May 17 in History: The First Televised Sporting Event

Columbia Athletics
Columbia Athletics via robert.fitzpatrick8523 on Flickr

It was the dawn of a new era when the Columbia Lions played the Princeton Tigers on May 17, 1939. The college baseball game would become the United States' first televised sporting event.

On Columbia University's Baker Field, the two college teams were filmed with a single camera along the third base line and broadcast on NBC. The location had been chosen because it was relatively clear of tall buildings that could obstruct the signals from the broadcast antennas. From the Columbia Daily Spectator of the time, the television sets within the NYC region would only be numbered in the hundreds, but the broadcast would be like nothing ever seen before. From a single 12-foot platform, the camera would bring the first game of what would become a massive business and world-wide phenomenon of televised sports.

Did you know?

Princeton also has another sports first in its history, as the first football game ever played took place between Princeton and Rutgers University in 1869.


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