Graham McNamee was America’s most recognized national radio personality in the medium’s first decade.
Though he broadcast top sports events in the early years, he recently has been overlooked and forgotten by many.
That oversight was correected on December 9 when McNamee won the Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasting from the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Radio broadcasting of sporting events was a new thing in the 1920s. The play-b-play announcements were performed by a rotating group of newspaper writers. Their descriptions were matter-of-fact and boring at best. In 1923, announcer McNamee was assigned to help the sportswriters liven up their broadcasts. He wasn’t a baseball expert, but had a knack for conveying what he saw in great detail, and with great enthusiasm. He became broadcasting first as a color commentator, bringing the sights and sounds of the game into the homes of listeners.
McNamee had various on-air responsibilities at WEAF, including baseball color commentary culminating in play-by-play of the 1926 World Series. Over the course of the next decade, first with WEAF and then with the national NBC network, McNamee broadcast numerous sports events (including several World Series, Rose Bowls, championship boxing matches), Indianapolis 500, national political conventions, presidential inaugurations and the arrival of aviator Charles Linbergh in New York following his transatlantic flight to Paris in 1927. Later that year, McNamee was featured on the cover of Time (October 3, 1927).