The Philadelphia Phillies will have no AM radio broadcasts in the 2016 season for the first time since the introduction of the medium.
Under the terms of a new contract reached with CBS Radio earlier this week, any 2016 Philadelphia Phillies games over radio, whether from spring training, during the regular season, or any possible postseason action, will be broadcast by sports talk station WIP at 94.1 FM.
Phillies games began broadcasting over the radio in 1936, and in those early days it was only road games that were heard by local fans. Those early owners, not only with the Phillies but all around baseball, were concerned that radio broadcasts of home games would reduce attendance.
The Phillies actually took part in the first Major League Baseball game ever broadcast over the radio, as the visiting team. That game took place on August 5th, 1921 when the Phils dropped an 8-5 decision to the host Pirates in Pittsburgh. The game was broadcast over KDKA and featured announcer Harold Arlin.
That fall, Grantland Rice and Tommy Cowan called the first-ever World Series broadcast over radio. The series featured the rival New York Giants and New York Yankees, and was broadcast over both KDKA and by WJZ of Newark, New Jersey. Neither broadcaster was actually present for the games, but based their calls on telegraph reports.
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In 1936, the Phillies first introduced road game broadcasts over the local WCAU radio station, with Bill Dyer and Dolly Stark making the calls. Stark was the first Jewish umpire in modern baseball history, working in the National League from 1928-35 and again from 1937-40.
In 1939, a voice that would become legendary in Philadelphia baseball history took over the microphone. That year, Byrum Saam began calling the Phillies games, and he would continue through the 1949 season. Saam had already begun calling games for the AL’s Philadelphia Athletics in 1938, and would work both team’s broadcasts in a dual role for a dozen seasons.
Saam was forced to choose for the 1950 season due to an increased work load of travel with the two teams, and chose the A’s due to a long time friendship with owner Connie Mack. Of course as luck would have it, the Phillies enjoyed their magical ‘Whiz Kids’ pennant that year.
Saam returned to the Phillies when the Athletics moved to Kansas City in 1954, and would remain in the Phils’ booth into the television era. He called games through the 1975 season, the final five years teaming with Harry Kalas and Richie Ashburn.
Ashburn and Kalas were the Phillies main voices of the team for generations of fans through 1997, until Ashburn’s death late that season. Kalas passed away in the booth while preparing for an early season 2009 game in Washington.
Since the 2006 season, former pitcher Larry Anderson and Scott Franzke have been a part of the broadcasting team, with Flyers’ announcer Jim Jackson serving as a backup as well as a pre and post-game host. Over the last decade the team of ‘Fanzke & LA’ have become beloved by the fans as a popular tandem for a new generation.
Now Franzke and Anderson will be heard only on FM radio. WIP has already been airing the Phillies games, and those had previously also been simulcast over AM on WPHT 1210. Now for the first time since taking the radio airwaves 80 years ago, there will be no Phillies baseball over the AM bands.
Per a report by Neil Zoren for Digital First Media, the move is logical. WIP is a local sports station, while WPHT is more geared towards a political and news station. “With this move, CBS shores up WIP’s place as sports haven while freeing 1210 to cater more to its core audience,” wrote Zoren.
For Phillies fans there should really be nothing truly noticeable. Most have likely been listening over WIP in recent years any way. But this serves notice to any fans who might still happen to flip around the AM dial: when the Phillies begin broadcasting their first spring training game in a couple of weeks, don’t search those AM airwaves. For the first time since the Great Depression, you won’t find them.