Flashback: D.C. baseball 74 years ago

Neal Augenstein, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – One of baseball’s charms is the game largely remains the same.

Yet, a historic recording of a 1939 game between the Washington Senators and Cleveland Indians at the old Griffith Stadium demonstrates how the world has continued to change.

The radio broadcast from Sept. 21, 1939 is on WJSV – the station that eventually became WTOP.

Griffith Stadium was located between Georgia Avenue NW and 5th Street, and between W Street and Florida Avenue, where Howard University Hospital now stands.

In an online article, The Atlantic presents an entire broadcast day of the station, including the post “When Baseball Was a Whole Different Ballgame.”

The slower pace and quieter tone of the two broadcasters, including former Senators star pitcher Walter Johnson, is in sharp contrast to today’s exuberant play-by- play broadcasts.

At one point Johnson explains, “This is ladies day out here. Quite a few of the fairer sex out.”

Johnson’s grandson, Hank Thomas, tells WTOP this is the only known extended recording of Johnson’s voice.

“I actually think Walter does OK, in a folksy, Will Rogers way,” says Thomas.

“Sort of a high-pitched plains drawl, I guess.”

“He’s no Red Barber or Vin Scully, but he gets the job done,” Thomas said.

Thomas says he interviewed the engineer of the broadcast — the late Granville Klink, who worked at the station from the 1930s and continued at WTOP until his 80s.

“Granny told me the broadcast booth was a tiny wooden box with a tin roof sitting on top of the grandstand roof. They climbed a rickety ladder to get to it, and would strip down to their underwear on sweltering days, when it felt like 130 degrees in the booth.”

Thomas quoted a commercial from the broadcast, in which his grandfather was scheduled to appear at “Miller’s Market on 7th Street, and he’ll be signing boxes of Wheaties for the fans.”

“How great is that?” marveled Thomas.

Listen to the entire broadcast below:

You can access the broadcast on WJSV. Click on No. 35 on the player on the right.

Follow @AugensteinWTOP and @WTOP on Twitter.

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