Giving York County news, sports junkies their due, Part I
A two-story-high scoreboard posted on The Gazette and Daily’s East King Street building kept sports fans and news junkies up to date on sports and news happenings in the days before radio and TV.
Before the Internet, there was a scoreboard to keep news and sports enthusiasts up to date.
But before the scoreboard, there was a light bulb.
Columnist Jim Hubley recently wrote about a scoreboard outside The Gazette and Daily’s building that updated the public between newspaper publishing cycles.
That brought to mind a newspaper story I read from the late 1800s about a way of notifying folks between newspaper cycles about the winner of, I believe, the 1896 presidential race between William McKinley and William Jennings Bryan.
A light atop a tower on a tall building in York would flash a certain color assigned in advance to one of the candidates if he won.
People could tell that their guy won or lost by standing on their front porch.
People always have been hungry for the news.
Here’s Jim Hubley’s scoreboard column:
Among comments from fans and patrons of the York Revolution are those regarding not only the baseball team, but the field and the surroundings wherein they will play their games.
There are both complaints and admiration. On the minus side are those declaring the contests should not have started before not only the field but the surroundings were finished.
In rebuttal from those who came to see baseball was heard, “You came to watch baseball after all these years without baseball here in York. You got baseball and you got a damn nice scoreboard. What more do you want to see a ball game?”
Another voice, not exactly a youngster, obviously with the intent of preventing a dumb argument, spoke up and startled most of the gathering, “Speaking of scoreboards, how about that big scoreboard which used to be in front of the former Gazette and Daily building in the first block of West King street? We kids would gather there every afternoon to see who was winning the big league games.”
A shortened silence swept over our group until another voice volunteered, “Scoreboard. What scoreboard?”
Another younger voice was directed my way, “Didn’t you work at the Gazette and Daily many years ago? What do you know about a scoreboard? Was there such a thing?”
I nodded in the affirmative to both questions then added that not only did I work there when the scoreboard was there, but I was one of those kids on summer baseball days who would spend afternoons watching a Gazette employee posting the baseball scores as the game developed.
I explained there was no radio or television in those days. The only place you could get the baseball scores was in the newspapers. That meant readers of the Gazette had to wait until the next morning to get results. Readers of the Dispatch had to wait even longer, to the next evening, because they published their evening papers before the big league games were finished. Remember, no night games at that time.
Baseball scores were not the only news items posted on the scoreboard. The Gazette began adding items of importance whenever there was big news, not limited to only sports.
Big news included election results, particularly presidential reports. Such evenings brought crowds, which blocked King Street.
Citizens who couldn’t get in the courthouse for the Hex murder trials would rush down the back alley to the big scoreboard and read the notes. Lindbergh’s flight brought a large gathering in 1927, as did outstanding boxing events in those middle years of the 20th century.
During the mid-1920s, the two-story high manually operated metal scoreboard was placed in the very front of the four-story Gazette building. In the beginning, baseball was the only item of news posted. At that time there were two leagues, National and American, each with eight teams, which meant eight games on scheduled afternoons.
Results of games being played were provided by a wire service of ticker-tape. Employees of the Gazette would, with the aid of ladders, climb up the board and post results as received from the wire, inning-by-inning, up and down the ladder.
Results often would bring cheers or boos from the crowd, even a threat of fisticuffs among rival fans.
Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed.
Interest in the big scoreboard, which hung at the front of the Gazette building, began fading as the 1940s got under way. There were radios in homes, but probably the last of the big crowds in front of the scoreboard were those watching results of the 1940 presidential election.
A year later, York was hit with a polio epidemic, and in deference to health regulations, the scoreboard became inactive.
It never was put to use again, doomed by the Pearl Harbor tragedy in December 1941.
By that time, I had become a member of the Gazette staff and part of the group which met each afternoon. Early in 1942, publisher J.W. Gitt asked us, “What should we do with that thing hanging outside?” He meant the scoreboard. The answer was easy. We agreed to give the metal to the scrap drive for the war.
Incidentally, when I began working at the Gazette in 1940, my first assignment was to trot up and down that scoreboard to post results of baseball games. When we had the meeting two years later, I said a loud “yes” when Mr. Gitt suggested giving the scoreboard to the war effort to be converted to bullets.
*Photo courtesy, York County Heritage Trust