play; Reviews; Telephones; Television; Television cameras; Tot Pressnell; Wheaties

Subjects: Barber, Red, 1908-1992; Baseball managers; Baseball players; Brooklyn Dodgers (Baseball Team).; Cincinnati Reds (Baseball Team); Durocher, Leo, 1906-1991.; National Broadcasting Company.; Procter & Gamble Company.

00:14:38 - The growth of television after World War II / the sale of the World Series television rights

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Partial Transcript: 'Bout ten years later, in the late 40s or let's say the early 50s, when television started to catch on more and more...

Segment Synopsis: Barber discusses the growth of television after the end of World War II, and why it took as long as it did to grow in popularity. He also talks about Commissioner Chandler's sale of the World Series television rights to Gillette and the Ford Motor Company.

Keywords: Contracts; Dumont; Ford Motor Company; Money; New York Times; Rheingold Beer; Television rights; Television seasons; World Series

Subjects: Alcohol.; All-Star Baseball Game.; Brooklyn Dodgers (Baseball Team); Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991; Gillette Safety Razor Company; MacPhail, Larry, 1890-1975; New York Giants (Baseball Team); New York Yankees (Baseball Team); Radio.; Television.; World War, 1939-1945

00:18:06 - The beginnings of radio broadcasts of baseball games / attracting female baseball fans

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Partial Transcript: The owners feared the growth of television and radio, as far as their coverage and how, how it would...

Segment Synopsis: Barber tells how originally the team owners were concerned about permitting radio broadcasts of the games, fearing that fewer people would come to the games in person. He talks about Larry MacPhail's allowing the broadcasting of his teams' games, and shares some of the ways that MacPhail tried to make ballparks more friendly to female fans.

Keywords: "A family game"; Advertising; Baseball fans; Baseball fields; Baseball games; Baseball player trades; Baseball stadiums; Chewing gum; Chicago Daily News; Cleanliness; Concessions; Crowds; Families; Fans; Gate sales; Gum; Hal Totten (??); Interviews; Promotions; Radio advertising; Radio rights; Radio stations; Restrooms; Uniforms; WSAI; Weather; William Wrigley, Jr.

Subjects: Baseball; Baseball fans.; Baseball players; Baseball team owners; Chicago Cubs (Baseball Team); Cincinnati (Ohio); Fans (Persons).; MacPhail, Larry, 1890-1975; Radio.; Rickey, Branch, 1881-1965; Television.; Women.; Wrigley Field (Chicago, Ill.).

00:25:42 - Entertainment, radio and the Minor Leagues / the development of televised baseball

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Partial Transcript: One other thing that happened, particularly again late, in the late 40s--(clears throat)--and early 50s is the Minor Leagues...

Segment Synopsis: Barber talks about how the growth of radio and television influenced the decline of the Minor Leagues. He also talks about how televised baseball has developed over the years, including the sportscasting aspects of it.

Keywords: A. Ray Smith; Athletics; Baseball games; Baseball teams; Cameramen; Commentators; Commercials; Directors; Entertainment; Events; High school athletics; Monitors; Motion picture shows; Movies; Politicians; Promotions; Sandford (Fla.); Sports commentators

Subjects: Baseball; Baseball players; Broadcasting.; Minor league baseball.; Radio.; Sportscasters.; Television.

00:31:07 - Problems with television cameras at games / being related to Max Lanier and others

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Partial Transcript: I, I read one piece where you were talking about--(clears throat)--early television, and comparing it with your radio experiences...

Segment Synopsis: Barber recounts the frustration he felt at a game in which, in his opinion, the camera ought to have been focused on Bill Veeck, the owner of the Cleveland Indians. There were no cameras on him at all. He also talks briefly about his middle name being Lanier, and his possible relationship to players Max and Steve Lanier.

Keywords: Articles; Attendance; Automobiles; Baseball games; Cameramen; Cameras; Instant replays; Lanier family; Maryland; Steve Lanier; Television cameras

Subjects: Baltimore Orioles (Baseball team).; Baseball team owners; Cleveland Indians (Baseball Team); Greenberg, Hank; Lanier, Max; Radio--History.; Television--History.; Veeck, Bill

00:34:56 - Philosophy of sportscasting

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Partial Transcript: You had a, a very simple philosophy of broadcasting, and that was to report what took place.

Segment Synopsis: Barber discusses his philosophy on sportscasting and the preparation he did before games.

Keywords: Announcers; Baseball games; Compliments; Confidence; Family; History of World War II (Book); Interviews; Newspapers; Notes; Philosophies; Play-by-play; Pre-game preparation; Preparation; Professionalism; Reading; Sportscasting; Vin Scully; Winston Churchill; Writers

Subjects: Broadcasting.; Brooklyn Dodgers (Baseball Team); Ebbets Field (New York, N.Y.); New York Mets (Baseball team).; Sportscasters.

