The first ever color tv broadcast sporting event was a college football game between the University of Oklahoma and the University of Pittsburgh on Monday September 30, 1957. It was aired on NBC. This is a blog dedicated to the television broadcasts of the game and all of the interesting facts surrounding it.
The first play by play analysis of a live football game on color TV was done by Bill Mazer, who also worked as an NFL analyst for ABC and CBS. He did this in 1955. He called it “the greatest game ever played” because he thought that his commentary provided viewers with an insight into what was happening during each play.
The First Play by Play Analysis of a Live Football Game on Color TV
“It’s not what you know, it’s what you can prove.”
Eddie Robinson, legendary coach at Grambling University, made the above statement to me when I played for him in the mid-80s. He was one of the most successful coaches in college football history. And I quote him here because it is incredibly relevant to this blog.
I have enjoyed writing this blog in a way that no other project has ever come close to. In some ways it was like a story out of an Indiana Jones movie. The more I dug, the more exciting the rewards. I’m always up for a challenge, and this one was certainly that. As many things would be expected to be outdated or simply nonexistent after such a long period of time, finding solid evidence was an adventure in itself. But fortunately for me (and for you), in this case where there are so many facts involved, enough remained to make some very important discoveries and conclusions about what really happened that Monday night in September of 1955.
The main reason I started this blog was originally just to post some interesting pictures and telling anecdotes about what happened during that first color broadcast sporting event. It wasn’t until I began
The First Color TV Broadcast of a Sporting Event
The first live professional sporting event to be broadcast in color was the Rose Bowl on January 1,1954. The color telecast of the game also marked the first use of a videotape recording during a live broadcast. This was done as an experiment by CBS to allow the network’s New York studio to air highlights from the game during its news program that evening.
The telecast originated from CBS Television City in Los Angeles, and for this reason the Rose Bowl halftime show was not seen in color. The halftime show featured several of the star performers from The Ed Sullivan Show and was recorded for later broadcast on that same program.
At halftime, one of three small (2″ x 3″) Ampex quadruplex videotape recorders manufactured especially for CBS by Ampex Corporation recorded the entire second half in color using 12-inch-wide (300 mm) magnetic tape. This pioneering use of videotape technology, developed under the direction of Charles “Bud” Anderson and his team at CBS, would allow kinescopes (film recordings made directly from a monitor screen) to be made at CBS Television City in New York City for showing later during that evening’s East Coast news programs. That way, those who wanted
The first color television football game was broadcast on November 6, 1955: the Monday Night Football game between the Washington Redskins and the Los Angeles Rams. This was early in the year-long lead up to the 1956 Olympics, which would be televised in color. The NBC television network had the exclusive rights to show the Olympics, and they wanted to promote their new color technology. NBC executives were not just happy that this happened to be a professional football game, but they were ecstatic…
The first ever live sporting event broadcast in color was a boxing match on June 12, 1951. The first regular season baseball game broadcast in color was August 11, 1951 (Brooklyn Dodgers vs. Chicago Cubs). Other sporting events broadcast in color before this November 6th 1955 football game include tennis (1953), golf (1954) and horse racing (1955).
At the time, and later, I did not really believe that color TV would be available in my lifetime. It is a complicated technology. I assumed it would be at least another fifteen years before it was available on a commercial basis, and then only as an expensive toy for a few wealthy people.
But I never forgot that day, because it was the first time in my life when I personally saw something impossible become possible, right in front of my eyes.
And the thing that made it possible was the transistor.
By 1955, the transistor had been invented at Bell Labs for about five years. The very first one did not work very well; it was more of a novelty than anything else. But by 1955, engineers were refining them and making them work better and better. With transistors to rely on instead of vacuum tubes, engineers could make things smaller, cheaper and more reliable. That’s why this camera from 1955 weighed less than 20 pounds (the old cameras weighed hundreds). This allowed TV crews to move around more freely rather than having to lug around heavy equipment everywhere they went.
The first live sports color TV broadcast in the United States was the Rose Bowl college football game between Stanford and Ohio State, telecast by NBC on January 1, 1952.
The 1954 Cotton Bowl Classic was the first post-season college football bowl game to be televised in color. The game was the final college football contest between two of the all-time greats: Oklahoma’s Bud Wilkinson and Notre Dame’s Frank Leahy.
NBC televised the 1955 World Series in color with its “compatible color” system. This new system was used to broadcast Game 6 (October 4) and Game 7 (October 5).
NBC televised the first live color sports event coast-to-coast on September 27, 1956: a Notre Dame vs. North Carolina college football game.
The first ever Monday Night Football game was broadcast by ABC on September 21, 1970 at 9:00pm EST from Shea Stadium in New York City when Howard Cosell joined Keith Jackson and Don Meredith to call a game between the Jets and Browns.
When we think of Monday Night Football (MNF), most of us remember it as the NFL’s greatest prime-time broadcast. We remember it as the program that introduced us to Howard Cosell and Don Meredith. And, we remember it as the show that paved the way for other sports shows like Sunday Night Football and Thursday Night Football. But, do we remember MNF as being the very first sporting event ever broadcasted in color? Would you be surprised to find out that MNF was also responsible for developing some of the newest technologies in football broadcasting?
Let’s take a quick trip down memory lane and go back to 1963 when MNF was first introduced to the world by ABC Sports. Originally, MNF was created to fill the gap left by Major League Baseball during its season-ending World Series. However, over time, MNF became so popular that it quickly became a staple in American television.