The Golden Age Of Sports Essay Question

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Sports journalism is a form of journalism that reports on sports topics and events. While the sports department within some newspapers has been mockingly called the toy department, because sports journalists do not concern themselves with the 'serious' topics covered by the news desk, sports coverage has grown in importance as sport has grown in wealth, power and influence.

Sports journalism is an essential element of any news media organization. Sports journalism includes organizations devoted entirely to sports reporting–newspapers such as L'Equipe in France, La Gazzetta dello Sport in Italy, and the now defunct Sporting Life in Britain, American magazines such as Sports Illustrated and the Sporting News, all-sports talk radio stations, and television networks like ESPN.

History of Sports Journalism

Since the start of competition, writers have covered sports in one way or another. Sports journalism has been traced all the way back to the time of 850 B.C.E. when the great Greek Homer wrote about the first known draw in Wrestling, as Achilles raised the hands of both Ajax and Odysseus in victory. The sports of wrestling, throwing, boxing, and racing were all wrote on in early Greece.

While sports writing has existed for some time, it did not come prevalent until recently. In the middle 1800s American writers began to write exclusively as sports writers, but they were still few in number. During the time before the 1900s sports writing existed, but was still not widely accepted. It was not until 1914 that sports was written and spread in circulation, and the job of a sports editor was considered an actual job.

The Pioneering Period 1785-1835

Sports journalism during this time was obscure because of the Revolutionary War from 1775 to 1783. In 1790, Benjamin Franklin had several quotes in news publications about swimming, and the The New York Magazine had several articles written on sports.

In the early 1800s, the New York Post, Charleston Courier, and Richmond Enquirer were just some of the publications that were including sports in their papers.

While Boxing was still not accepted as a sport because of its danger, in 1823 a full length story was put into the New York Evening Post, and was marked as the first time this much emphasis was put on its inclusion. English publications such as the Sportsman's Repository and Pierce Egan's Boxiana were in circulation as well.

Growing acceptance

This period was very important in the growth of sports journalism, as the "penny papers" were looking for new, exciting stories to appeal to their readers. Sports began to grow at a quicker pace after 1850 because of the introduction of baseball, and new interest in team sports in general. With the higher interest in sports, came more stories about the topic and several publications like the New York Herald and the Spirit of the Times recorded sports events in their papers.

During the Golden Age, the importance of news increased and thus, the amount of sports covered increased as well. It was during this time that the average amount of sports coverage had its largest increase from the decade before with 10.4 columns being dedicated to it and 14.6 percent of advertising space. "It appears that when the papers doubled in number of pages, they doubled the size of the sports section. This was only reasonable, since reader-interest surveys rated certain features of the sports section higher than anything else except the most striking news story, the comics, and picture pages" (Heath 1951).

It was not until the 1870's that separate departments were set up for sports in newspapers. The first came when Joseph Pulitzer bought the New York World; he was also the first to hire a sports editor–in 1883. Many of the major cities copied Pulitzer over the next few years, and by 1892 every large newspaper had a sports editor. However, during this time sports news was condensed into two or three columns of coverage, but it would soon change.

The birth of basketball in 1891, and the introduction of the American Bowling Congress in 1895 helped build the base of sports coverage. 1890 is often considered as the turning point for sports journalism as many sports were introduced. Baseball became the "national pastime" and its stars began to impact the news world. Babe Ruth and the New York Yankees had tremendous sports coverage during the 1923 World Series and is considered one of the best covered sports events of the time.

Continued Expansion

The 1930's marked the first time newspapers hired executive sports editors to oversee all content produced by the newspaper. As the 1940s came along, sports cartoons became a big part of the sports page with Willard Mullin of the New York World-Telegram and Al Papas of The Sporting News leading the industry.

The creation of the Associated Press sports wire on April 16, 1945 helped put sports into the national scope. It was also around this time that sports became worthy of being front page news.

Perhaps the biggest effect on sports journalism occurred when the television was introduced in the 1950s. Baseball and Football saw a large increase in sports coverage in the television industry, and sportswriters were forced to adapt. Newspapers became the second hand method for receiving sports news, because television offered all the news of a newspaper with pictures.