00:39:53 - Preparing to announce a game

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Partial Transcript: I think also that you, there was another phrase that struck me in, in some of the research that I was doing that you had quoted...

Segment Synopsis: Barber talks about the steps that he took to make himself ready to announce a game. This included reading the newspapers, taking notes of things to talk about during the slow parts, and informally interviewing the players and managers before the game.

Keywords: "Luck is the residue of design"; Afternoon papers; Airplanes; Baseball games; Batting cards; Batting practice; Breakfast; Herald Tribune; Interviews; Naps; New York Times; Newspapers; Night games; Politeness; Preparation; Profanity; Punctuality; Questions; Ralph Houk; Research; Short stops; Sports writers; Writers

Subjects: Baseball managers; Baseball players; Pitchers (Baseball); Rickey, Branch, 1881-1965; Wounds and injuries.; Yankee Stadium (New York, N.Y. : 1923-2009)

00:45:05 - Neutrality and fairness in sportscasting

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Partial Transcript: In other words, you, at least from all appearances wanted to adopt a neutral posture.

Segment Synopsis: Barber shares his thoughts on the importance of showing fairness and staying a neutral party when broadcasting, comparing it to the neutrality umpires must show.

Keywords: Agents; Art Carney; Baseballs; Bill Klem; Bill McCaffrey (??); Books; Fairness; Gleeson; Neutrality; Reporters; Reporting; Tom Meany; Umpiring; World Telegram

Subjects: Baseball umpires.; Broadcasting.; Ebbets Field (New York, N.Y.); Landis, Kenesaw Mountain, 1866-1944; New York Yankees (Baseball Team); O'Malley, Walter F. (Walter Frank), 1903-1979; Radio; Sportscasters.

00:48:44 - Traveling radio broadcasts / frequent traveling and its effects on families

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Partial Transcript: You talked, um, about recreating ball games...

Segment Synopsis: Barber talks about the traveling radio broadcasts he did while working for Larry MacPhail, and the technical logistics of doing them. He also talks about his own wife, her flexibility with his frequently being away from home, and states that many wives of players and others in the industry were less accommodating.

Keywords: Affairs; Announcers; Audiences; Daughters; Engineers; Expenses; Game recreations; Live broadcasts; Marital strife; Money; Recreations; Studios; Telephone lines; Traveling; Wives; Women

Subjects: Baseball players; Broadcasting.; Brooklyn Dodgers (Baseball Team); MacPhail, Larry, 1890-1975; New York Yankees (Baseball Team); Pitchers (Baseball); Radio.; Rickey, Branch, 1881-1965; Stengel, Casey.

00:52:20 - Larry MacPhail and Branch Rickey as innovators / the development of the farm system

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Partial Transcript: Talking about Branch Rickey, let's switch gears, if we might for a little bit, and talk about him.

Segment Synopsis: Barber talks about some of the ways in which Larry MacPhail and Branch Rickey excelled as innovators in baseball. He especially discusses Rickey's development of the farm system, using the Minor Leagues to train young players to be ready for the Major Leagues.

Keywords: Airplanes; Baseball teams; Championships; Ed Barrow; Farm system; Finances; Jerry Nugent; John McGraw; Modernization; Money; Pennants; Promotions; Publicity; Scouts; Season tickets; Spring training; Training; Training camps; Uniforms

Subjects: Baseball; Baseball managers; Baseball players; Brooklyn Dodgers (Baseball Team); Chicago Cubs (Baseball Team); Cincinnati Reds (Baseball Team); Dean, Dizzy, 1910-1974.; MacPhail, Larry, 1890-1975; Minor league baseball.; New York Yankees (Baseball Team); Radio.; Rickey, Branch, 1881-1965; St. Louis Cardinals (Baseball Team); Television.; Yankee Stadium

00:57:20 - Branch Rickey and the breaking of the "color line"

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Partial Transcript: Uh, then, the other thing that Rickey did, uh, when he revolutionized, uh, baseball was the breaking of the color line.

Segment Synopsis: Barber talks about Jackie Robinson's breaking Major League baseball's "color line" and the role that Branch Rickey played by signing him to the Brooklyn Dodgers. He also talks about Rickey's motivations for doing so and some of the changes that came about because Robinson was signed.

Keywords: "Color line"; Bear Bryant; Florida State College for Women; Intelligence; Montreal (Quebec); Naval Air Training Station; Profanity; Sanford (Fla.); Spring training; Talent; Training school; University of Florida; Walk in the Spirit (book)

Subjects: African American baseball players; Baseball players; Baseball team owners; Brooklyn Dodgers (Baseball Team); Campanella, Roy, 1921-1993.; Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991; Doby, Larry; Major League Baseball (Organization); National League (Major League Baseball); Negro leagues.; Newcombe, Donald; Ohio Wesleyan University.; Paige, Satchel, 1906-1982; Rickey, Branch, 1881-1965.

