Hall of Famers

Al Helfer

Elrama, PA
Sacramento, CA
Years with Dodgers:
1939-1941, 1956-1957
Inducted into Hall of Fame:

One of broadcasting’s most recognizable voices, Al Helfer was posthumously honored as the 43rd winner of the 2019 Ford C. Frick Award by the National Baseball Hall of Fame. He was selected by the Hall of Fame’s 15-member Frick Award Committee in December, 2018 for “major contributions to baseball.” The honor is named for the late Baseball Commissioner, National League President and Hall of Famer.

Helfer had a two-year stint for the Walter O’Malley-led Dodgers in 1956-1957, partnering with Vin Scully, Connie Desmond and Jerry Doggett in 1956 and with Scully and Doggett in 1957. Previously, Helfer had worked with Hall of Famer Red Barber for the Dodgers in 1939-1941.

However, Helfer is best known as the play-by-play man behind the microphone for Mutual Broadcasting System’s “Game of the Day,” bringing baseball to millions of fans in the 1950’s.

A native of Pennsylvania, Helfer’s first job was a $5-a-week stint at a small radio station in Silver Haven, PA. In 1933, he re-created Pittsburgh Pirates games on the radio, before landing jobs with the Cincinnati Reds, New York Yankees and his first go-round with the Dodgers. He achieved the rank of Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Navy during World War II before returning to the microphone.

Front Row (L-R): Dodger broadcasters Vin Scully, Connie Desmond, Al Helfer, unknown Dodger radio engineer. Back Row (L-R): Tom Villante, New York Yankees broadcasters Red Barber, Mel Allen, Yankees radio engineer Joe Ripley. Photo courtesy of Tom Villante, at Dodgertown, Vero Beach, Florida, Spring Training, 1956.

That’s when he was named to lead the “Game of the Day” broadcasts and, for a five-year period, he traveled to different ballparks six days (Monday to Saturday) a week. Helfer’s broadcasts were often carried on Armed Forces Radio, extending their reach overseas and he frequently received letters from adoring baseball fans in countries around the world. He was nicknamed ‘Mr. Radio Baseball.”

Partner and fellow Hall of Famer Scully issued a statement at the time of Helfer’s election to the Hall of Fame, “Al was a big guy, and he was as talented as his collar size. He was gentle, nice and a wonderful man. His character came through over the air, to the point where you would like him instinctively. Red (Barber), among so many others in baseball, thought the world of him, as did I.”

Helfer once explained his duties to a writer with the Chicago Tribune in 1952, “Fans repeatedly say they envy me. I see a ballgame every day and get paid for it. The broadcast is the whipped cream on my cake. What they don’t know is that there is a lot of book work to sportscasting. But, every job has a hook in it. Mine is travelling. I’ve been living out of a suitcase most of my working life.”

His biggest regret was being away from his home and family in Hartsdale, NY and not watching his daughter grow up. According to news reports, it was written that in his lifetime, Helfer traveled in excess of five million miles.

In his career, Helfer worked for eight different baseball teams (Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, New York Yankees, Brooklyn, New York Giants, Philadelphia, Houston and Oakland) from 1933 to 1969. He passed in 1975 at age 63.