Sports journalists' access

Sports teams are not always very accommodating to journalists. In the United States, teams tend to be more accommodating. They allow reporters into locker rooms for interviews and some extra information, and provide extensive information support, even if reporting it is unfavorable to them. Elsewhere in the world, particularly in the coverage of soccer, the journalist's role is often barely tolerated by the clubs and players.

Sports journalists, like any other reporters, must do their own reporting to find the story rather than simply relying on information given to them by the sports team, institution or coaching staff. Sports journalists must verify facts given to them by the teams and organizations they are covering. Often, coaches, players or sports organization management rescind sports journalists' access credentials in retaliation for printing accurate yet disparaging information about a team, player, coach or coaches, or organization.

Access for sports journalists is usually easier for professional and intercollegiate sports such as American football, ice hockey, basketball, baseball, and football.

Famous Pioneers

Grantland Rice

Grantland Rice was a early innovator for sports journalism and is best known for his work covering college football teams starting in 1925. Rice is also the writer known for naming the Notre Dame backfield of 1924 after the "Four Housemen of the Apocalypse." He covered exceptional athletes like Babe Ruth, Knute Rockne, and Bobby Jones, among others, helping make them into American icons. Rice has a scholarship given in his name by Vanderbilt University for a freshman intending to become a professional sports writer.

Henry Chadwick

Henry Chadwick was known as the father of baseball for his work editing The Beadle Baseball Player, the first guide for sale on baseball. He was one of the first promoters of sports journalism and helped start the National Baseball Club.

Leonard Koppett

Kopett was an established and influential sports writer who wrote for The Sporting News, New York Times, and New York Post among others. His best work was in baseball, writing stories on the game, and the inspirations that come from it. He received the Curt Gowdy media award by the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1994 and the J.G Taylor Spink Award by the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1992.

Socio-political significance

Major League Baseball once gave print journalists a special role in its games; they were named official scorers and kept statistics that were considered part of the official record of the league. Active sportswriters were removed from this role in 1980. Although their statistical judgment calls could not affect the outcome of a game, there was still the perception of a conflict of interest.

Sports stories often transcend the games themselves and take on socio-political significance; Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in baseball is a good example. Modern controversies regarding the compensation of top athletes, the use of anabolic steroids and other, banned performance-enhancing drugs, and the cost to local and national governments to build sports venues and related infrastructure, especially for the Olympic Games, show that sports still can intrude onto the news pages.

Sportswriters face much more deadline pressure than most other reporters, because sporting events tend to occur late in the day and closer to the deadlines many organizations must observe. Yet, they are expected to use the same tools as news journalists, and to uphold the same professional and ethical standards. They must take care not to show bias for any team. Sports journalists usually must also gather and use voluminous performance statistics for teams and individual athletes in most sports.

Many of the most talented and respected print journalists have been sportswriters. (See list of American sports writers.)

Sports journalism in Europe

The tradition of sports reporting attracting some of the finest writers in journalism can be traced to the coverage of sport in Victorian England, where several modern sports—such as association football, cricket, athletics and rugby—were first organized and codified into something resembling what we would recognize today.

Cricket, somewhat like baseball in the United States, has regularly attracted the most elegant of writers due to its esteemed place in society. The Manchester Guardian, in the first half of the twentieth century, employed Neville Cardus as its cricket correspondent as well as its music critic. Cardus was later knighted for his services to journalism. One of his successors, John Arlott, who became a worldwide favorite because of his radio commentaries on the BBC, and was also known for his poetry.

The first London Olympic Games in 1908 attracted such widespread public interest that many newspapers assigned their very best-known writers to the event. The Daily Mail even had Sir Arthur Conan Doyle at the White City Stadium to cover the finish of the first ever 26-mile, 385-yard Marathon.

