Chicago Tribune, April 20, 1946.
BY LARRY WOLTERS
Television history will be made in Chicago today at 1:25 p.m. when station WBKB takes its mobile camera pickup unit to cover the opening game in Wrigley field between the Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals. A pre-game pickup at 1 p.m. will be made from the studios at 190 N. State st. Then the camera will pick up the entire nine innings, with Jack Gibney commenting. William C. Eddy, director of the station, said that other important games will be televised this season.
Chicago Tribune, April 21, 1946
FAIL IN EFFORT TO TELEVISE CUBS’ GAME
Station WBKB’s effort to televise the Chicago Cubs game with the Cardinals yesterday failed. The station’s mobile unit televised the game successfully at the field, but electrical interference in the State-Lake building where the transmitter is located resulted in such poor images that William C. Eddy, director, declined to put them on the air.
This was the first attempt to televise a baseball game in Chicago. Eddy said that tests conducted Friday evening from the mobile unit produced good images. Yesterday some adjustments were made in the antenna and then came trouble. Eddy blamed the interference on elevator operations in the building where the studios and the transmitter are located. He said that another try to make a remote pickup would be made soon, probably next Saturday.
Chicago Tribune, July 16, 1946
Telecasting Chicago baseball for the first time yesterday, WBKB brought video fans the entire Cubs and Dodgers game, relayed thru its mobile unit from Wrigley field. Televiewers saw the game from an upper tier position looking across home plate down the first base line, with the pitcher in view on the mound. Excepting when the camera was swung to follow action, they missed the activity at second, third, and in most of the outfield.
Since only one camera was available, the baseball figures always appeared in miniature form, perhaps three Inches high at the best. Only rarely could the ball be seen. Nevertheless lookers could follow most of the action and they got some of the feeling and color (as well as the sound) of the national pastime. They heard the smack of the bat on the ball even tho both were invisible as the Dodgers won, 4 to 3.
Crowd Reaction Shown
During the second inning, William C. Eddy, the station director, substituted a camera giving a somewhat closer altho more limited view. This, however, required the cameramen to shift back and forth from pitcher to batter. Fans preferred the earlier setup and Eddy reverted to it after one inning. The camera was swung from time to time to show the crowd and its reactions. Several times It followed ai foul ball into the stands.
The lookers got good views of the players leading off from first, of Leo Durocher rushing out to argue with an umpire (they looked like black bears), of the dust raised as a runner slid home. Fans got a clear view of the double play, with the action from short to second to first, retiring the Cubs in the 6th inning. They got a lift out of Marvin Rickert’s run in the seventh, and the two runs in the last of the ninth.
ComInleut Is Sparing
Jack Gibney, the commentator, judiciously let the pictures speak for themselves. His comment was limited largely to describing action out of range of the camera, to statistics, recapitulation, and crowd color and reactions.
During the telecast several telegrams came into the Balaban and Katz studios commenting favorably on the pickup. This note was reminiscent of the early days of radio when bales of wires used to arrive. The pictures yesterday were picked up as far distant as Michigan City, Ind.
Because of the considerable area of action in baseball, this sport is much less satisfactory for telecasting at present than wrestling or boxing. Eddy was satisfied, however, with the result yesterday to continue. WBKB will telecast the Cubs-Giants game tomorrow.
On April 16, 1948, Chicago’s WGN-TV (run by Jake Israel) broadcast its first big-league game, with Jack Brickhouse calling the White Sox’ 4-1 defeat of the Cubs in an exhibition game at Wrigley Field. WGN televised each Cubs and White Sox home game live. According to Brickhouse,
It worked because the Cubs and White Sox weren’t home at the same time. You aired the Sox at Comiskey, or Cubs at Wrigley Field. Daytime scheduling gave the Cubs a decided edge, as Wrigley didn’t have lights, so kids came home from school, had a sandwich, and turned the TV on.
A WBKB Cameraman using a Zoomar Lens at Wrigley Field
By manipulating a lever he can change focus for a close-up or a wide-angle shot of the field.
Chicago Tribune, April 4, 1948
Cub and Sox fans will see video baseball at its best thanks to new telecasting techniques and the Zoomar lens, latest development in television eyes.
