It’s considered one of the most prestigious jobs in sports broadcasting; being the lead announcer for the New York Yankees. In fact, the title “Voice of the New York Yankees” is saved for a select few. The first to earn this title was a man from the South. His name? Arch McDonald. WHO?
Arch McDonald was born in Hot Springs, Arkansas, but grew up in Chattanooga, Tennessee. A fondness for a certain country song earned him the nickname “The Old Pine Tree”. After broadcasting Chattanooga Lookout games, he was hired in 1934 to be the voice of the Washington Senators. He had a folksy, down-home style behind the mike. He was first to call baserunners “ducks on the pond” and use “right down Broadway” for a perfect strike.
The New York Yankees start a tradition:
In 1939, the three New York teams finally decided to broadcast games on the radio. The Yankees and Giants only did home games. Since they were never home at the same time, McDonald was hired to announce both teams’ games. McDonald’s greatest contribution as a Yankee announcer? He gave Joe DiMaggio his nickname “The Yankee Clipper”. Unfortunately for McDonald, his style just didn’t work in New York. He also lacked the vivid play-by-play descriptions of the announcer for the Brooklyn Dodgers, a fellow named Red Barber.
McDonald left New York after just one season, returning to Washington where he did Senators’ games through 1956. Longtime Washington Post sportswriter Shirley Povich-Maury’s father said that McDonald’s style was suited for D.C., as he was a southerner and Washington back then was still considered a southern town.
McDonald also did Redskins’ football. He was returning to Washington from doing a game in New York against the Giants when he had a heart attack on the team train and died at age 59 on October 16, 1960. In 1999, he was inducted into the broadcasters’ wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame.
So when you think of the people to call games for baseball’s most prestigious franchise, remember that it all began with a man named Arch McDonald.