This Day In History: April 11

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On April 11, 1921, KDKA in Pittsburgh broadcasts the first live sporting event on the radio, a boxing match between Johnny Ray and Johnny Dundee. Pittsburgh Daily Post sports editor Florent Gibson calls the event, about four months before KDKA's Harold Arlin announces the first Major League Baseball game broadcast on radio.

The lightweight bout pitted Dundee, who was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1991, against Ray, who would later train and manage famed boxer Billy Conn.

In the early part of the 20th century, radio had been used primarily for two-way communication. The medium's popularity took a nosedive during World War I, when the U.S. military took over all airwaves.

But Harry P. Davis, the vice president of Westinghouse in 1921, saw radio as something more. He told Inventing American Broadcasting that radio was "an idea of limitless opportunity." On October 27, 1920, KDKA became the first licensed radio station. Less than six months later, it put its live-event broadcasting to the test with sports.

"[Radio] operators were treated to the action of the ring battle with all the realism of each blow and each bit of ring strategy enacted the instant it occurred," the Associated Press reported about the boxing match. "… [radio] brought the sounds of the conflict, the clang of the gong and the shouts of the fans."

Ray, who fought "like a master," according to the Pittsburgh Daily Post, won the 10-round fight. 

Within three months, the second fight broadcast on radio took place, a title bout between heavyweight champ Jack Dempsey and Georges Carpentier. 

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