Such was the drama of that race, in which Dorando Pietri collapsed within sight of the finishing line when leading, that Conan Doyle led a public subscription campaign to see the gallant Italian, having been denied the gold medal through his disqualification, awarded a special silver cup, which was presented by Queen Alexandra. And the public imagination was so well caught by the event that annual races in Boston, Massachusetts, and London, and at future Olympics, were henceforward staged over exactly the same, 26-mile, 385-yard distance, the official length of the event worldwide to this day.

The London race, called the Polytechnic Marathon and originally staged over the 1908 Olympic route from outside the royal residence at Windsor Castle to White City, was first sponsored by the Sporting Life, which in those Edwardian times was a daily newspaper which sought to cover all sporting events, rather than just a betting paper for [horse racing]] and greyhounds that it became in the years after the Second World War.

In France, L'Auto, the predecessor of L'Equipe, had already played an equally influential part in the sporting fabric of society when it announced in 1903 that it would stage an annual bicycle race around the country. The Tour de France was born, and sports journalism's role in its foundation is still reflected today in the leading rider wearing a yellow jersey–the color of the paper on which L'Auto was published (in Italy, the Giro d'Italia established a similar tradition, with the leading rider wearing a jersey the same pink color as the sponsoring newspaper, La Gazetta).

Specialist sports agencies

The 1950s and 1960s saw a rapid growth in sports coverage, both in print and on broadcast media. It also saw the development of specialist sports news and photographic agencies. For example, photographer Tony Duffy founded the picture agency AllSport in south London shortly after the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, and, through some outstanding photography (such as Duffy's iconic image of the American long jumper Bob Beamon flying through the air towards his world record at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics) and the astute marketing of its images, saw the business grow into a multi-million pound, worldwide concern that ultimately would be bought and re-named Getty Images.

McIlvanney and Wooldridge, who died in March 2007[1] aged 75, both enjoyed careers that saw them frequently work in television. During his career, Wooldridge became so famous that, like the sports stars he reported upon, he hired the services of IMG, the agency founded by the American businessman, Mark McCormack, to manage his affairs. And Glanville wrote several books, including novels, as well as scripting the memorable official film to the 1966 World Cup staged in England.

Investigative journalism and sport

Since the 1990s, the growing importance of sport, its impact as a global business and the huge amounts of money involved from sponsorship and in the staging of the Olympic Games and football World Cups, has also attracted the attention of well-known investigative journalists. The sensitive nature of the relationships between sports journalists and the subjects of their reporting, as well as declining budgets experienced by most Fleet Street newspapers, has meant that such long-term projects have often emanated from television documentary makers.

Tom Bower, with his 2003 sports book of the year Broken Dreams, which analyzed British football (soccer), followed in the tradition established a decade earlier by Andrew Jennings and Vyv Simson with their controversial investigation of corruption within the International Olympic Committee. Jennings and Simson's The Lords of the Rings in many ways predicted the scandals that were to emerge around the staging of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City; Jennings would follow-up with two further books on the Olympics and one on FIFA, the world football body. Likewise, award-winning writers Duncan Mackay, of The Guardian, and Steven Downes unraveled many scandals involving doping, fixed races and bribery in international athletics in their 1996 book, Running Scared, which offered an account of the threats by a senior track official that led to the suicide of their sports journalist colleague, Cliff Temple.

But the writing of such exposes—referred to as "spitting in the soup" by Paul Kimmage, the former Tour de France professional cyclist, who now writes for the Sunday Times—often requires the view of an outsider who is not compromised by the need of day-to-day dealings with sportsmen and officials, as required by "beat" correspondents.

The stakes can be high when upsetting sport's powers: when in 2007, the English FA opted to switch its multi-million pound contract for UK coverage rights of the FA Cup and England international matches from the BBC to rival broadcasters ITV, one of the reasons cited was that the BBC had been too critical[2] of the performances of the England football team.

Some leaders in Sports Journalism


ESPN or the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network launched in 1979 as a sports channel that covered low-awareness sports. Its signature show, Sportscenter, originated to show a larger package of sports highlights than local news programming. Since its inception, ESPN has grown into one of the largest players in the sports media industry. They currently offer sports television channels of ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNews, ESPNClassic, ESPNU, ESPN Deportes, ESPN International, ESPN Brazil, and ESPN also covers sports with their magazine, ESPN sports radio, and their streaming website,

ESPN fills their sports television stations with coverage and live broadcasting of sporting events from the NBA, NFL, MLB, college football, college basketball, PGA, PTA, PBA, Nascar, WNBA, and others.

