Lest we forget: Shelby Whitfield

February 11, 2013

Shelby Whitfield, the former play-by-play announcer for the Washington Senators who wrote Kiss it goodbye (1973), a critical book about the team’s owner in the early 1970s and later managed an all-star cast of announcers for ABC Radio, died Feb. 5 at a rehabilitation facility in Jackson, NJ. He was 77.

According to Whitfield’s obituary in the Washington Post

After the 1971 season, owner Robert E. Short moved the Senators to Arlington, Tex., prompting Mr. Whitfield to write a scathing book about the last days of the franchise….  (The book’s title referred to Mr. Whitfield’s home-run call.)

He described Short, who died in 1982, as “an intimidating, domineering person” who was slow to pay his bills. Short asked announcers to inflate crowd numbers, Mr. Whitfield wrote, and to say the weather was always sunny, “even if the floodwaters were lapping the sides of RFK Stadium.”

The book helped prompt the Federal Communications Commission to launch hearings into the ethics of sports broadcasting. In 1974, the FCC passed a regulation — since rescinded — requiring announcers to disclose during games whether they were employees of a team, a league or a broadcasting company.

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