Sports & the media

A timeline

1927

Radio Days The World Series between the New York Yankees and Pittsburgh Pirates is the first sporting event to be broadcast on a nationwide radio hookup. It draws an audience of roughly 35 million.

1936

Jessie Owens vs. Adolph Hitler The American runner spoils Hitler’s plans for a propaganda field day. Millions watch via newsreels and listen on their radios as Owens wins four gold medals in track and field.

1937

“A Day at the Races” With the Marx brothers in full hijinx, losing money at the track was never this much fun.

1939

Play Ball August sees the first Major League Baseball game telecast by New York station W2XBS. The Cincinnati Reds and Brooklyn Dodgers split a double-header at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn.

1942

“Pride of the Yankees” At least for one day, everyone considered themselves a Yankees fan.

1951

A New Round: The Joe Louis-Lee Savold fight is the first closed-circuit boxing match, allowing fight fans to pay a fee to catch the ringside action at a separate location.

1958

The Greatest Game Ever Played The championship game between the Baltimore Colts and New York Giants at Yankee Stadium ends when the Colts Alan Ameche scores in overtime. The game, televised by NBC (but blacked-out in Gotham), is credited with putting the National Football League on the map.

Gooaalll! First live worldwide coverage of the World Cup takes place. Brazil, lead by a 17-year-old youngster named Pele, wins the trophy for the first time. Pele scores six goals in the tournament, leading Brazil to the first of four titles.

1961

The Thrill of Victory… ABC’s “Wide World of Sports” premieres. Hosted by Jim McKay, the first broadcast includes the Penn Relays from Franklin Field in Philadelphia and the Drake Relays from Des Moines, Iowa.

“The Hustler” Paul Newman’s Fast Eddie Felson goes through hell in trying to defeat Jackie Gleason’s Minnesota Fats in a game of pool. Newman would later win an Oscar for the 1986 sequel, “The Color of Money.”

1963

Instant Replay After CBS and ABC hold viewers rapt with endless loops of JFK’s assassination, network suits adapt the tool to sports. The instant replay debuts during a Dec. 7 Army-Navy football game, highlighting a one-yard run by Army’s Rollie Stichneh.

1968

Time of Unrest During the Olympic broadcast, African-Americans Tommie Smith and John Carlos refuse to acknowledge the U.S. flag and make a statement by giving a black power salute during the national anthem.

The “Heidi” Game With 1:05 remaining in this regular season contest between the Joe Namath-led New York Jets and the Oakland Raiders, NBC cuts away from the game with the Jets leading 32-29 to air the movie “Heidi.” The Raiders score two touchdowns in the final minute to win. The game causes NBC to change its policy and broadcast sporting events in their entirety.

1969

“Downhill Racer” Robert Redford hits the slopes in one of the few skiing films that wasn’t produced by documentarian Warren Miller.

1970

Pele Returns After claiming he had left the sport for good, the soccer legend leads Brazil to another title. Coverage of the World Cup from Mexico is beamed to Europe by satellite. Many games start at noon to accommodate time differences, angering players who are forced labor in the sweltering afternoon heat.

1972

Black September In Munich, West Germany, during the second week of the Olympic games, a group of armed Palestinian guerrillas from the Black September Movement kill two Israeli team members. Millions around the world watch as nine other athletes and coaches are held hostage for 21 hours.8

1973

“Bang the Drum Slowly” Robert De Niro makes ’em cry as a terminally ill catcher closes out his final season.

Battle of the Sexes Billie Jean King beats Bobby Riggs in straight sets on ABC. The tennis may not have been spectacular — the 29-year-old King easily defeats the 55-year-old Riggs — but ABC’s ratings are. The event scores a 28.5 rating and 40 share for the net as 30,472 fans look on at the Houston Astrodome

1976

A Perfect 10 At the Montreal Olympics, 14-year-old Romanian Nadia Comeneci warms hearts during the Cold War as she scores the first perfect 10.

“Rocky” Yo, this underdog story of a down-and-out Philadelphia fighter makes a superstar out of Sylvester Stallone beats both “Network” and “Taxi Driver” for best picture at the Oscars.

1979

“Breaking Away” Before Greg LeMonde started winning Tours de France, Dennis Christopher and his band of merry peddlers put bicycle racing on the American radar.

1980

“Raging Bull” Some call Martin Scorsese’s Jake LaMotta biopic not only the greatest boxing film but one of the greatest pics of all time. De Niro’s amazing 40-pound transformation earns him an Oscar.

Miracle on Ice As when John Kennedy was assassinated, everybody knows where they were when the upstart Americans defeated the Russians in the Olympics at Lake Placid, N.Y. With the telecast, a whole generation of hockey fans is born.

1981

“Chariots of Fire” Though it won Oscars, what we’ll always remember about this look at two British runners — one a Jew facing prejudice, the other a Scottish missionary — during the 1924 Olympics is the sweeping musical score.

1982

Bowled Over CBS’s 213-minute telecast of Super Bowl XVI between the San Francisco 49ers and the Cincinnati Bengals goes down as the top-rated sporting event of all time, getting a 49.1 rating and 73 share, equaling 110.2 million fans.

1984

“The Natural” Barry Levinson provided Robert Redford with both a sweet home-run swing and lightning in his bat, literally.

1986

“Hoosiers” Gene Hackman leads his overmatched high school basketball squad to the Indiana state championship in the ultimate underdog story (based on a true story).

Official Timeout NFL owners adopt instant replay, to be put into limited use by refs to officiate games.

1988

“Bull Durham” With character names like Kevin Costner’s Crash Davis and Tim Robbins’ Nuke LaLoosh, how can this irreverent look at minor league baseball not be great?

1992

“A League of Their Own” No matter what anybody ever tells you, there’s no crying in baseball. Ever.

1994

“Hoop Dreams” A nearly three-hour documentary about two Chicago kids who try to use basketball as a way out of the projects.

Terror on the Court: Tennis star Monica Seles is stabbed during a changeover at a tournament in Hamburg, Germany. Her assailant, Guenter Parche, says he stabbed Seles because he is a fan of her rival Steffi Graf.

Ice Queen: A media storm erupts during the Olympic trials when U.S. national champion Nancy Kerrigan is attacked by rival skater Tonya Harding’s bodyguard with a blunt object. Kerrigan takes silver at the games. Harding finishes eighth.

1996

“Jerry Maguire” Show me the money! The Tom Cruise vehicle grosses more than any other sports film in history: $153 million.

“When We Were Kings” After attempting to complete a feature documentray in 1974 of the Rumble in the Jungle for decades, director Leon Gast earns an Oscar for his analysis of the six weeks Muhammad Ali and George Foreman were forced to spend waiting for their legendary bout in Africa.

1998

Like Mike The Chicago Bulls win their sixth championship, marking a high point for the NBA’s popularity and ratings. Michael Jordan retires.2000

2000

Xperiment The World Wrestling Federation and NBC start the Xtreme Football Leauge. The deal marks the first time a network is in on the ground floor of creating a sports league. NBC bows out in 2001 after low ratings raise issues of the XFL’s viability.

Sources: Sports Illustrated, TV Guide, Variety research

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