Sports Illustrated

Sports Illustrated is a well-known weekly sports magazine that has been covering sports since its inception on August 16, 1954. What started out as a magazine that covered yachting and polo has grown into a news source for all kinds of sports.

The early times of Sports Illustrated were anchored by the outstanding sports journalist of Dan Jenkins, Tex Maule, and Robert Creamer. More recently the great work of writers such as Rick Reilly have helped keep Sports Illustrated as a popular source for sports news.

Fox Sports

Fox broadcasting company entered the world of sports journalism in 1993 when in bid 1.58 billion dollars to be the NFC conference television carrier in 1993 for the NFL. Since then, Fox Sports has become a large part of the sports journalism world with its regional television networks for many parts of the United States, and with its Fox Sports World channel. Fox Sports carries the rights to the Bowl Championship Series for college football, and also broadcasts NBA, NFL, Nascar, and other major sports leagues.


  1. ↑Ian Wooldridge has died, aged 75, Sports Journalists' Association, 2007. Retrieved March 17, 2008.
  2. ↑Barwick at centre of BBC row over TV deal, Sports Journalists' Association, 2007. Retrieved March 17, 2008.


  • Andrews, P. Sports Journalism: A Practical Introduction. Sage Publications. 2005. ISBN 1412902711
  • Heath, Harry E. How to Cover, Write, and Edit Sports. The Iowa State College Press 1951. OCLC 1402415
  • MacCambridge, M. The Franchise: A history of Sports Illustrated Magazine. Hyperion Books. 1997. ISBN 0786862165
  • Schultz, B. Sports Media: Reporting, Producing, and Planning. Focal Press. 2005. ISBN 0240807316

External links

All links retrieved October 17, 2015.


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     In 1921, they called it “the largest audience in history,” the 300,000 or so people estimated to have heard one of the first radio broadcasts of a special event — the outdoor heavyweight championship boxing match between American Jack Dempsey and French challenger, Georges Carpentier.  Dempsey was reigning world champ at the time, and Carpentier was a European boxing champion and decorated French Army veteran.  The fight’s promoter had billed the event as the “Battle of the Century.”

July 2, 1921. Jack Dempsey and Georges Carpentier get ready to square off in championship fight before 80,000 fans. The fight ushered in a 'golden age' of sport in the 1920s, and with radio, the beginnings of sport as mass-audience, big-business entertainment.

          A hastily assembled outdoor arena was built on a farm in Jersey City, New Jersey, not far from New York City.  More than 80,000 fans came to see the fight in person on July 2, 1921, producing boxing’s first million-dollar gate.  Dempsey won in four-round knockout in a scheduled 12-round fight.  But the big news for many was the radio broadcast of the fight.  It was the first ever broadcast to a “mass audience,” with the blow-by-blow call of the fight from ringside relayed over the new “radiophone,” reaching hundreds of thousands in the northeast U.S.  Wireless Age magazine, reporting on the event a few weeks later, described the fight’s call over radio by “a voice that sounded loud and clear throughout the Middle Atlantic states.”  It was “history in the making,” said the magazine.

“Hero” vs. “Slacker”

    There was also a good deal of hype associated with this fight, as there would be for any major event of this kind.  The promoter of the fight, Tex Rickard, cast its principal contestants as “hero” vs. “villain.” The billed “hero” in this case was not the American Jack Dempsey, but rather, the Frenchman, Georges Carpentier, the light-heavyweight champ who had distinguished himself as a pilot in World War I.

Dempsey, on the other hand, was cast as the “villain” as he had been labeled a “slacker” for avoiding the military draft — even though he had been found not guilty of the offense in 1920.  Promoter Rickard offered Carpentier $200,000 for the fight and $300,000 to Dempsey — considerable sums for the time — as well an equal share of 25 percent of the film profits.  Rickard saw the radio broadcast of the fight as a positive for his future business, and he did what he could to accommodate the new technology at the site.  He believed that radio might be a way to advance prizefighting in the post-World War I popular culture.  Rickard allowed for a makeshift wooden room for the radio broadcast to be constructed under the stands.  Telephone lines and a temporary radio transmitter, sponsored by the Radio Corporation of America (RCA), were installed at the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railway terminal in Hoboken, New Jersey.

David Sarnoff, of the early RCA Company, was among those who saw that the Dempsey-Carpentier fight would help advance radio. (1922 photo).
Early Radio

     Radio beyond the reach of a few people had barely begun in the early 1920s.  Fledgling operations had started in 1916 in both New York city and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  In Pittsburgh, a Westinghouse employee named Frank Conrad began sending out recorded music played from a phonograph over a radio transmitter set up in his garage.  By 1920, Conrad’s employer, Westinghouse, noticed that the broadcasts had increased the sales of radio equipment, which Westinghouse was then manufacturing.  The company had Conrad move his transmitter to the Westinghouse factory roof.  Westinghouse then applied for a government license and started the pioneer station KDKA, which in early November 1920, began radio programming with the Harding-Cox Presidential election returns.  Those broadcasts, however, were only reaching a few thousand hobbyists.

     In New York City, too, local radio broadcasts had begun in the fall of 1916 over Lee DeForest’s experimental “Highbridge” station.  David Sarnoff, a manger at the American Marconi telegraph company, who lived in New York had heard the early Highbridge broadcasts. Sarnoff wrote a brief memo to the Marconi’s president in 1916-17 about a business possibility for developing a “radio music box” to sell to amateur radio enthusiasts.  But nothing came of Sarnoff’s idea at the time.  Marconi was then in the heat of WWI. A few years later, however, in January 1920, the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) was established when General Electric acquired American Marconi and Sarnoff, with it.  RCA had formed in 1919 after the U.S. Government relinquished control of the wireless industry following World War I.

Poster advertising the fight at the New York Theater in New York city. Such advertising ran for several days in advance of the bout. This theater would be one of many locations in New York and elsewhere that would fill with listeners on fight day.

“Radio Box For Entertainment”

     David Sarnoff, meanwhile, wrote another, more detailed memo on the prospects for radio business and sales to the general public — a 28-page memo titled Sales of Radio Music Box for Entertainment Purposes.

“I have in mind a plan of development which would make radio a ‘household utility’ in the same sense as the piano or phonograph,” Sarnoff began.  “The idea is to bring music into the house by wireless,” by which he meant radio.

Sarnoff saw a large potential market, which he then put at about 7 percent of the total families,” yielding a gross return of about $75 million annually in 1920s dollars. Both estimates would soon prove to be very conservative. 

“Aside from the profit to be derived from this proposition,” he wrote, “the possibilities for advertising for the company [RCA] are tremendous…”  The company’s name “would ultimately be brought into the household,” he said, and radio thereby would receive “national and universal attention.” Indeed it would, and did.  But it was the broadcast of the Dempsey-Carpentier fight that would help spark the early public curiosity in the radio and also help the rise of RCA and the radio business.  RCA, in fact, made its broadcast debut with the July 2, 1921 championship fight.

On the Boardwalk in Asbury Park, NJ, a ‘rolling chair’ offers passers-by a listen to the fight by wireless radio telephone.

     Sarnoff also appears to have played an important role in the radio broadcast of the Dempsey-Carpentier fight, although some say the extent of his role has been exaggerated.  Still, it does appear that Sarnoff helped make the broadcast possible: he provided money for expenses, a high-powered GE transmitter, and the use of the Lackawanna Railroad terminal antenna in Hoboken, New Jersey.

There are also varying accounts as to who initially came up with the idea to do a wide-area radio broadcast of the fight, with some attributing the idea to Sarnoff, and some to others. Julius Hopp, manager of the Madison Square Garden concerts at the time, had observed amateur radio men in more limited venues and was impressed with their descriptions by voice.  Some credit Hopp with the idea. 

In any case, in April 1921, it appears the idea of broadcasting the Dempsey-Carpentier fight was offered to promoter Tex Rickard and his partner, both of whom liked the idea.  There had also been one previous fight broadcast on radio in the Pittsburgh area in April 1921, heard only by a limited number of listeners and radio hobbyists in that location.  The broadcast that planners had in mind for the Dempsey-Carpentier fight, however, was for a much broader region.

Boxer Jack Dempsey, being introduced to new “radiophone” technology, appears on cover of “The Wireless Age” magazine, July 1921.

     An early July edition of Wireless Age magazine described the plan for how the broadcast would work:

     …The radio station at Hoboken will be connected by direct wire to the ringside at Jersey City, and as the fight progresses, each blow struck and each incident, round by round, will be described by voice, and the spoken words will go hurtling through the air to be instantaneously received in the theaters, halls and auditoriums scattered over cities within an area of more than 125,000 square miles.

     Through the courtesy of Tex Rickard, promoter of the big fight, voice-broadcasting of the event is to be the means of materially aiding the work of the American Committee for Devastated France [i.e., following World War I] and also the Navy Club of the United States. These organizations will share equally in the contributions secured by large gatherings in theaters, halls and other places. The amateur radio operators of the country are to be the connecting link between the voice in the air and these audiences. … Any amateur who is skilled in reception is eligible, whether or not he is a member of any organization.

This photo provides a partial view of the huge crowd surrounding the outdoor boxing ring at the Dempsey-Carpentier fight in Jersey City, NJ, July 2, 1921.
Fight Day

     On fight day, a notable cast of local and national dignitaries attended the actual event in person. Among politicians and celebrities who joined the 80,000-to-90,000 fans who came to watch the fight were: industrialists John D. Rockefeller, Jr. William H. Vanderbilt, George H. Gould, Joseph W. Harriman, Vincent Astor, and Henry Ford; entertainers Al Jolson and George M. Cohan; literary figures H.L. Mencken, Damon Runyon, Arthur Brisbane, and Ring Lardner; the three children of Theodore Roosevelt — Kermit Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. and Alice Roosevelt Longworth; prominent Long Island residents, such as Ralph Pulitzer, Harry Payne Whitney and J.P. Grace; Jersey City Mayor Frank Hague; and New Jersey Governor Edward I. Edwards.  At the gate, meanwhile, the fans who poured in payed a then-record $1,626,580.  It was the first time that a million-dollar amount had been exceeded for a boxing event.

Interest in the fight was keen, as this photo illustrates, showing a crowd of more than 10,000 outside the New York Times building in Times Square awaiting updates.
     In addition to those assembled at the fight location in New Jersey, tens of thousands gathered in various public venues — bars, restau- rants, theaters and halls where ham operators or radio hook-ups had been made.  Among such locations, for example were: Loew’s New York roof top at Broadway & 45th St. where some 1,200 were assembled; Colonial Hall in Bridgeport, Connecticut where an audience of 500 enjoyed the returns courtesy of the Bridgeport Radio Club; some 570 listened to the fight at The Playhouse in Wilmington, Delaware — and at hundreds of other such places.  In Times Square, New York a huge throng of some 10,000 people gathered outside the New York Times Building to hear marquee-posted updates of the fight that were relayed to the crowd.

New York Times photo showing Dempsey standing after a Carpentier knock down.
     By fight time, the anticipation and build-up for this fight was sky high.  In addition to Rickard’s promotion, famous writers such as George Bernard Shaw chimed in.  Shaw claimed that Carpentier was “the greatest boxer in the world” and suggested that the odds should be placed 50-to-1 against Dempsey.  But the match turned out to be less of a contest than many assumed it would be, as Dempsey dominated — but not a first.  Carpentier got off to a fast start and hit Dempsey hard in the first round, and again with two hard shots to the head in the 2nd round, stunning the champ.  One reporter at ringside, however, noted a furious comeback by Dempsey with a flurry of punches, still in round 2. Carpentier broke his thumb when he hit Dempsey in the 2nd.  In the next round, the bigger, stronger Dempsey began to get the best of Carpentier, punishing him on the ropes.  In round 4, the Frenchman was knocked down once, and then again for the ten-count.  Dempsey won.  But in an interesting gesture of kindness no doubt rarely seen in a boxing ring, Dempsey moved to help his opponent to his feet and to his corner at the fight’s end.

