Graham McNamee: Too Big to Fail

Graham McNamee The ballpark couldn't hold his range of talent.

Graham McNamee
The ballpark couldn’t hold his range of talent.


Thanks, Stan-From-Tacoma, for providing all of us at The Pecan Park Eagle to hear use the link you’ve provided to hear the sonorous baritone voice and superbly regional-free diction of Graham McNamee directly from these ancient radio broadcast recordings.

We have followed your suggestion by first clicking onto

Then we printed out “Coca Cola Top Notchers” in the “search” line provided there.

If you fill in the “search” line with the name “Graham McNamee”, you also get a large selection of the man working “on the air.”

What we got from Stan’s suggestion were two links that both work to the same March 19, 1930 evening program, “The Coca Cola Top Notchers,” featuring Graham McNamee as Master of Ceremonies for a half-hour program of easy listening to soft music of that era performed by the Coca Cola String Orchestra and some singing – all fitted around the idea that this was a good format for bracketing an interview by iconic sports writer Grantland Rice with future Hall of Famer Ty Cobb – and all planted smack dab in the middle of the musical program.

Get it? Rice and Cobb were the top-notcher cake portion of the show. Everything else was pretty much “relax … think Coke … drink Coke … listen to the music … and float away in your living room easy chair.” McNamee served as ringmaster and Coke-huckster for the show’s commercial interests. McNamee’s beautifully-honed sonorous baritone voice and superbly regional-free diction simply flowed into mellow meandering with the solidly pre-Cambrian advertising era message. “Things really do go better with Coca Cola,” the flow of things suggested, especially when you allow yourself to drink Coke – and to give yourself over to the beautiful music and a “Shirley Temple evening” voyage into relaxation – one that will not leave you struggling with a hangover the next morning.

As to how the show got the two-years-retired Ty Cobb to appear on this live NBC radio show from New York City in dismal March, it probably wasn’t too tough. By this time, Cobb was knee-deep in Coca Cola stock and ready to help everything go better for himself with Coca Cola too.

Graham McNamee’s job on the show made it easier to see why his pioneering role in baseball got lost in the muddle of the things he did on the air in actuality. Can you imagine Red Barber being awarded the Frick for introducing, or maybe even singing, “Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life, At Last, I Found You” over the radio? Only the great Graham McNamee possessed both the talent and the almonds to pull that one off.

Such is the fate of those who are the first in the room to both possess and put to plentiful use the talents that this little boomer invention and commercial industry called “broadcast radio” cried out for someone to do. For most, if not all of his career, McNamee literally had no peer as a multi-talented radio performer. He did baseball, boxing, football, and other sports. He served as MC on several radio variety and musical shows, including the Rudy Vallee Show. He sang opera numbers over the radio; he even substituted for Rudy Vallee, at least once, as the singer of a show, or shows, the star had to miss because of some other commitment. McNamee did all these things – not because “nobody did them better” – but because nobody else did them – period!

And buried in this pile of singularly broad media talent and accomplishment was the fact that Graham McNamee truly was the template builder for real-time baseball radio broadcast play-by-play artistry. And that individually historical contribution has now been rescued from the land of the lost that blurred his pioneer role and denied him the honor that the Ford C. Frick Award reaffirms by the Hall of Fame’s selection of Graham McNamee as the recipient for 2016. – He should have been the first person selected. That will always be my opinion, but it also shall always be my grateful opinion that justice that shows up late is always far superior to justice that gets lost forever.


 eagle-0range Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas



One Response to “Graham McNamee: Too Big to Fail”

  1. stanfromtacoma Says:

    You are welcome Bill. From you comments I can tell you appreciated the Top Notchers program as much as Ernie Harwell did. Glad I left the comment yesterday. There is a ton of really good audio available on the Internet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: