Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Four pro football telecasts on Thanksgiving Day (1967-1969)

Thanksgiving Day football on TV has been a longstanding tradition. Since the 1970 merger, the NFL has always presented an early afternoon telecast from Detroit followed by a late afternoon game (from Dallas most years, but from St, Louis twice in 1970s). The Turkey Day telecast schedule expanded to a tripleheader in 2006 when the NFL added a prime time game on NFLN. The Thanksgiving night telecast moved to NBC starting in 2012.

But did you know that there used to be a total of four pro football telecasts on Thanksgiving Day? This was indeed the case from 1967 to 1969. During those seasons, CBS presented a pair of Turkey Day telecasts with staggered start times sandwiched around an AFL doubleheader on NBC. The four games represented a whopping 31% of the pro football schedule. During these threee seasons CBS would begin with a noon time game from Detroit. Then NBC provided a pair of AFL games starting in the early afternoon. Finally, CBS came back with a 6 pm game from Dallas. And on top of all that, ABC aired a mid-afternoon college game.

For example, here was the Thanksgiving Day TV menu on Thursday 11/27/1969 (all times ET):

  Vikings @ Lions, 12:15 pm, CBS
  Broncos @ Chiefs, 1:30 pm, NBC
  Texas Tech vs Arkansas, 2:30 pm, ABC
  Chargers @ Oilers, 4 pm, NBC
  49ers @ Cowboys, 6 pm, CBS

In a notable sign of the times, NBC used a 2.5 hour window for its early game.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Original NBC telecast of 1973 NLCS game 1

One unfortunate aspect of baseball TV history is that most NBC telecasts from the 1969-1975 era of the League Championship Series apparently no longer exist. However, I recently discovered one such NBC telecast which has mostly survived - game 1 of the 1973 NLCS between the Mets and Reds.

At that time, a station in each participating market could televise the LCS games using its own announcers giving viewers an alternative to the network telecast on the NBC affiliate. That fact is illustrated by this clip which contains the opening from the local telecast on WOR-TV in New York. After the classic Meet the Mets theme music, announcers Lindsey Nelson, Bob Murphy, and Ralph Kiner set the scene. The WOR telecast continues through the top of the 1st inning and you can see that it used the NBC video feed.

At the 13:26 mark, the video shifts to the NBC network telecast with Curt Gowdy and Tony Kubek calling the action. Tom Seaver pitched for the Mets and contributed an RBI double at 24:08. At 1:14:19, Gowdy promotes the "football/baseball doubleheader" on NBC the next day. At the 1:18:00 mark, Gowdy mentions that the game was airing on two different channels in Cincinnati. The game-tying home run by Pete Rose is at 1:45:10. During the bottom of the 8th around the 1:48:30 mark, the video footage ends and radio commentary fills out the rest of the game.

This game from Saturday October 6 started at 4 pm ET. It was much faster paced than a modern game. Commercial breaks were only 60 seconds. The official time of this game was just 2 hours. At the 58:10 mark, Gowdy actually refers to a regular season matchup between these teams which took only an hour and 37 minutes.

While the video quality is less than ideal, the TV audio is rather impressive. Fans of historic sports telecasts should appreciate the chance to see this rare network TV footage from the early LCS days.