W2XBS Schedule, Week of May 14th, 1939

Here’s a spotty schedule for NBC’s experimental station W2XBS in New York City for the week beginning Sunday, May 14th, 1939. On Thursday, May 18th, 1939 The New York Times began including television broadcasts at the bottom of its daily radio listings so daily broadcasts for the end of the week are known. On Wednesday, May 17th W2XBS broadcast the very first baseball game from Baker Field using two mobile television trucks. An article published in The New York Times the following day stated that the game ran for 2 hours and 15 minutes and began with an introduction of coaches and team captains by announcer Bill Stern [1].

Due to the sun shining directly into the camera for the first few innings everything was described as dark. Later, however, “the diamond became clear and the skyline of apartment buildings sharply defined in the background” [2]. Here’s an excerpt from the article that explains some of the shortcomings of the broadcast:

The players were best described by observers as appearing “like white fliers” running across the screen. It was impossible for the single camera to include both the pitcher’s box and home plate at the same time. The “eye” was focused on the mound for the wind-up and quickly followed the ball to the batter and catcher. Seldom were more than three players visible on the screen at one time, and until the picture was clarified after the fourth inning the outfielders were “forgotten men.” [3]

Stern was said to have “saved the day” with his play-by-play commentary. And for the record, Columbia’s Ken Pill hit television’s first home run. Viewers were able to see him rounding the bases [4]. Following the baseball game was coverage of a bicycle race from Madison Square Gardens [5]. A fifteen-minute program titled “Premiere of Plumage Fashions,” a brief re-eneactman of a fashion show that took place ta the Ritz-Carlton the previous day was also said to have been broadcast on Wednesday evening [6].

Presumably the rest of the week stuck more or less to the schedule of films and studio presentations W2XBS had introduced two weeks earlier, with a film block from 11AM-4PM on Monday, Tuesday and Friday. On Thursday, films were shown from 4-8PM and studio presentations from 8-9PM. That likely would have been Wednesday’s schedule if not for the baseball game. Saturday saw more films and additional coverage of the bicycle race. I can’t say whether anything was broadcast on Sunday, May 14th.

Sunday, May 14th, 1939
Off the air?

Monday, May 15th, 1939
11:00AM-4:00PM – Films.

Tuesday, May 16th, 1939
11:00AM-4:00PM – Films.

Wednesday, May 17th, 1939
4:00-8:15PM – Baseball, Princeton vs. Columbia at Baker Field.
8:30-9:00PM – Six-Day Bicycle Race, at Madison Square Garden.

Thursday, May 18th, 1939 [7]
11:00AM – 4:00PM – Films.

Friday, May 19th, 1939 [8]
4:00-8:00PM – Films.
8:00-9:00PM – Studio Variety Show.

Saturday, May 20th, 1939 [9]
4:00-8:00PM – Films.
8:30-9:00PM – Six-Day Bicycle Race, at Madison Square Garden.

Works Cited:

1 “Televised Baseball Due First Time Wednesday.” New York Times. 15 May 1939: 17.
2 “First Television of Baseball Seen.” New York Times 18 May 1939: 29.
3 Ibid.
4 Ibid.
5 A May 17th, 1939 article in The New York Times about the baseball game mentions that “the first telecast from Madison Square Gardens will be made at 8:30 P.M., when scenes of the six-day bicycle race will be picked up” (“Television Game Today,” Page 19).
6 “To Televise Fashion Show.” New York Times. 16 May 1939: 45.
7 “Today on the Radio.” New York Times. 18 May 1939: 37.
8 “Today on the Radio.” New York Times. 19 May 1939: 35.
9 “Today on the Radio.” New York Times. 20 May 1939: 25.
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