A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Our Rich History: 150th anniversary — Roots of Cincinnati Reds’ radio at Crosley Field

By John Schlipp
Special to NKyTribune
(Part 2 of a three-part series celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Cincinnati Reds)

Take me out to the ballgame,
Take me out to the crowd.
Buy me some peanuts and cracker jack
s don’t care if I never get back,
Let me root, root, root, for the home team,
If they don’t win, it’s a shame. 
For it’s one, two, three strikes you’re out,
At the old ballgame.

–“Take Me Out to the Ball Game” (Jack Norworth & Albert Von Tilzer), public domain, 1908.
Those are the original lyrics of the 7th-inning stretch music heard at most Cincinnati Reds’ home games. Add the smell of hot dogs, beer, and abounding peanut shells littering the grounds, plus cheers and chants from the fans in the stands, and you can virtually relish the atmosphere of Reds’ spring fever in the air.

Sheet music for “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

I fondly remember the ambiance of Crosley Field as my family attended the last game there on the evening of Wednesday, June 24, 1970. Of the 28,027 fans attending that last game, a reporter noted: “Reds fans alternately wept and cheered as their boys shut the quaint, 58-year-old stadium by beating the San Francisco Giants, 5-4” (Cincinnati Enquirer, June 24, 1990, p. 29, Tom Groeschen). The weather conditions that evening were mild and dry. Yet the sight of the few remaining 17-year cicadas buzzing around became another indelible memory of the final game at Crosley Field, where the turf was real.

My father Carl Schlipp was an avid Reds’ fan, who caught a few foul balls in the stands at Crosley Field. As a child of the 1960s attending many Reds’ games at Crosley, I asked my father, why is Crosley Field named after Crosley? Why not Reds’ Field? Who was Crosley? My dad shared stories of Powell Crosley as a pioneer broadcaster, radio manufacturer, and owner of the Reds’ team. As a matter of fact, the Cincinnati Reds have a rich history of famous radio broadcasters offering play-by-play accounts of the Reds through the years.
It is the wonderful radio broadcasters who have called the Reds’ games for decades who have been the real cheerleaders for the fans. The Media Heritage website provides a series honoring significant broadcast personalities of the Reds. The roster includes: Harry Hartman, Red Barber, Dick Bray, Roger Baker, Waite Hoyt, Lee Allen, Claude Sullivan, Al Michaels, Joe Nuxhall, and Marty Brennaman.

Waite Hoyt as a professional baseball pitcher. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Just as old-time radio dramas of yesteryear utilized a listener’s imagination to set the stage of a story, the play-by-play calls and descriptions of the home park by legendary Reds’ sportscasters were so vivid that listeners living miles away were able to paint a picture of the park in their minds.

My father spoke often about the way Red Barber and Waite Hoyt conveyed the play-by-play commentaries of the Crosley Field games on the radio without the need for any television images.

Such radio commentators also shared many baseball stories and stats. What’s more, I believe that my dad’s keen knowledge of the history of baseball was the result of listening to virtually every Reds’ game radio broadcast. Even while attending games at Crosley Field and Riverfront Stadium, my father brought along his radio and listened to the play-by-play calls by Waite, and later, by Marty and Joe.

As a matter of fact, after leaving a Reds’ game on one occasion, my father forgot that he had set his handheld transistor radio on the front bumper of the family Ford sedan.

The next morning he could not locate it. We later found the radio, still sitting on the front bumper of the car. It had traveled safely from the Riverfront Stadium parking garage in Cincinnati to our home in Miamisburg, Ohio, south of Dayton.
Powel Crosley, Jr., a radio manufacturer and broadcaster, initiated the Reds’ broadcasting phenomenon at most opening-day games of the 1920s. Eugene Mittendorf, an announcer for Crosley’s WLW radio, called the early broadcasted Reds’ games, while Reds’ manager Jack Hendricks and radio entrepreneur Powel Crosley also chatted about the Reds to listeners. There were no broadcast booths. The reports were made from a small table on the rooftop of the grandstand.

By the end of the 1920s, Crosley expanded Reds’ radio coverage with Bob Burdette. Most owners of baseball franchises in the early days of radio were concerned that free game broadcasts would reduce ticket sales. Crosley disagreed, demonstrating that radio broadcasts boosted fan support, added revenue by exclusive sponsorship arrangements, and also increased ticket sales. Plus, Crosley sold more radios made in his factory. Crosley, the Cincinnati Reds, and their fans all became winners in this pioneering marketing innovation.

After Powel Crosley bought the Reds’ franchise in 1934 and renamed Redland Field as Crosley Field, WLW radio hired 26-year-old radio announcer Walter Lanier “Red” Barber from Florida. Not only did Barber become the voice of the Reds’ radio broadcasts of the 1930s, he served as an announcer for other radio programming at Crosley Broadcasting Corporation as well.

Barber was known for his colorful catchphrases, such as “rhubarb” for any heated on-field disputes, and “sittin’ in the catbird seat” when a player or team was performing very well.

When Red Barber first arrived in Cincinnati, he had little knowledge of professional baseball statistics or stories. To resolve this, he subscribed to newspapers in each one of the National League cities to read up on the competition. These gave him facts and statistics to share with his listeners.      
Barber called the play-by-play for the pioneering first night game in professional baseball, held at Crosley Field on May 24, 1935. Other major league team owners opposed lighted night games, believing them to be undignified and creating a carnival-like atmosphere. There was also concern of enough lighting for players and fans to see well. The Reds beat the Phillies 2-1 at that first night game, as 632 lights in eight stanchions illuminated Crosley Field. The lights have shone brightly ever since, as the Reds’ night games attracted nearly four times more fans than day games in that first year alone.

