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Walter Lanier "Red" Barber is a legend in the field of sports broadcasting. He began his career sixty-one years ago while studying English education at the University of Florida. In his junior year, while filling in for a reporter on the University's radio station WRUF, Barber realized that broadcasting was the profession he would pursue. He left school in 1930 to accept a full-time job announcing for WRUF where he worked for four years. In 1934, when the Cincinnati Reds decided to air their games on radio, Red Barber accepted his first major league broadcasting job doing play-by-play announcing. It was in Cincinnati that Red Barber announced the first night baseball game. Five years later, in 1939, he accepted an announcing job with the Brooklyn Dodgers where he worked for fifteen years. In 1954 Barber left the Dodgers to work for the New York Yankees. He broadcasted the Yankees' baseball games until 1966.
During his sportscasting career, Barber covered thirteen World Series, four all-star games, five Army-Navy games, one Sugar Bowl, two Rose Bowls, eight Orange Bowls, and four National Football League championship games. When he was appointed Director of Sports at CBS Radio in 1946, he created their unique "Football Roundup" coverage. From 1951 to 1955, Barber also served as Counselor on Sports for CBS.
In 1978 Barber won the first Ford C. Frick Award for Broadcasting Excellence and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. In 1979 he was given a Distinguished Alumni Award by the University of Florida and a Gold Award by the Florida Association of Broadcasters. In the same year he was also inducted into the Florida Sports Hall of Fame. Barber retired from sportscasting in 1972, but returned to radio as a sports commentator in 1980. He also was a frequent contributor to National Public Radio's "Morning Edition." Red Barber lived in Tallahassee, Florida, from 1974 until his death in 1992.
The Walter Lanier "Red" Barber Papers include scrapbooks, correspondence, manuscripts, memorabilia, photographs, and visual materials (both audio and video tapes) from the 1920s through 1990. The thirty-one scrapbooks include magazine and newspaper clippings concerning articles about Red Barber, articles in which his name is mentioned, his column entitled "Redhead's Mailbag," programs, announcements, notices, and certificates such as one entitled "Citation for Bravery" for a "Rattlesnake Roundup". They document the period from 1925-1961. There are also many loose clippings now contained in archival folders which cover the period from 1961-1990.
One of these scrapbooks, Volume 31, should be mentioned because of its content. This scrapbook contains the record of the Red Cross Campaign in March, 1944 and was presented to "Red" Barber, the campaign chairman, as a memento of a job well done. The publisher of the Brooklyn Eagle, Frank D. Schroth, has his name inscribed under the acknowledgement.
On December 19, 1943 Red Barber was asked and accepted the chairmanship of the Red Cross War Fund drive in Brooklyn. The quota set for the borough was $3,331,000 nearly twice that of 1943.
Prior to and throughout the fund drive various articles and photographs appeared in the Brooklyn Eagle detailing the progress of the fund drive, the aides involved, calls for volunteers, and various human interest stories. On March 1, 1944, for instance, a long article and several photos appeared in the paper to herald the start of the campaign. Occasionally photos were included in the newspaper showing scenes of men wounded in action with articles concerning the need for Red Cross care back of the lines. One of the articles is captioned "Children's Pennies Spur Oldsters in Red Cross Fund Campaign". The photo accompanying the article pictures Red Barber with three children who are members of the Junior Commandos of the Sea Gate. One of them presents Red Barber with a check for $10 for the War Fund appeal - the entire treasury of the group apparently.
The correspondence covers the years 1966-1990 and contains letters to Red Barber from friends, colleagues, and ardent fans who listened to his broadcasts. The manuscript files include early drafts, revisions, and manuscripts of his books The Broadcasters, Show Me The Way To Go Home, and Walk in the Spirit as well as copies of the University of Southern Mississippi Oral History Program's interview with Mr. Barber dated 1974.
The memorabilia files contain playbills, press pass cards, programs, public relations' commentaries about Red Barber, the August 29, 1970 University of Florida Commencement Convocation program at which an honorary degree "Doctor of Letters" was conferred on Walter L. Barber, and the actual degree. The photographs cover a range of subjects such as family, broadcasting, and awards. There are photographs of WRUF chronicling the start of Barber's career in radio broadcasting at the University of Florida. Photographs also document special events such as Barber's induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame and a meeting of well-known sports broadcasters with President Reagan at the White House.
The audio tapes consist of fifty-five reel-to-reel tapes and ninety-three cassette tapes. The subjects are many and varied and include baseball games, commentaries, European travel, interviews, history of baseball and baseball personalities, speeches, tributes, and World Series games. On most of these tapes, the distinctive and memorable voice of Red Barber can be heard. The notation "cannot be verified" indicates that the tape could not be played at the designated speed on the equipment available and therefore the written notes on the tape covers could not be verified.