Short Stops

New Jersey, New Technology

Although Jersey City, NJ was only a small piece of Dodger history, a significant one nonetheless, as Brooklyn played a total of 15 regular season games at Roosevelt Stadium in 1956 and 1957. Dodger President Walter O’Malley arranged to lease the ballpark and send a message to New York politicians that he was indeed serious about finding an answer to his quest for land in Brooklyn and a final solution to the Ebbets Field problem. It was also the site of an important breakthrough in television technology.

On April 19, 1956 in the game between the Dodgers and the Philadelphia Phillies, WOR-TV New York placed a camera “on ground level directly behind the batter’s box. For the first time, locally, a set owner could really judge balls and strikes for himself.” The camera was placed in a box seat and shifted laterally depending on if the batter was either right-handed or left-handed. Because of the layout of Roosevelt Stadium’s field, which was flat, it enabled the experiment to work. At their regular home ballpark, Ebbets Field, the ground sloped upward from the edge of the grandstand to the pitcher’s box, which would distort the view, making the pitcher appear too tall compared to the batter.

Another topic that day among TV engineers was noted: “The tape recording of video images had some interesting possibilities. They can be played back after it has recorded a picture. If an umpire blew a close one, a station could play back the critical happening on the diamond and reassure the city’s beer-drinkers of their superior wisdom.”

Of course, that hint of “instant replay” was to become one of the all-time most important director’s tools in sports television. But, in 1956, the seeds were just being planted.