Red Barber. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Barber was part of another baseball broadcasting innovation. According to his autobiographical Rhubarb in the Catbird Seat, Larry Mac Phail, General Manager of the Reds, prompted Barber to conduct a live 15-minute daily scheduled program at Crosley Field, whether the Reds played or not. Barber interviewed players and managers about upcoming games to encourage fan attendance. Such radio exposure and publicity provided free programming for Crosley Broadcasting and increased ticket sales to the Reds’ games.
After five seasons broadcasting with the Reds, Barber was hired to serve as radio commentator for the Dodgers, then in New York City, and later for the Yankees. His last game coverage was in 1965. Barber and New York had a passing familiarity.

Ironically, the Reds’ team television debut occurred on a New York broadcast on August 26, 1939 from Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, moderated by Red Barber. Cincinnati’s Ivory® soap of Procter & Gamble served as the sponsor of the Reds’ first television appearance.

Perhaps coincidentally, shortly after Red Barber transitioned to New York, he hired Waite Hoyt, retired legendary pitcher from the Brooklyn Dodgers. Hoyt conducted wrap-up radio features before and after Barber’s play-by-play radio programs for the Dodgers on WOR in 1940. He demonstrated an ease at keeping his commentary crisp and contemporary to the interests of the listening fans. In addition, Hoyt shared firsthand baseball lore about legends like Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, and Rodger Hornsby, as well as matters such as the pitcher balk rule in baseball.

Before long, Hoyt was hired by Burger Beer and WKRC radio in Cincinnati to cover the Reds’ play-by-play broadcasts. Hoyt planned to return to New York after establishing his play-by-play experience in Cincinnati. Barber had taught Hoyt how to score the game for radio commentary. He even shared everything he knew about Cincinnati before Hoyt moved here. Besides the Reds, Barber told Hoyt about the small town, conservative culture of Cincinnati, contrasted to the “big apple” character of New York. Barber’s comments were directed to Hoyt’s challenge with alcoholism which he finally resolved a few years after arriving in Cincinnati. In the end, Hoyt became a leading figure in Alcoholics Anonymous, supporting the sobriety of others. In fact, the Cincinnati community eventually adopted him as one of their own, which encouraged him to remain.

The author, John Schlipp, ready to leave Centerville, Ohio, with his parents to a Cincinnati Reds’ game at Crosley Field, circa 1963. Ticket to Crosley Field below.

It has been said by many that Hoyt had an ability to make listeners feel as if he were speaking to each of them as an individual, like speaking to a friend about attending a game.

It’s no wonder that Hoyt was as popular with radio listeners in the Cincinnati region as WLW’s daytime talk show host, Ruth Lyons. Both had a knack at knowing what their listeners wanted to hear, and they each created strong bonds with the community by their talents at telling stories.

Besides Hoyt’s excellent play-by-play radio coverage of the Reds, his rain-delay, baseball-lore monologues even attracted listeners who were fans of other teams. It was said that some people specifically tuned in when it rained during Reds’ home games for Hoyt’s impromptu baseball lessons. He shared wonderful ad lib stories about the baseball legends with whom he collaborated and competed during his renowned career with the New York Giants, Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, and Brooklyn Dodgers, among others.

Red Barber said that Hoyt conveyed baseball stories better than any man who ever lived. William A. Cook, author of a Waite Hoyt biography, considered Hoyt a pioneering former baseball player in radio broadcasting. His work inspired other retired players to follow his transition into radio and television careers.              
Waite Hoyt retired from broadcasting in 1966, the same year as Red Barber. Both are among the few radio announcers to be honored by the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Marty Brennaman, longtime Reds’ radio commentator scheduled to retire at the end of the 2019 season, was also inaugurated into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Marty Brennaman joined Joe Nuxhall (another professional player turned commentator) during the era of the Big Red Machine of the 1970s at Riverfront Stadium.

The next part of this Reds’ series resumes with the history of the Reds post-Crosley Field. The glistening new, modern stadium would host multiple World Series championships.

John Schlipp is an Associate Professor and Intellectual Property Librarian at Northern Kentucky University’s (NKU) Steely Library. He also directs the Intellectual Property Awareness Center (IPAC) at NKU, assisting everyone from inventors to musicians in becoming aware of their intellectual property. The IPAC is an official Patent & Trademark Resource Center (PTRC) of the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Click here for details about this free community service.

Related Posts


  1. Ricky Bobby says:

    I also attended the last game at Crosley field as a helicopter came in and took home plate away to Riverfront stadium. I was also fortunate to attend the 1st game at Riverfront. Memory of Reds playing Oakland A’s in World Series at Riverfront. Gene Tenace killed the Reds. I remember Tenace getting a death threat against him because he had hit so many homers. My favorite player at Crosley was Vada Pinson. I wonder if he is still alive ? Went to games with our knothole team. We wore our jerseys and loved the ice cream on a stick because when you ate it all the stick would be a figure of a ball player.

  2. Brenda Shanning says:

    Crosley field was racist, it should be wiped from mention in reds history. It discriminated against minorities and women. I am super offended by this article and feel violated. Please don’t post articles about Americas racist, hateful, mean past, we are moving in a direction where every single person gets equal treatment and incomes. Let’s push for free reds tickets for life for all African Americans. #Resist

    • Ricky Bobby says:

      Gee whiz ! Everyhing is racist nowadays. Article is about baseball. Baseball ! Jackie Robinson broke the racial barrier a long time ago. He also did it with class. My favorite player was black, Vada Pinson. You can’t erase history. You can learn from it. Sometimes we just need to move on. Driving, looking in to rear view mirror will cause a wreck. Look forward. #Lovethyneighborasthyself

Leave a Comment