Baseball Fanatics: Roaring Twenties-style

Fredericksburg's baseball fans experienced a fascinating and unique experience during the October, 1925 World Series between the Washington Senators and the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The Daily Star installed a Magnetic Baseball Player Board in front of the Star Building at 303 Commerce (William) Street. Erected on a high platform, it covered the entire front of the second story of the building.

Four of the games were played at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh and three at Griffith Stadium in the District. Telegraph signals sent directly from the playing fields were received via Associated Press lines in the Star Building.

Walter Dent of Brooke, a railroad telegrapher, translated the dots and dashes into typed plays. These were given to Broughton Rowe and his two assistants, operators of the player board's electrical controls.

Depending upon the manipulations of the controls, a steel ball moved magnetically to indicate the pitcher's windup and throw, and to illustrate every detail of a curve, foul, fly or ground ball.

The bat would swing and if the ball was hit, the steel ball would travel to the position on the player board corresponding to the same spot on the playing field. An electric gong would ring until the white discs representing the batter and the base runners moved according to the actions on the playing field.

There were spaces on the board to indicate such details as the inning, the players' names, and the counts in balls, strikes, hits, runs, errors and outs.

Working in conjunction with the board operators, Theodore Woodruff, Athletic Director at Fredericksburg High School, announced the various plays and gave descriptions concerning the progress of the game.

His announcements were made over a very elaborate Atwater Kent radio device hooked to a Western Electric amplifier. This took normal conversation and swelled it to a resonant tone of sufficient volume to be heard by spectators all along the roped off section of Commerce Street and along both sides of Princess Anne Street as far as visibility of the board permitted.

Each day of the Series, more than 400 ball fans crowded the streets and filled the upper-story windows (advance reservations were taken) of the adjacent buildings.

While the onlookers were amazed and delighted with the performance of the Magnetic Player Board, the supporters of the Senators were disappointed that the Pirates won the 1925 Series.

A quick survey of the newspaper back files reveals the Magnetic Baseball Player Board was also used in 1926 and 1927 and, after an absence in 1928, once more in 1929.

Are YOU one of those who remember it?

This article originally appeared in the Fredericksburg Times magazine, October 1992 and is reprinted on HistoryPoint.org with the author's permission.