The fight’s results made front-page news across the country, along with the equally big news of the fight’s 1.6 million-dollar gate (in above clip, see headline below photo).

Golden Age

    The results of the fight were big news all across the country in the next day’s newspapers — including the fight’s astounding $1.6 million gate.  Some historians, in fact, see the fight as a key landmark for the Golden Age of sport that boomed during the 1920s; a Golden Age that also brought expanded media coverage and business promoters like Tex Rickard into the arena, setting sports media on the path to big-business entertainment. 

As for radio, other sports broadcasts followed. By August 5th, 1921, the first broadcast of a baseball game was made over Westinghouse station KDKA — a game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Philadelphia Phillies from Forbes Field in Pittsburgh. Demand for home radio equipment soared that winter. 

By the spring of 1922, David Sarnoff’s prediction of popular demand for broadcasting was coming true, and over the next eighteen months, he and RCA gained in stature and influence. RCA soon went into cross-licensing arrangements with AT&T and Westinghouse, which helped propel the company into a leadership role in both the broadcasting and recording industries.

Ringside broadcaster calling the fight’s blow-by-blow action, then sent out across northeast U.S. from Hoboken, NJ.

1922: 30 Stations

     By 1922, there were 30 radio stations in America, and things picked up considerably after that.  By late January 1923, programming from New York’s WEAF station was being carried simultaneously over a second station WNAC in Boston, giving rise to the concept of the “network” or “chain broadcasting.”

Less than a month later, on February 2nd, a transcontinental network broadcast link was formed between WEAF in New York and KPO, San Francisco, which was the Hale’s Department Store station.  Although New York’s WEAF had featured one of radio’s first paid advertisements in August 1922 — by the Queensboro Corporation using a ten-minute pitch to advertise a new real estate development — broadcasting was not yet supported by advertising. 

Most of the early stations were owned by radio manufacturers, department stores trying to sell radios, or by newspapers using them to sell newspapers or express their owners’ opinions.

Photo from ringside also showing part of immense crowd. Carpentier is down for the count here. Radio broadcaster is located at the tip of the white arrow. Photo from, ‘Wireless Age’, August 1921.
     Still by 1923, the number of stations had grown to 550 and about 3 million people had access to some kind of radio, many using crystal sets with earphones to receive news, bulletins and music.  Radio programming soon expanded to the stock market, weather reports, comedy shows, music broadcasts, and more.  In the fall of 1923, another sporting event — baseball’s World Series games between the New York Yankees and the New York Giants — helped boost radio again, making a big impression on many listeners, as a former concert singer by the name of Graham McNamee began doing the game’s play-by-play in a colorful and enthusiastic announcing style on New York’s WEAF.  McNamee thereafter became one of radio’s first broadcast personalities.  In 1926, RCA purchased its first radio station, WEAF in New York it also launched the National Broadcasting Company (NBC), the first radio network in America.  Four years later, David Sarnoff had become president of RCA and NBC.

Map showing approximate range of the Dempsey-Carpentier radio broadcast in the eastern U.S., reaching a potential audience of 200,000-to-500,000.
Radio Landmark

     Radio historians mark the July 1921 Dempsey-Carpentier fight as one of the landmark events advancing the “radio era” and big-audience communication.  And as would become the pattern for other communications technology in the future — whether the Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier fight by satellite TV in 1975, or subsequent global telecasts of World Cup Soccer, Superbowl games, or the Olympics — big sporting events would often be used to introduce or showcase new technology or expanded capability, reaching not just hundreds of thousands, but hundreds of millions and billions. The 2008 Olympics in Bejing, for example, had an estimated total audience of some 4 billion viewers.  Special, multi-venue rock concerts and global charity events can now reach billions as well.  And online communications only add to these numbers.  Still, it wasn’t that long ago when our communications world was a lot smaller; when “big” was a few hundred thousand, as it was on that day in July 1921 when the human voice beamed out over the northeast United States.

