New opportunities for access
With the rise of radio came new—and some much beloved—entertainment forms, now ready-for-broadcast. The development of the radio mirrored the rise of the gramophone and phonograph, which date back to the turn of the twentieth century. As music increasingly became a focus of radio programming in the 1950s and 1960s, record stores let listeners buy singles or albums they heard on the radio for on-demand listening.
Entertainment forms like music, and even sporting events, were now easily accessible to anyone with a radio—letting people who might not be able to afford to see a game or show live get a chance to get in on the action. Sports were a particularly good fit for live radio, as they gave people a chance to listen to a game's play-by-play. This play-by-play approach by sports announcers and their color commentator sidekicks dates back to the very beginning of the radio, when Marconi used Morse code to broadcast the results of the America’s Cup back to the New York Herald newsroom. Soon, university football games, prizefights, and baseball games took to the airwaves. By 1922, the Yankees-Giants World Series drew in a record one million radio listeners. Some of the nation’s most recognizable radio personalities were sports announcers, including the Chicago Cubs' Harry Caray and New York sports anchor, Howard Cosell.
Radio also meant that African Americans, who were still restricted by segregation laws throughout the country, could access entertainment that they were barred from seeing in person. In particular, the 1938 heavyweight-boxing match that pitted Joe Louis, the first black heavyweight champion, against a white German opponent named Max Schmeling, brought in a large African American audience. Boxing, like most sports in the United States, was segregated, so it was rare to have both black and white contenders in the same ring. Across the South especially, African Americans gathered around radios to tune into the fight. (Future US President Jimmy Carter remembers listening to the fight as a boy, and putting the radio up to the window so his black neighbors outside could hear it). The fight became one of the largest broadcasts of the decade.