Sports commentary on the radio began in the early ’20s and despite the onset of television and the initial suspicion of the press it is still going strong. Dick Booth's book examines the history of commentary, the way it grew and where it is now.?As well as the growth of sports commentary at the BBC, Booth chooses different countries to show how they treated the art of talking to people without seeing them. Thus he looks at football in Brazil, cricket in India and rugby union in New Zealand. He also touches on the role of the summariser and takes an in-depth look at Test Match Special on the BBC.?The first event broadcast on the “wireless” was in 1921, the “fight of the century”, the world heavyweight title bout between Jack Dempsey and Georges Carpentier at New Jersey on July 2 1921.?The first ringside reporter was a Major J Andrew White, editor of the popular radio paper Wireless Age, who broadcasted to sixty halls and theatres around the USA. Even so Dempsey realised his mother would not be able to listen to the fight and sent the news of his victory by telegram.?But there is controversey over this first “broadcast”. Many people argue that White’s words were picked up at a workman’s hut two-and-a-half miles away where they were taken down and transmitted by an engineer, Owen Smith.?The first British broadcast was also from a bout involving Carpentier. This time he was facing Ted “Kid” Lewis at Olympia and the commentator was a W Southey.?And although British newspapers, worried about the threat of radio, managed to stop commentators by insisting that radio could broadcast only reports from agencies the boycott did not last long. Radio commentary entered a golden age in the ’40s and 50s and even now, with sports TV channels springing up all the time, it goes from strength to strength.
Memories of pioneer wireless heroes are triggered by a relishable new tale by meticulous historian Dick Booth