Once Upon a Grainy, Line-Screen Time

A 10″ B&W Table Model (1950)
Dead Ringer for our 1st Motorola
Five Knob Controls:
Left: ON/Off; Volume
Middle: vertical horizontal, and picture balance controls
Right: Channel Changer Knob
Since only had Channel 2 in 1950, the Channel Changer was pointless.


To receive early TV pictures from the broadcast tower, you had to have a roof antenna like this one or a simple set of “rabbit ear” receivers wired to your TV on the inside of the house.


And, hey! If your TV didn’t work, you didn’t throw it out. You took it to a place like Art’s TV to get it fixed.


On March 10, 2010, I wrote an article for the Pecan Park Eagle on the difficulties of watching televised baseball in the early days. Here’s the link:



One of the two camera angle shots we had of TV baseball from Buff Stadium in 1953. – Complements of Contributor Tom Murrah.


The viewer problem, of course, was only complicated by the size and poor quality of the back and white analog system picture screen that made home telesion finally possible all over in America during the years that followed World War II.

“As the photo in this story’s visual aide shows, the early telecasts used a camera on the first base side to show the mostly right-handed batters from a facial side shot. We also got to see the numbers on the backs of left-handed batters. In Houston, at least, there was no corresponding angle camera on the third base side to cover lefties. A second camera, however, was usually positioned behind home plate, and behind the screen, to show the ball coming in to the batter and, when hit, going out to the fielders. On those early ten inch diameter screens, the view also compared favorably to watching baseball as it might be played out on an ant farm. You saw this fuzzy little round object move in, move out, and then disappear into the far dominions of a poorly lighted minor league field.” – Bill McCurdy, original 2010 article.

What strikes us today, both literally and figuratively, is how much the picture has changed on the live attendance versus home watching on TV experiences:

1) Prior to the technological picture quality breakthroughs that now make big screen, high-definition, direct light, digital quality moving pictures available at home, the directorial artistry of tv baseball producers have combined multiple camera angles, replay, and slo-mo tech to make home viewing of the game superior in a multi-faceted, accurate way that still cannot be duplicated at the park with all the gazillion dollar giant screens they’ve put in place at ballparks – just for the sake of remaining competitive with the experience a fan may be having with the game at home.

Whoa! Item #1 was a mouthful – as it was intended to be.

2) At the ballpark, they shout words at me in tones too baritone-muffled and loud for me to hear, whereas, at home, I can always use closed caption to hear anything I feel I really need to hear in real time. And that’s rare. Give me an uncluttered, unblocked view of the field and I will most often just know what’s going on. Put me in the stands, at age 80 by next season, and I won’t see any big plays in real time. The fans in front of me will have risen in front of me – and my up-and-down days at the ballpark are done. I’ve learned to just wait for the sound reaction that follows my neighbors’ sudden ass-cendance from their seats. When it’s something good for the Astros, they cheer. When it’s not, they either groan – or slope into silence.

3) The failure of true stadium seating at ballparks – and the absence of walking aisle space down the seating rows – are the two major architectural reasons why most contemporary MLB parks, including Minute Maid Park, will not be able to make fans more comfortable with the fact that many of us will never be able to actually watch a big game live as they will be able to see it at home. The movie theater industry, on the other hand, has responded much more effectively to the similar threat they now experience with competition from home TV and Netflix. Many big scale multi-cinemas have installed true stadium seating, with plenty of aisle space and no heads blocking your seated view, as they still do at MMP.

4) In all the times I ate my evening meal at home during the early innings of my big screen Astro games in 2017, not once was I ever asked to stand up and allow a stranger to pass by me on their way to wherever they were going.

5) We’ve come a long way since the days of the grainy and lined 10″ TV screen and two-camera telecast production.



Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle


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3 Responses to “Once Upon a Grainy, Line-Screen Time”

  1. jeff share Says:

    great column as usual, Bill. Janet & I are retiring at the end of the year. hope to at least catch some day games next year.

  2. bhick6 Says:

    The TV was fine for home games during the 1950’s (if less technologically adept than today) , but away games were still the purview of radio. Don’t know why I happened to tune in to the Milwaukee Braves’ radio station one evening in 1959 while in college just north of Chicago, but I picked up Harvey Haddix’s perfect game. (Perfect, at least, for 12 innings). Radio could be rewarding as well.

    Bill Hickman

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