Harry Hartman (1931-1943)
April 1, 2013
It's sad to think that Cincinnati's first contribution to the world of baseball play-by-play broadcasting is largely forgotten, but in his day Harry Hartman was a giant in many ways. Hartman actually stumbled into broadcasting. The son of a Jewish immigrant tailor, young Harry was tabbed to follow his father into the clothing business and yet his true love was sports. He was attending a boxing match in 1928 in downtown Cincinnati that just happened to be broadcast by WFBE, the smallest of the five radio stations serving Greater Cincinnati at the time. At 250-watts, little WFBE had carved a niche for itself by broadcasting sports, amateur acts and nearly anyone else who strolled into their basement studios in the now-demolished Parkview Hotel along Garfield Place downtown. Anyway, this particular night, the WFBE announcer failed to show up and Hartman volunteered to “take a swing” at announcing a boxing match. Hartman was an immediate hit and was soon-after hired to announce and promote the radio station.
Over the next decade, Hartman became the station's celebrity announcer, making his name mostly for his baseball play-by-play. In an era when more than one radio station could broadcast games over the air, Hartman's WFBE became one of the first stations in the country to broadcast a full 152 game schedule (of course, the “away” games were done in studio by telegraph.) Harry's rapid patter delivery won him acclaim—he was named by Sporting News as the nation's best baseball announcer in both 1932 and 1936! He also had a unique manner of speech and coined the term “going, going, gone” for home runs. In the mid-1930s, Cincinnati bandleader Zeke Moffitt teamed with Hartman to write and publish a song called “Bam! It's Going, Going, Gone.”Hartman also broadcast the 1938 All Star Game from Crosley Field (Red Barber also did that game and both recordings are in the National Baseball Hall of Fame) but with the onset of WWII in the early 1940s, the need for more than one radio station to broadcast games ended. WFBE (which had become WCPO in 1935) decided it no longer would carry Reds games and Hartman was moved into the sales department at WCPO, where he remained until his death in 1955, Along the way, Hartman became quite a celebrity and claimed among his personal friends Jack Dempsey, Edgar Bergen, Ben Bernie, Eddie “Rochester” Anderson, the Ritz Brothers and Cary Grant. But because his baseball announcing career ended 70 years ago and because there are so few recordings, Harry, sadly, has been largely forgotten. Harry’s Granddaughter, Karen Hartman, wrote a play about her family and Grandfather called “Going Gone” which appeared at Playhouse In The Park in 2004.
Find more biographies from this series: Cincinnati Reds Broadcasters