Ticket for the Dempsey-Carpentier fight of July 2, 1921, with promoter Tex Rickard’s name at lower right, main stubb.
Other boxing-related stories at this website include: “Ali, Frazier, Sinatra, et al.,” covering the 1971 Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier fight and related background issues surrounding that fight and its promotion. Also at this website, see: “The Rocky Statue, 1980-2009,” on the 20-year controversy in Philadelphia over the Rocky Balboa statue, and, “Philadelphia Morning,” featuring Bill Conti’s film music as critical to the success of the first Rocky film of 1976-1977. See also the “Annals of Sport” page for additional story choices in that category. Thanks for visiting — and if you like what you find here, please make a donation to help support the research and writing at this website. Thank you. — Jack Doyle


Date Posted:  8 September 2008
Last Update:  14 September 2017

Article Citation:
Jack Doyle, “Dempsey vs. Carpenteir, July 1921,”, September 8, 2008.


Sources, Links & Additional Information

1921 poster announcing filmed newsreels of the Jack Dempsey-Georges Carpenteir boxing match.

Cover of the fight program for the July 1921 Jack Dempsey-Georges Carpentier boxing match.

“July 2nd Fight Described by Radiophone – The Great International Sporting Event Will Be Voice-Broadcasted from the Ringside By Radiophone Under the Direction of the National Amateur Wireless Association on the Largest Scale Ever Attempted,” The Wireless Age, July, 1921.

“Voice-Broadcasting the Stirring Progress of the ‘Battle of the Century’ – How The Largest Audience in History Heard the Description of the Dempsey-Carpentier Contest Through Use of the Radiophone,” The Wireless Age, August 1921, pp. 11-21.

Carmela Karnoutsos, “Dempsey-Carpentier Fight: Boyle’s Thirty Acres at the Montgomery Oval, Montgomery Street and Florence Place,”  Jersey City, Past and Present ( Jersey City, NJ history site), Project Administrator: Patrick Shalhoub.

“Tex Tours Jersey City,” New York Times, April 14, 1921.

“Dempsey Knocks Out Carpentier in the Fourth Round; Challenger Breaks His Thumb Against Champion’s Jaw; Record Crowd of 90,000 Orderly and Well Handled,” New York Times, July 3, 1921.

Ed Brennan, “The Day History Was Made in Jersey City.” Jersey Journal, February 9, 1960.

Lud Shahbazian, “Jersey City Gave Boxing Its First Million Dollar Gate Just 50 Years Ago Today.” Hudson Dispatch, July 2, 1971.

Randy Roberts, Jack Dempsey: The Manassa Mauler, New York: Grove Press, 1979.

Roger Kahn, A Flame of Pure Fire: Jack Dempsey and the Roaring 20s, New York: Harcourt Brace, 2000.

George Mercurio, “The ‘Battle of the Century’,” Jersey City Reporter 16 July 2001.

Alexander B. Magoun, PhD, David Sarnoff Library, “Pushing Technology: David Sarnoff and Wireless Communications, 1911-1921,” Presented  at IEEE 2001 Conference on the History of Telecommunications, St. John’s, Newfoundland, July 26, 2001

Thomas H. White, “Battle of the Century: The WJY Story,” January 1, 2000.

“Jack Dempsey Smashes Carpentier,” The Hartford Courant (Hartford, CT), July 3, 1921.

1920s1921Battle of the Centurybig sports events 1920sboxing 1920sDavid SarnoffDavid Sarnoff 1920sDavid Sarnoff boxingDavid Sarnoff historyGeorges Carpenteir historyGeorges Carpentierhistory of boxinghistory of radioJack DempseyJack Dempsey 1920sJack Dempsey historymass entertainment historymedia & sportsNew York Times Buildingradio and sports historyRCA historysport in the 1920ssports broadcasting historysports historyTex Rickardthe Dempsey-Carpentier fightTimes Square New York

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