Radio was still several years away. Two wars would be completed before television coverage arrived. That didn’t mean fans couldn’t follow the World Series in real time.
As the 20th century unfolded, electricity and innovation gave rise to a phenomenon that stretched across much of the country during World Series time. Fans could gather in a public square, in front of a newspaper building or other open space and follow along as the results of the game, pitch-by-pitch, were presented on a giant machine.
Thanks to the telegraph, the results of play–no matter where it was taking place–could be transmitted to an operator stationed near the board. Typically, a baseball diamond creation showed the lineups, the location of any baserunners and the count. Runners were manipulated around the diamond by hand or electronically and the runs, hits and errors displayed for fans standing below to digest.
In large, baseball-loving cities, tens of thousands of fans took the afternoon off to stand in rapt attention below. News reports of the day indicated they acted much as they did at the ballpark, cheering, conversing with other fans nearby…and shouting managerial advice even though they couldn’t actually see the players.
One such moment, captured in time 102 seasons ago, is on the auction block. RMY Auctions is offering a photo that shows fans standing outside the offices of a Seattle newspaper, “watching” the 1917 World Series play out in Chicago, where the White Sox were hosting the Giants. A board shows the linescore and above it, one of those giant boards shows how the action is unfolding. Behind the board, inside the newspaper office, is a table where, presumably, the information is coming in from 2,000 miles away. A man with a megaphone stands at the window, relaying additional information to the jam-packed gathering below. Visible to the right, inside the room, a woman has her back to the crowd and is casually reading the day’s newspaper. The crowd appears to be entirely male and every man is wearing a hat.
The 7 3/4″ x 9 3/4″ image was clearly used by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer through the years as it shows significant wear and multiple date stamps and clips are attached to the back. A caption from use of the photo in 1973 indicates a larger, more sophisticated board was put into use.
The photo is one of more than 600 in RMY’s Spring Collectors Auction, which runs through Saturday.