30th Anniversary of Red Barber’s Passing

The World Series approaches and with it the 30th anniversary of Red Barber’s passing on October 22. Barber first gained national fame covering thirteen World Series between 1935 and 1952. His “Oh, doctor” reaction to Al Gionfriddo’s dramatic catch of Joe DiMaggio’s deep left field drive in the 1947 Series is one of the greatest calls in the history of the sport. Now’s the perfect time to celebrate the impact he had on the broadcasting industry. Judith R. Hiltner and James R. Walker’s Red Barber follows the trajectory of Barber’s long career from radio and television play-by-play man for the Cincinnati Reds, Brooklyn Dodgers, and New York Yankees to his work calling college and professional football games, his nine-year tenure as director of sports for CBS Radio, and his second acts as an Episcopal lay reader, sportswriter, and weekly guest with Bob Edwards on NPR’s Morning Edition.

“Barber’s call for objectivity, accuracy, and preparation survived him and has influenced the work of several generations of sportscasters who have inherited his legacy, even those who found it difficult to execute his directives,” wrote Hiltner and Walker in their new book.

Barber’s sway cannot be overstated. He mentored the late Vin Scully, who he saw as the son he never had. However, he also influenced Bob Costas, John Miller, Al Michaels, Ernie Harwell, Jerry Coleman, and Phil Rizzuto. Behind all the base hits, balls, and strikes lies a compelling story that dramatizes the shifting expectations and roles of a public figure—the sports broadcaster—as he adapted to complex cultural changes throughout the course of twentieth-century American life.

A child of the deep south who once aspired to a career as a minstrel show star, Barber had become by his 30s the voice of Brooklyn when the Dodgers broke racial barriers by bringing Jackie Robinson to the big leagues. The trajectory of his story provides readers with a compelling narrative of the dynamics of tolerance and the influences that can nurture it.

Judith R. Hiltner is professor emeritus of literature and languages at Saint Xavier University and the author of books and articles on American literature and culture, including critical and biographical studies of Herman Melville, Philip Freneau, and Deborah Sampson. James R. Walker is professor emeritus of communication at Saint Xavier University and a past executive director of the International Association of Communication and Sport. He is the author of several books, including Crack of the Bat: A History of Baseball on the Radio (Nebraska, 2015), and is the coauthor of Center Field Shot: A History of Baseball on Television (Nebraska, 2008).

Read more about Red Barber: The Life and Legacy of a Broadcasting Legend here.

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