How Baseball Fans “Watched” The 1911 World Series

Before Radio Or Television If You Didn’t Have A Ticket To The World Series – You Could Still Watch It On The Play-O-Graph

Advertisement for the “wonderful Automatic Play-O-Graph” – Philadelphia Inquirer Oct. 13, 1911

In August, 1911 with $10,000 capital, John W. Baker, Henry H. Abbott and Sumner Ford incorporated the Baseball Play-O-Graph Company in Stamford, Connecticut. The men devised a way of transmitting the actions of sporting events “live” through telephone and telegraph.

The depiction of baseball games through mechanical means had been accomplished previously, but not showing the track of the ball, which was what made the Play-O-Graph unique. The Play-O-Graph would show the action without the aid of electric lights.

Baseball fans congregate outside the New York Herald Building during the 1911 World Series

In October of 1911 the American League champion Philadelphia Athletics lead by manager Connie Mack would play John McGraw’s New York Giants for the World Championship.

Giants manager John McGraw (l) and catcher Chief Myers (r) at Polo Grounds before 1911 World Series.

Giants manager John McGraw (l) and catcher Chief Myers (r) at Polo Grounds before 1911 World Series.

There were a couple of oddities in the 1911 World Series. Each game alternated cities with games one, three and five being played in New York and games two, four and six played in Philadelphia. The other strange occurrence was that there was a one week delay between games three and four as a deluge of rain hit Philadelphia for six straight days.

After inspecting the field for playability causing the fifth straight postponement of game four, umpire Bill Klem joked, “There was a pool around second base big enough for a diving exhibition by (swimming champ) Annette Kellerman. I was unable to locate the home plate for the lack of a diving apparatus. The outer gardens would make excellent pasturage for a herd of hippopotami.”

Both teams were considered evenly matched and felt confident they could win the series. Since 1904 each team had won three pennants.

Line outside the Polo Grounds at 7:00 am to buy tickets for game 3 of the 1911 World Series. photo: Bain

When tickets for the opening game of the World Series went on sale on Friday, October 13 at the Giants home field, the Polo Grounds all the tickets were gone within two hours. After the sell-out, the regular ticket price of three dollars shot up to five, six, seven and eventually eight dollars from speculators (scalpers) who had scooped up as many tickets as possible.

With over 38,000 fans cramming the ballpark it would be difficult to see the game without a ticket.

That would be where the Play-O-Graph would come into use. Setting up their machines at four locations in the United States, fans could see the game as it transpired.

“When the pitcher pitches the ball and when the batter hits it and when he is thrown out, is all shown upon the Play-O-Graph. Every move of the game is made clear to the spectator who watches the ball as it moves from place to place upon the board,” the company proclaimed.

The company installed two boards in New York, one in Chicago, one in Detroit and one in Philadelphia.

In Philadelphia admission of 25 and 50 cents was charged at American Athletic Club to watch the games.

One of the Play-O-Graph boards In New York City was set up at the 71st Regiment Armory the other board was outside of the offices of the New York Herald Building at 36th Street and Herald Square.

The Play-O-Graph in action outside The New York Herald Building in the 4th inning of game 6 of the 1911 World Series

A huge throng of people gathered outside the Herald Building to “watch” the sixth and final game taking place in Philadelphia..

The photograph seen above captures the turning point of the game, Philadelphia’s Jack Barry is at the plate in the bottom of the fourth with one out and runners on first and second as the Athletics had just taken  a 2-1 lead. Barry bunted down the first base line and  Giants pitcher Red Ames picked up the ball cleanly but plunked Barry in the head as he made his way to first.  Right fielder Red Murray chased down the ball and made a strong  throw over shortstop Art Fletcher’s head. By the time the baseball had been retrieved Barry and the two base runners had scored giving the Athletics a 5-1 edge which they never relinquished.

The Athletics mauled the Giants 13-2. The winning Athletics divided $76,746 among the team. Though that sum may seem miniscule, each of the 21 eligible players received $3,654.59 in many cases more than a player’s salary for an entire season.

Back to the fans watching on the Play-O-Graph, they seemed to enjoy the action even if the home team ended up losing.

This final photograph below was taken from the Herald Building shows thousands of exuberant New Yorkers. As a trolley passes by notice that there is not one woman to be seen and that several people have taken notice of the photographer and are looking at the camera waving or smiling.

1911 World Series Game 6. A multitude of humanity stands outside the New York Herald Building watching the Play-O-Graph and the cameraman. Double click the photo and see many men looking up and smiling at the camera.

1911 World Series Game 6. A multitude of humanity stands outside the New York Herald Building watching the Play-O-Graph. Double click the photo and see many men looking up and smiling at the camera.

The Play-O-Graph faded into history by the early 1930s with the upsurge of radio ownership and regular broadcasting of World Series games starting in 1921.

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