Ronald Reagan's Radio Career

Ronald Reagan

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Ronald Reagan, the 40th U.S. President was many things, including a radio broadcaster. More specifically, he was a sportscaster for several stations between 1932 and 1937 including WOC-AM and WHO-AM. You may not have heard the details, so here are some highlights:

  1. WOC AM 1420 in Davenport was the first commercial radio station west of the Mississippi River and [in 1932] first to hire Ronald Reagan.
  2. WOC, needed an announcer to broadcast University of Iowa games. Reagan's first assignment was the University of Iowa's homecoming game against Minnesota.
  3. After WOC consolidated with WHO in Des Moines, WHO, an NBC affiliate gave Reagan national media exposure.
  4. "Dutch" (a childhood nickname because of his "Dutch boy" haircut) gained national media exposure recreating Chicago Cubs baseball games from the studio. 
  5. One of his responsibilities was to give accounts of Chicago Cubs baseball games via telegraph. During one game between the Cubs and their arch-rivals the St. Louis Cardinals that were tied 0-0 in the 9th inning, the telegraph went dead: An often-repeated tale of Reagan's radio days recounts how he delivered "play-by-play broadcasts" of Chicago Cubs baseball games he had never seen. His flawless recitations were based solely on telegraph accounts of games in progress.
  6. Once in 1934, during the ninth inning of a Cubs - St. Louis Cardinals game, the wire went dead. Reagan smoothly improvised a fictional play-by-play (in which hitters on both teams gained a superhuman ability to foul off pitches) until the wire was restored.
  7. Reagan said: “There were several other stations broadcasting that game and I knew I’d lose my audience if I told them we’d lost our telegraph connections so I took a chance. I had (Billy) Jurges hit another foul. Then I had him foul one that only missed being a home run by a foot. I had him foul one back in the stands and took up some time describing the two lads that got in a fight over the ball. I kept on having him foul balls until I was setting a record for a ballplayer hitting successive foul balls and I was getting more than a little scared. Just then my operator started typing. When he passed me the paper I started to giggle - it said: ‘Jurges popped out on the first ball pitched.’”
  8. Did you know that less than six months after President Ronald Reagan left the office he attended an All-Star Game and did some more broadcasting?
  9. His political career started through the presidency of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG). He gained political stature through radio broadcasts and speaking tours sponsored by the General Electric company. 
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Your Citation
Deitz, Corey. "Ronald Reagan's Radio Career." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, Deitz, Corey. (2020, August 27). Ronald Reagan's Radio Career. Retrieved from Deitz, Corey. "Ronald Reagan's Radio Career." ThoughtCo. (accessed May 14, 2021).