Princeton played Columbia in 1939 in what was the first televised broadcast of a baseball game. This year marks the 75th anniversary of that historic game. The broadcast appeared on W2XBS, an NBC station in New York, with Bill Stern calling the play by play action.
Though the Princeton Tigers won the game 2-1, Columbia would most likely win a rematch of All-Star lineups for the two clubs. After all, Columbia would have in the middle of its order the greatest cleanup hitter in the history of Major League Baseball, a Hall of Fame legend named Lou Gehrig. The Iron Horse played for Columbia in 1923, the same year he made his debut with the New York Yankees.
Surrounding Gehrig in a lineup of Columbia All-Stars would be second baseman Eddie Collins, who boasted a .333 career batting average for the White Sox and Athletics between 1906 to 1930. He played for Columbia from 1904 until 1906.
Also in the batting order would be Gene Larkin, an outfielder who helped the Twins win the World Series in both 1987 and 1991. Larkin, who played at Columbia from 1981-1984, hit a career high .286 and drove in the game-winner in the ’91 Series.
Princeton would prove a worthy opponent, though. Its biggest offensive threats would come from catcher Moe Berg, who after leaving Princeton would spend fifteen years in the Majors.
Current Padres slugger Will Venable, who was in the Princeton lineup from 2002-2004, hit 22 home runs with the Padres last season. Venable, the son of former big league outfielder Max Venable, would be in the heart of the Tigers batting order. The team would also have Rolf Paine, who led the league in batting during that 1939 season.
Princeton’s biggest asset, though, would be its rich history of pitchers. Starter Chris Young, who is still active, has won 57 games since 2004 with four different teams. He played at Princeton in 2000.
Pitcher Ross Ohlendorf is also still active, as is reliever David Hale. Ohlendorf won 11 games for the 2009 Pirates, a near decade after taking the mound for the 2000 Princeton squad. Hale is on the staff of the defending National League East champion Atlanta Braves.
Princeton could also count on the arm of David Sisler, who was a big league hurler for eight seasons. The son of Hall of Famer George, Sisler played for Princeton from 1950-1952.
The coaching edge might belong to Princeton as well. Their coach was Bill Clarke, a former member of the Baltimore Orioles. Clarke became the first paid baseball coach at the University, and the current baseball field is named after him.
Under Clarke, Princeton had the task of facing a Columbia team on a winning streak, a run that had gotten them to within a game of reaching .500. Not only did the Columbia nine drop that televised game against Clarke and the Tigers on May 17, but they went on to lose the rest of the games that season to finish at 5-11.
The losing team’s meager offensive output that day would have been much larger had Lou Gehrig been wearing a Columbia uniform. Instead, less than two months later that same year, the legend who considered himself “the luckiest man alive” was giving his historic farewell speech in Yankee Stadium..
USA Today, 5/17/17