My late (ex) father in law, Sylvester, was a Burger Beer man.  He had a draft beer tap in his basement always filled with Burger, and it always seemed to “blow” on Sunday before dinner.   And as I was trying to earn his respect as the 24 year old husband of his only daughter, I volunteered to change the keg every time.   I never knew ’til years later that Syl could tell when the tap was about to be empty on a Tuesday and he would drink canned Burger all that week, waiting for my Sunday dinner arrival. I would be sent down with two glasses to fill, discover the tap was blown and jump right in to make that change.   And that was changing the empty Burger keg for the next full one, because Syl was a Burger man.

Waite Hoyt was a Burger man as well. Not as a drinker – Waite was a recovering alcoholic after his years carousing with Babe Ruth when they both were Yankee players.  But he was loyal to the brand, introducing the games on radio each summer night – “Burger Beer brings you baseball.”   In 1965, Burger Beer was ousted as a Reds radio broadcast sponsor and replaced by Wiedemann.  The folks at Wiedemann wanted Waite to stay on as the play-by-play man but he decided to retire instead as he did not think he would be credible as the spokesperson for any beer other than Burger.  And Waite Hoyt walked away, only occasionally returning to the microphone (he was the color commentator on TV during the 1972 season, when I first became aware of him).  He died in 1984 as he was preparing for a trip to Cooperstown (he was enshrined there in ’69).  And even though he was born and raised in Brooklyn, he is buried at Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati, his adopted home town.

Much has been written and said about Waite Hoyt over the years both as a player (1) and a broadcaster (2) (3) .  But the Reds have a rich and fascinating history of broadcasts and broadcasters, including Harry Hartman, who may (or may not) have been the father of sports catch phrases.  This is the first in a series of posts on Reds radio announcers.

The first baseball game on the radio happened in Pittsburgh.  The Pirates beat the Phillies 8 to 5 at Forbes Field as Harold Arlin described the action to listeners of America’s first professional radio station KDKA.  (Arlin not only called the play by play – as an engineer for Westinghouse, the station’s owner, he helped build the converted telephone he used as a microphone for the broadcast.) (4) The Gates Radio Corporation in Cincinnati thought that baseball games might be a good way to get people to buy their new-fangled radios.  In 1924 they hired former minor leaguer Gene Mittendorf to call Reds play by play on WMH (now WKRC).  It only lasted one year.

Baseball was not an immediate hit on the radio.  WLW took a brief stab at broadcasting the Reds in 1929 for one season. According to Arlin that first KDKA broadcast was a “one off” as many executives of Westinghouse thought baseball was “too boring” for radio. (4)

But radio was an exciting new industry and people were anxious to find something to listen to on those big wooden boxes in their living rooms.  The Parkview Place/Garfield Place Hotel used WFBE, a 250 watt AM radio station to broadcast all sorts of events from their hotel ballroom, including boxing matches. The trouble was sometimes the announcers didn’t show up at broadcast time (I hear people in media might sometimes choose an adult beverage, but I’m not talking.)

Harry Hartman was the son of a Jewish tailor and destined to take over the family business.  But Harry’s true love was sports and he could talk for hours on any sports topic, especially his beloved baseball.  One night Harry snuck out of the tailor shop and headed to the Parkview Place to watch a boxing match.  That same night, the announcers scheduled to broadcast the match didn’t show up.  The WFBE radio producer spotted Harry whose ramblings on sports were famous at the hotel bar.  It didn’t take much coaxing to get Harry up to the microphone.

It was that night Harry dropped his needle and thread and became Cincinnati’s premier radio sports announcer.  He was a celebrity and when WFBE decided to start broadcasting Reds games in 1931 Harry was thrilled.  At the time, three radio stations carried Reds games with broadcasters like Sidney Ten-Eyck, much better known as the host of the “Doodlesnockers” comedy radio show on WLW and C.O. “Oatmeal” Brown, the patriarch of amateur baseball in Battle Creek Michigan (the Battle Creek Bombers of the Northwoods League play now in CO Brown Stadium.)