The Zoomar—so called because it “zooms” quickly into focus for long shots or closeups—enables the television camera man to swing quickly from views of the entire diamond to closeups of batting, pitching or bullpen action.
Effectiveness of the lens, which costs $7,5OO, was appreciated by newsreel audiences who received unprecedented pictures of the World series and football last fall.
Jack Brickhouse, newly appointed sports service manager and sports broadcaster for W-G-N, Inc., embarked on his radio career as the result of an announcing contest held in 1934 by WMBD, Peoria, Ill. His reward was a $17 a week position as announcer and switchboard operator.
After 2O,OOO broadcasts and six years with WMBD, including extensive sports assignments, Jack joined W-G-N and Mutual as staff, special features, and sports announcer. Leaving W-G-N to join the Marines, he returned to radio after his discharge and did sports announcing in Chicago and New York on a freelance basis.
P. K. Wrigley:
We are confident that television, handled with imagination and understanding, will bring baseball closer to vast numbers of Americans. It will result eventually in bringing many more persons to ball parks to get a close-up, personal view of the dramatic scenes and colorful characters they become acquainted with on the television screens.
Chicago Tribune April 16, 1948
BY LARRY WOLTERS
Chicago televiewers will have their first opportunity to see a complete Cubs-Sox series when WGN-TV starts scanning operations from Wrigley field at 1:20 p.m. today. Jack Brickhouse will give the comment. The crew will move to Comiskey park for tomorrow’s game and return Sunday to the north side.
WBKB also will telecast the two games from Wrigley field, and subsequent home games of the Cubs. All games from Comiskey park will be exclusive with WGN-TV. The Sox season opener against the Detroit Tigers on April 20 will be aired by WGN-TV. Altogether, WGN-TV will telecast 154 major league games this season, including 21 night games from Comiskey park.
Jack Brickhouse in the Comiskey Park press box.
April 28, 1948
Mobile Unit To Assist
The baseball shows, directed by Don Cook, will be relayed with the aid of the station’s new mobile unit from the ball parks to the transmitter atop the Daily News building. Special telephone circuits also will be employed.
Three of the latest type image orthicon cameras will be used by WGN-TV. One of them includes the new $7,500 Zoomar lens, so called because it zooms quickly into focus, enabling the cameraman to change from distance shots to close-ups with the flick of a finger.
Special Camera In Left
At Wrigley, the camera will be placed outside the foul line in left field; another camera will patrol around third base and the Cubs dugout, and a third will be on the ramp next to the press box. Brickhouse will be stationed in the press box section, using a video monitor for reference while talking.
The WGN-TV crew expects to do some experimenting with the Sox at Comiskey park. This is the first season for television there and the problems are somewhat different than on the north side. Two cameras probably will be used from a position behind home plate in the first row of the upper deck. One of these will have the lens. A third will be set up between first base and the dugout.
Interviews Also Carded
Before the games, dugout interviews will be telecast over WGN-TV. WBKB also is to try out new ideas in telecasting from Wrigley field. Joe Wilson will be the commentator.
Billboard Magazine, April 24, 1948
Teles’ New Baseball Coverage Alright But Lacks Interest
CHICAGO, April 17.—Except for the use of a Zoomar lens and the utilization of a new camera position which shot from a low angle level with players, this first use of a new type of baseball video coverage worked out by Phil Wrigley, owner of the Cubs, and execs of WBKB and WBKB-TV, has little improvement over last season’s coverage. Baseball is still a tough video nut to crack and WBKB will have to do some more hard work to devise a system which keeps the game interesting at all times for the viewers.
Under the new system one camera was placed in front of the third base dugout, one in the stands down the left field line. The third camera was used for most coverage of play, and except during time Zoomar lens was used, attempt to get practically all the infield into the angle of camera coverage, resulted in pitcher, batter and other players appearing to small on video screens.
Harry Birch, veteran video and newsreel cameraman, used Zoomar to good advantage most of the time, but at other times it was apparent that even Zoomar is not the entire answer to video baseball coverage. At one time the lens was used in an attempt to follow the ball from the batter out to the field where it was played and then back to the infield after it had been thrown by the outfielder. This attempt failed; the play was just too fast for the Zoomar to follow. Another time the Zoomar was used on a double play, and this too was too fast to follow. Also the Zoomar is okay when used to increase size of players—when the lens “zooms” forward, in other words, but when it “zooms” backward so that size of players on screen is reduced, the effect was disappointing and made the viewer feel as if he had been taken away from activity.