01:03:31 - Branch Rickey's personality

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Partial Transcript: You knew Branch Rickey very well.

Segment Synopsis: Barber describes Branch Rickey, and talks in particular about how private he was as a person. He contrasts his personality to that of Larry MacPhail.

Keywords: Arthur Mann; Books; Confidentiality; Daughters; Devotion; Family; Harold Parrott; Jane Rickey; Loyalty; Mrs. Rickey; Personality; Press rooms; Privacy; Wives

Subjects: MacPhail, Larry, 1890-1975; Rickey, Branch, 1881-1965

01:06:47 - Willingness of various team owners to give raises to their players

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Partial Transcript: Um, the players, in talking to some of the players that I've talked to, who worked for Rickey, either with the Cardinals...

Segment Synopsis: Barber compares different team owners in their willingness to give players a raise if one was asked for. He also briefly discusses Macphail's reputation for anger.

Keywords: Anger; Arguments; Bankruptcy; Businessmen; Contracts; Dan Topping; Ed Barrow; Friendliness; Horace Stoneham; James B. Reston; Money; Negotiation; Raises; Respect; Salaries; Scotty Reston; Wealth

Subjects: Baseball players; Boston Red Sox (Baseball Team); DiMaggio, Joe, 1914-1999; Musial, Stan, 1920-; Radio; Television; Walker, Dixie, 1910-1982; Williams, Ted, 1918-2002; Yawkey, Thomas A., 1903-1976

01:11:33 - Branch Rickey's reaction to the Mexican League / players' decisions about the Mexican League

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Partial Transcript: Let me ask you, um, one more question about Branch Rickey.

Segment Synopsis: Barber recalls how Branch Rickey reacted to the Mexican League's taking several of his players, stating that it was the only time that he ever had seen him angry. He also tells several stories about how various players decided whether they would play for the Mexican League.

Keywords: Curve balls; Daytona Beach (Fla.); Dolf Luque; Eddie Dyer; Mexican League.; Money; Pasquel brothers

Subjects: Baseball players.; Baseball team owners.; Liga Mexicana de Beisbol Profesional.; Maglie, Sal, 1917-.; Mexico.; Musial, Stan, 1920-.; Olmo, Luis, 1919-.; Owen, Mickey.; Pitchers (Baseball).; Rickey, Branch, 1881-1965.

01:15:49 - Joe DiMaggio's retirement / Barber's reaction to Rickey's plan to sign a black player

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Partial Transcript: Let me switch to Jackie Robinson.

Segment Synopsis: Barber talks briefly about Joe DiMaggio's decision to retire at the peak of his career. He also discusses his own reaction when he learned that Branch Rickey planned to sign an African American baseball player to his team.

Keywords: Announcers; Columbus (Miss.); Dan Topping; Martinis; Pride; Reporting; Sanford (Fla.)

Subjects: African American baseball players.; Barber, Red, 1908-1992.; Baseball managers.; Baseball players.; Baseball umpires.; Brooklyn Dodgers (Baseball Team).; DiMaggio, Joe, 1914-1999.; Durocher, Leo, 1906-1991.; Landis, Kenesaw Mountain, 1866-1944.; Musial, Stan, 1920-.; Pitchers (Baseball).; Racism.; Rickey, Branch, 1881-1965.; Robinson, Jackie, 1919-1972

01:21:08 - Relationship with Jackie Robinson / gifts from baseball players

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Partial Transcript: Did Jackie Robinson, knowing of your background, appreciate the fact that, that you uh, reacted that way to him?

Segment Synopsis: Barber talks about his professional relationship with Jackie Robinson as a sportscaster. He states his opinion that baseball players rarely say 'thank you', also recounting the only two instances in which a player gave him a gift for any reason.

Keywords: "Color line"; Babies; Blankets; Commissions; Daughters; Gifts; Lee Grissom; Rachel Robinson; Thank yous; Writers

Subjects: Barber, Red, 1908-1992.; Baseball coaches.; Cincinnati Reds (Baseball Team).; MacPhail, Larry, 1890-1975.; Rickey, Branch, 1881-1965.; Robinson, Jackie, 1919-1972.; Sportscasters.

01:24:24 - MacPhail's backing of Chandler as baseball commissioner

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Partial Transcript: Let me switch to Happy Chandler.

Segment Synopsis: Barber tells how Happy Chandler became baseball commissioner in part because he was backed by Larry MacPhail. He also discusses the antagonism between MacPhail and Branch Rickey.