But Harry was the radio star Reds announcer.  WFBE became one of the first stations to broadcast the entire 154 games in a baseball season.  Harry was named the best sports broadcaster in America by Sporting News.  His rapid patter delivery and unique style won fans to him and the Reds.  One night, he was so excited as a home run was headed toward the bleachers in Crosley Field he yelled out “Going.. Going.. Gone!!” giving birth to the sports catch phrase.  It was so popular that a local bandleader turned it into a song – “Bam! Going Gone”. (5) The Reds, the station and Harry were all on top of the world… and then the war broke out.

As the Nazis were moving thru Europe WFBE (now WCPO) management decided that competing against all the other stations broadcasting Reds games was not worth it, so they moved Harry into the sales department where he stayed until his death in 1965.  Very few if any recordings of Harry remain and his contribution to Reds radio history is largely forgotten.  Or it was until 2004.  Tony Hoty took the stage as Harry at Playhouse in the Park in Cincinnati in the play “Going Gone” written by Harry’s granddaughter Karen Hartman. And while some of the actors got good reviews, Jackie Demaline in the Cincinnati Enquirer was not a fan “Well, they can’t all be home runs” (6)

Finding announcers in the early years of baseball radio was not easy.  The formula the Reds used to success was finding teenage baseball phenoms who grew up to be great major leaguers just as they were retiring from the field.  So “Schoolboy Wonder” Waite Hoyt took over the mic in 1942 after retiring from the Yankees.  Then Joe Nuxhall who played major league baseball at age 15 and retired in 1966 stepped into the booth when Waite Hoyt refused to sell any other beer.  But in 1971 the Reds took a different road when they asked a failing NBA announcer who’s former job was finding bachelorettes to appear on “The Dating Game” to take over the radio microphone. His story including the chance to announce the biggest hockey game in history next time.

Footnotes –

  1. “Waite Hoyt, A Biography of the Yankee Schoolboy Wonder” doesn’t look like it is still in print
  2. You can actually hear Waite tell his stories on “The Best of Waite Hoyt in the Rain”
  3. “Waite’s World” – his video biography that you can watch online at or order a DVD copy.
  4. Ronald A. Smith, “Play-by-Play: Radio, Television, and Big-Time College Sport” (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press), 2001.
  5. From the collection at the Voice of America Museum in West Chester Ohio and Media Heritage, inc.
  6. http://www.enquirer.com/editions/2004/01/16/tem_goinggone18.html

About The Author

As a Reds fan from birth, Mark Elliott can remember the moment he figured out why they took away the ball when they gave you a "Lifetime Reds Contract" at Crosley Field. As a radio programmer and personality and accomplished public speaker, Mark has over 30 years of experience in media, marketing and radio programming and brand management. Next time you are in Northwest Ohio, turn on 93.5FM (WRQN) and enjoy "The Breakfast Show Toledo" from 5 - 9am. Or tweet @MarkElliottWRQN

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23 Responses

  1. charlottencredsfan

    Good stuff Mark but Burger tasted slightly better than warm spit, in my estimation. Now Schoenling, that was beer. Especially Little Kings cream ale and every Cincinnati teen boys favorite, “Big Juggs”!

    • Mark Elliott

      About 5 years ago, we bought some Burger Beer in cans (I was amazed that they were making it again) – on ice it was more like cold spit. But Little Kings! You could pack a lot of those in the pockets of your winter coat and get them into the movie theatre.

      • charlottencredsfan

        Canned is the only way to drink Burger Beer.

    • kmartin

      Warm spit? CHARLOTTENCREDSFAN, I am insulted. Whenever I return to Cincinnati I go to Kroeger and stock up on Burger and take it back with me to Chicago. Of course, I was never accused of having good taste.