Altho use of camera on field in front of third base dugout gives opportunity for line of sight with players’ waists and thus makes them bigger on screen, its use at sometimes was harmful to following of play when players walked in front of play camera was trying to follow.
The station used the far left field camera too often. A few times the left field camera nearer to home plate was used and gave better effect because players appeared to be larger and because more of infield was brought into camera coverage angle.
As a result of coverage of this game it can be said that all the problems of video coverage of baseball have not been solved. Football and other sports are still better for video coverage.
Wrigley, et al, still have not got the best form of television coverage. Whether or not they do later on depends upon how much effort is put into additional experimentation and constant search for better methods.
On July 11, 1950, the All-Star Game out of Chicago’s Comiskey Park was televised for the first time. On November 8, 1950, Commissioner Happy Chandler and player reps agreed on the split of the TV-radio rights from the World Series.
Beginning in 1948, WGN-TV would broadcast all Cubs and White Sox home games. In 1952, WGN-TV gained exclusive rights to broadcast Cubs games. Brickhouse would call games for both Chicago teams until 1967.
In 2013, the Cubs terminated an existing deal with WGN that was set to expire in 2022. However, a new deal was reached in January 2015 that will allow 45 games to be shown in the Chicago market only. All other remaining Cubs games would be aired on Comcast SportsNet Chicago and WLS-TV. The deal expires after the 2019 season.
Chicago Tribun April 4, 1948
Chicago Tribun April 4, 1948
From Broadcasting, December 1939
Balaban & Katz Corp., Chicago, big motion picture theater chain, has applied to the FCC for authority to erect a new televison station in that city to be located at the northeast corner of Washington Blvd. and Crawford Ave. (Pulaski). It asks for 1,000 watts on the 66-72 mc. band.
History of ABC-7 Chicago
Experimental television station W9XBK began operation in the fall of 1939, as the first television station in Chicago and the third in America. At the time the station telecast fifteen minutes per day. The program consisted solely of a newscast and a film short. Often, in the place of a test pattern, a camera was aimed at the Wrigley Building and the Chicago River. Today, there is twenty-four hour programming.
In August 1943, W9XBK obtained an FCC license and a construction permit for a commercial television station and two months later, on October 13, 1943, newly titled WBKB-TV made its debut on Ch.4. In 1948, WENR-TV/Ch.7, an ABC-owned station, signed on in Chicago.
In 1953, United Paramount Theaters, Inc., owners of the Balaban/Katz Corporation, merged with the American Broadcasting Company to form American Broadcasting-Paramount Theaters, Inc. Balaban and Katz-owned WBKB merged with WENR and then became one of the five-owned stations of the American Broadcasting Company. The FCC prohibited two stations in the same market to be owned by one company so WBKB-TV (channel 4) was sold to CBS, which renamed it WBBM-TV. WENR-TV (channel 7) was renamed WBKB-TV. WBBM-TV got old WBKB-TV’s talent. New WBKB-TV got old WBKB-TV’s management.The combined station facilities assumed the WBKB call letters and broadcasts the signal on Ch.7. The attorney for Balaban & Katz, Leonard Goldenson, remained with the company and eventually became founder and Chairman of the Board of ABC.
In October 1968, another milestone occurred when the FCC authorized the change of call letters from WBKB-TV to WLS-TV. In 1986, Leonard Goldenson, sold the company to Capital Cities, Inc. and the new company Capital Cities/ABC became the premiere broadcasting/media company in the country. With the change in FCC regulations, more station were added to the “owned station group,” which is currently made up of ten stations across the country.
In January 1996, Capital Cities/ABC was sold to The Walt Disney Company and became the largest entertainment company in the world combining the television station division, the ABC Television Network, ABC News, publishing, radio stations and radio networks, cable and international holdings of ABC with The Walt Disney Company, a family entertainment company engaged in animated and live-action film and television production, cable and broadcast television, theme parks and resorts, character merchandise licensing, consumer product retailing and book and music publishing.