Keywords: Arthur Mann; Baseball presidents; Bitterness; Friendliness; Humiliation; Self-control; Staff

Subjects: Baseball team owners.; Brooklyn Dodgers (Baseball Team).; Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991.; Frick, Ford C.; Landis, Kenesaw Mountain, 1866-1944.; MacPhail, Larry, 1890-1975.; Major League Baseball (Organization).; National League (Major League Baseball).; Rickey, Branch, 1881-1965.

01:28:02 - Leo Durocher's suspension

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Partial Transcript: Then, uh, came the explosion in uh, uh, Florida, in Havana, from Havana, Florida, in which, uh, uh, Chandler-- you've read Durocher's book...

Segment Synopsis: Barber recounts Commissioner Chandler's suspension of Leo Durocher. He gives his opinion on why Durocher did not deserve to be suspended.

Keywords: Suspensions; Training camps; Ty Cobb

Subjects: Baseball commissioners.; Baseball managers.; Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991.; Durocher, Leo, 1906-1991.; Florida.; MacPhail, Larry, 1890-1975.; Rickey, Branch, 1881-1965.; Ruth, Babe, 1895-1948.

01:32:46 - Chandler's mistakes as commissioner

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Partial Transcript: And Chandler, of course, uh, as, as he says himself, "You're no politician if you get into a race that you know you can't win,"...

Segment Synopsis: Barber talks about some of the mistakes he feels that Chandler made as baseball commissioner.

Keywords: Black Sox Scandal; Dan Parker; Money; Personality; Red Smith; Southerners; Underwood; Writers

Subjects: American League (Major League Baseball).; Baseball commissioners.; Brooklyn Dodgers (Baseball Team).; Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991.; Cincinnati (Ohio).; Landis, Kenesaw Mountain, 1866-1944.; New York (N.Y.).; Politicians.; Versailles (Ky.).

01:38:01 - The breaking of the players' union / Chandler's relationship with the New York writers

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Partial Transcript: Uh, I know, too, that uh, on the other side of
giving away the ball players' money-- I didn't put in the book...

Segment Synopsis: Barber talks about Chandler's breaking up the potential players union of the Pittsburgh Pirates team, and how he accomplished it. He also talks about Chandler's relationship with the New York sportswriters, which he characterizes as being less than stellar.

Keywords: Accents; Music; My Old Kentucky Home (song); Rip Sewell; Robert Murphy; Singing; Southern accents; Unions; Writers

Subjects: Baseball players.; Brooklyn Dodgers (Baseball Team).; Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991.; Kentucky.; Labor unions.; Landis, Kenesaw Mountain, 1866-1944.; Pittsburgh Pirates (Baseball team).; Sewell, Truett B.

01:40:37 - Dan Topping and WOR

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Partial Transcript: Let me get you to characterize just two more people very quickly. I don't mean t--

Segment Synopsis: Barber talks about his business dealings as a sportscaster with Dan Topping, then part-owner of the Yankees, and WOR. He describes why he chose not to work with Topping again.

Keywords: Baseball games; Bill Slater; Brooklyn Football Dodgers; Contracts; Dan Topping; Football games; Gene Powers; Inheritances; Matt Abrams; Money; Pete Maddox; Stork Club; WOR

Subjects: Baseball team owners.; Brooklyn Dodgers (Baseball Team).; Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991.; Ebbets Field (New York, N.Y.).; MacPhail, Larry, 1890-1975.; New York Yankees (Baseball Team).; Princeton University.; Rickey, Branch, 1881-1965.; Webb, Del E., 1899-1974.

01:47:30 - Dealing with Dan Topping in 1964

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Partial Transcript: 1964, about two weeks before the season ends, uh, Houk was then general manager and, uh, Topping was, uh, running the ball club as president.

Segment Synopsis: Barber talks about working with Dan Topping as part of the Yankees organization, and discusses a meeting with Topping, after which the latter ignored most of the requests that he (Barber) had made.

Keywords: Announcers; Ballantine; Baseball presidents; Bob Fishel; Contracts; Dan Topping; Gordon Bridge; Joe Garagiola; Meetings; Mel Allen; Milwaukee; Perry Smith; Phil Rizzuto; Presidents; Public relations; Ralph Houk; Salaries; Vin Scully

Subjects: Barber, Red, 1908-1992.; Frick, Ford C.; New York Yankees (Baseball Team).; Sportscasters.; Webb, Del E., 1899-1974.

01:53:17 - Del Webb

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Partial Transcript: Well, the other man that I was going to ask you about was Del Webb...

Segment Synopsis: Barber talks briefly about Del Webb. The interview is concluded.

Keywords: Airplanes; Apartments; Homes; Hotels; Money; Private planes; Tickets; Wardrobes; World Series

Subjects: Chandler, Happy, 1898-1991.; New York (N.Y.).; Webb, Del E., 1899-1974.