      • Mark Elliott

        Spoken like a true Cincinnatian! Do you load up on Grippos and frozen Skyline at the same time?

      • kmartin

        The big three: 1) Graeter’s, 2) Frisch’s Big Boys, and 3) Chili Time in St. Bernard.

  2. Tom Gray

    Waite Hoyt told wonderful baseball stories during rain delays. You had to be there (I guess) but it is a fond memory for those of us growing up in Cincinnati area during 1950’s and 1960’s.

  3. Tom Reed

    Thank you, Mark. Baseball is filled with so much history, especially the Cincinnati Reds. I look forward to your next chapter.

  4. jdx19

    Next time Im in Cincy I’m going to try some Burger! Never had it.

  5. rfay00

    My grandfather who I have no memory of (passed when I was two) loved Burger beer. I will buy a twelve pack every once in a while. It can be a bit tough. Burger Light is easier on the taste buds.

  6. Gene

    Thanks for sharing, taking me back to my early years as a baseball fan, I didn’t discover the Reds until I saw them against Oakland, when Pete bumped with Ray Fosse at home, I believe in 1970 or 1971? (don’t remember, just 8 or 9 years at the time) But I did discover Marty and Joe on Reds radio WLW on my little AM pocket radio, which I had to put up with static during any thunderstorms in Ohio, but still listened while I was suppose to be sleeping!!) thanks!, looking forward to more of your columns.

  7. gusnwally

    I still love the memories of listening to Waite Hoyt as a boy. I have visited his grave at Spring Grove a couple of times. Miller Huggins is buried there also, for baseball fans who would like to take a little trip.Right now should be beautiful with the spring flowers in bloom.

  8. Fred Andres

    Hey mark thanks for sharing. I remember traveling to the cabin in Canada, and dad and I discussing the up and coming star Johny Bench. That was fall 1969. I don’t remember any announcers before Joe, but the story was great. Wish I had asked dad how long he had been a reds fan. Love you cuz!

    • Gene

      my favorite Reds player from the 70’s and idol ,Johnny Bench!

  9. Jeffrey Hansell

    Nice article Mark – “This is the old left-hander rounding third and heading for home…” That could be me now in instead of Nux.

  10. Philboyd

    In the 1960s, the beer that was most prominent in advertising with the Reds — Crosley Field scoreboard, inside ad in scorecard, as I recall, and I thought, TV and radio commercials, was Hudepohl. It has been 50 years, but I can remember the jingle from when I was a young boy listening to the games on a transistor radio, circa 1966: “When a beer would taste good have a Hudepohl. 14K – Say! – have a Hudepohl. Made with the brew master’s golden touch. For that pure grain flavor that you like so much…” In the Moody for a Hudey… I hope I’m not just imagining all that. I drank a lot of Hudepohl a few years later, and maybe it altered my brain…

    • Mark Elliott

      Philboyd – In 1977 I was a radio personality at WKRQ – Q102 – in Cincinnati. Along with newsman the late Don Webb, we read live commercials for Hudepohl and Hudy Delight – my fav beer at the time. However due to Ohio liquor laws we could not use the phrase “Get Moody with a Hudy” because it “encouraged drunkenness”.

      • Steve Mancuso

        I was a Q102 die-hard in 1977. Went to sleep with Mark Sebastian playing Stairway to Heaven (bite me) for years.

      • Mark Elliott

        Trying to find a recording of that famous show close – I’m pretty sure I have one, will post it just for you Steve.

      • Philboyx

        Mark Elliott — I used to listen to you all the time. Thanks for the memories. 1977 was my last year in the Cincinnati area. I’ve lived in the DC area most of the years since, but I’m still a Reds fan and look forward to family visits in the area to get out to GABP. And as a guy in my late teens in the 1970s, I don’t recall needing any encouragement to drink several Hudeys.

  11. CatherineLura

    Wonderful tale, I had no knowledge of all this (I’m a west-coaster), but enjoyed the history lesson a great deal.