Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Graham McNamee & the Inaugural Rose Bowl Radio Broadcast

Graham McNamee broadcasting
the 1924 World Series.
McNamee rose to national prominence with the spread of sports radio broadcasts in the 1920s. He is credited as the first "color commentator" and his dramatic depictions of the action electrified his broadcasts.
The Radio Corporation of America experienced a boom in sales during the 1920s fueled mostly by the availability of free over-the-air sales. By 1924, more than 2.5 million units had been sold to customers across the United States and as many as twice that were in use by 1927.

Initially, live radio accounts of sporting events were simple descriptions of the action by newspaper writers. For listeners further afield, they were forced to make do with local radio announcers reading telegraph and phone reports of the action.

When McNamee was hired by WEAF in New York in 1923, that changed completely. Despite his relative ignorance of the games he called, his vivid accounts of the action fueled by his apparent enthusiasm revolutionized sports broadcasts.

In November of 1926, RCA formed the National Broadcasting Corporation and began presenting music and comedy shows on a network of 25 stations across the United States. The fledgling network - already known by the moniker NBC - immediately snapped up exclusive broadcast rights from the Tournament of Roses.

So when Alabama headed to Pasadena to face the Stanford Indians in the Crimson Tide's second Rose Bowl, the network  chose to make the game the first coast-to-coast network broadcast. McNamee was tapped to call the game and launched a new era in popularity for the inter-sectional contest. NBC was so pleased with the response they agreed to purchase broadcast rights to the game for another seven years.

In 1984, McNamee was part of the inaugural class inducted into the American Sportscasters Association's Hall of Fame.