Graham McNamee was a pioneering broadcaster in American radio, the medium’s most recognized national personality in its first international decade.
Born in Washington, D.C. and raised in St. Paul, Minnesota, McNamee had early aspirations of being an opera singer. In 1923, while serving jury duty in New York City, he passed the studios of radio station WEAF en route to the courthouse and, on a whim, went to see the station manager. He was given an audition and hired as a staff announcer on the spot.
Radio broadcasting of sporting events was a new thing in the 1920s. The play-by-play announcements were performed by a rotating group of newspaper writers. Their descriptions were matter-of-fact and boring at best. In 1923, announcer McNamee was assigned to help the sportswriters liven up their broadcasts. He wasn’t a baseball expert, but had a knack for conveying what he saw in great detail, and with great enthusiasm. He became broadcasting first as a color commentator, bringing the sights and sounds of the game into the homes of listeners.
At WEAF, McNamee performed a variety of on-air duties, including baseball color commentary, culminating in doing play-by-play of the 1926 World Series. Over the course of the next decade, first with WEAF and then with the national NBC network, McNamee broadcast numerous sports events, national political conventions, presidential inaugurations and the arrival of aviator Charles Lindbergh in New York City following his transatlantic flight to Paris, France in 1927. Later that year, McNamee was featured on the cover of Time .