History & Tourism, Sports

Play Ball! Mansfield’s Baseball Broadcasting Pioneer

28 Mar , 2021  

Publisher’s Note: This story was published back in 2017, and is being reposted today to celebrate the arrival of the Major League Baseball season this week. We’ll be posting two additional local baseball-related stories this week.

The 2021 season of “America’s Favorite Pastime” is almost here. What better time to share the story of a key figure in radio broadcasting history – and particularly baseball broadcasting — who made Mansfield his home?

Harold Wampler Arlin was born in 1895 in the small town of La Harpe, Illinois.

He was a true media pioneer, being in the “right place at the right time.” In November 1920, what is arguably America’s first radio station went on the air, Pittsburgh’s KDKA. Among its first employees was its first and radio’s first full time announcer, Harold Arlin.Arlin’s firsts continued at KDKA when on August 21, 1921 he broadcast radio’s first major league baseball game, a contest between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Philadelphia Phillies. The game was played at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh. He subsequently did play by play for the first aired college football contest, a game between Pitt and West Virginia University on October 8 of the same year.

After 5 years at KDKA, Arlin moved to Mansfield to work at Westinghouse (Westinghouse had started the station in Pittsburgh). He retired in 1961. During his years here, he held many roles of civic leadership with the Chamber of Commerce, the Board of Education, Rotary, the Boy Scouts, and others. It was due to his work with Mansfield City Schools that the football stadium was built which still bears his name.

The booklet “It Started Hear,” which profiles the advent of KDKA, includes a section on Harold Arlin in which he reminisces about these early broadcasts (on pages 8 and 9).

Arlin died in 1986 in Bakersfield, California, and is buried in Mansfield Cemetery. His obituary appeared in the New York Times, a testament to his stature in radio history. As it noted, “He interviewed many celebrities on the air, including Babe Ruth, Will Rogers, Lillian Gish and William Jennings Bryan. He spent five years at KDKA, where he was nicknamed ”the Voice of America.” Listeners on several continents could hear KDKA, and The London Times called him ”the best known American voice in Europe.”

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