Walter Lanier Barber was born February 17, 1908 in Columbus, Mississippi. After reading a scholarly paper over a campus radio station at the University of Florida, Barber decided that he liked working in front of a microphone so he dropped out of school and became an announcer.
Four years later he was asked by Powel Crosley, Jr., owner of the Cincinnati Reds, to broadcast the team’s games. On opening day in 1934, the 26-year-old redhead broadcast the first major league game he had ever seen.
From 1939 through 1953 Barber served as the voice of the Brooklyn Dodgers. He was working for the New York Yankees when he retired in 1966. Barber had the distinction of broadcasting baseball’s first night game on May 24, 1935 in Cincinnati and the sport’s first televised contest on August 26, 1939 in Brooklyn.
During his 33-year career Barber became the recognized master of baseball play-by-play, impressing listeners as a down-to-earth man who not only informed but also entertained with folksy colloquialisms such as “in the catbird seat,” “pea patch,” and “rhubarb” which gave his broadcasts a distinctive flavor.
Red Barber died October 22, 1992.
He was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1995.