HAROLD ARLIN, RADIO’S ‘VOICE OF AMERICA’: Dr. Larry Burriss

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By Harold Arlin
08/02/2021

Let’s see if I can keep this straight: we’re in the middle of the Olympics; baseball is in full swing; we just finished hockey and basketball; golf and tennis are in the middle of endless championships; and I’ve lost track of how much of this is on television, radio and the Internet.
And who can we thank for all of this: Harold Arlin, the man who started broadcast coverage of sports, pretty much on his own.

During his time at KDKA, Pittsburgh, Arlin became the first person to announce a baseball game, on Aug. 5, 1921, when the Pittsburg Corsairs beat the Philadelphia Phillies, 8-5.
The next day, Aug. 6, he announced the first tennis match covered on radio, the Davis Cup match between Australia and Great Britain
On Oct. 8, he covered the first college football game on radio, as the University of Pittsburgh beat West Virginia University 21-13.

In 1923 Arlin covered the Jack Dempsey-Luis Firpo world championship title fight, but rather than live coverage, however, Arlin did a recreation of the bout from wire reports sent from ringside in New York.


Many historians believe Arlin also introduced the idea of the celebrity interview, and one of his first subjects was baseball legend Babe Ruth. Arlin later said Ruth had such a terrible case of “mike fright” he had to read the baseball slugger’s script himself.

And you know how political contests are sometimes covered as sporting events? After all, we have election “races.” Well, back in 1920 Arlin was the first person to announce election returns, as Sen. Warren Harding beat Gov. James Cox in the presidential contest.
Arlin retired from radio in 1925, but in 1972 he returned to the baseball broadcast booth to cover the Pirates and the Padres, where his grandson, Steve Arlin, was pitching for the Padres.
It’s not often we can ascribe an entire profession to one man, but sports reporter Harold Arlin is one of the few.
I’m Larry Burriss.