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1960s / N.Y. Yankees Fire Red Barber - 1966
Red Barber was one of the great baseball broadcasters of all time. He began as the radio voice of the Cincinnati Reds in 1934. He became the Brooklyn Dodgers' lead broadcaster in 1939 and held that position until 1953 when he fell into disfavor with Dodger management over salary demands. The New York Yankees quickly hired Barber to work alongside Mel Allen beginning in 1954. The two men had contrasting styles but they meshed well together. Barber was the restrained southern gentleman while Allen was exuberant and bombastic. Barber's tenure with the Yankees ended suddenly at the end of the 1966 season--largely because he had the courage to report the truth. The Yankees, owned by CBS at the time, were a last-place team in 1966. During a home game on Thursday, September 22, only 413 fans were scattered around the cavernous ballpark to watch the Yankees play the visiting Chicago White Sox in a makeup game. The TV cameramen were under strict instructions from CBS media relations not to follow foul balls into the sea of empty seats. Barber, though, took it upon himself to paint the scene with words. "I don't know what the paid attendance is today," he said, "but whatever it is, it is the smallest crowd in the history of Yankee Stadium...and this crowd is the story, not the game." That game was the first for CBS executive Mike Burke as team president. A week later, Barber was invited to a breakfast meeting where Burke abruptly told him that his contract wouldn't be renewed for 1967. Barber was so stunned by the news that he rose from the table and left the restaurant without speaking. Barber had fully expected Burke to reaffirm his importance to a rebuilding team. Barber retired from sports broadcasting altogether. He died in 1992 at age 84.