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.
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. Continue reading