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Super 8: Bronco World Series
Written July 16, 2013

This is part of a series of articles based on images from my 1970s home movies.  For more details, click here.

I’ve helped televise many baseball games over the years, but only one World Series.  That was in 1974, and the players were mostly sixth-graders.

To document our TV crew’s behind-the-scenes activities, I brought my home movie camera to the ballpark.

That film is the source of most of the color pictures in this article.  (Some panoramas have been assembled from more than one movie frame.)

You’ve heard of Little League, of course.  From its beginnings in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, in 1939, it was for boys 11 and 12 years old.  That’s still the age cutoff for its Major Division.

But what about kids who were 13 and 14?  A different organization was founded a dozen years later and a couple hundred miles to the west:  a baseball league for boys who had “graduated” from Little League but weren’t quite ready yet for competition on a full-size diamond.  Citizens in 1951 were concerned about idle juveniles with nothing to do.  Thus it was that the new baseball league was called “Protect Our Neighborhood Youth,” or PONY.

From that beginning in Washington, Pennsylvania, PONY baseball grew phenomenally.  It soon became “Protect Our Nation’s Youth.”  The very next year, PONY crowned a team from San Antonio as the first World Series champion.  (It had taken Little League eight years to start its World Series.)

The PONY World Series was held right there in Washington from 1952-63 and again from 1968-73.  Enthusiastic fans thronged the hillsides around the stadium.  It has since been named Lew Hays PONY Field after the local sports editor who helped found the league.

In February of 1974, I arrived in town to become the program director of TV3, part of the local cable company Washington Channels.

That year, the PONY World Series was preparing to go on the road again.  It would be played in other cities for seven of the next ten years before returning to Washington permanently in 1984.

Nevertheless, in 1974 there was still going to be a World Series played at PONY League Field — the 14th annual Bronco League World Series.  Seven visiting teams, plus the home team representing Washington, would compete in a week-long double-elimination tournament.

Bronco League was a spinoff of PONY, played on a slightly smaller field.  Eventually there would be seven age groups.  All of these leagues had ball fields of the proper dimensions at Washington Park, and TV3 visited several of them for regular-season games that summer.




Between Bases


5 and 6

50 feet


7 and 8


9 and 10

60 feet


11 and 12

70 feet


13 and 14

80 feet


15 and 16

90 feet


17 and 18

We cablecast these games on a very small scale.  For ten straight Saturdays, we loaded up a van that we grandly called our “mobile unit.” Into it went one of our studio’s two black-and-white cameras, a videocassette recorder, a monitor, and a microphone.

Then we drove out to Washington Park to set up our camera on the roof of a pressbox.  If that week’s field had no suitable pressbox, we used the roof of a dugout or a concession stand.

We had no way to transmit the game live, so we taped it and brought the tape back to our studio to be shown in prime time the following Tuesday.  (If Saturday’s game was rained out, we had time to tape a Sunday or Monday game instead.)

After the regular season, the Bronco World Series was scheduled to begin on Friday, August 16.  Our manager at Washington Channels was on the committee for the Series, so naturally we did our part to promote that upcoming event. 

Money was needed.  More than three-quarters of it went to transportation and lodging for the visiting teams.

As early as March. I directed a six-hour televised auction that raised about 8% of the total budget (or $12,000, adjusted for inflation to 2013 values).

We also planned to televise the World Series games themselves.  But for this big event, our usual single-camera coverage on a 75-hour tape delay just wouldn’t do.  We decided to go all out.  Our technicians hooked up a special cable so we could actually cablecast live from Washington Park!  We planned to take both of our cameras this time.  We even borrowed a third camera.  And we figured out how to hook up another video recorder so we could replay key moments.

It would be Washington Channels’ most ambitious production ever:  a week-long extravaganza, roughly 30 hours of live three-camera baseball!


Each day during the Series, PONY Field was deserted when our crew arrived in mid-afternoon.  We positioned the mobile unit behind the pressbox, chocking the wheels so it wouldn’t roll down the grassy slope.

Cables emerged from the driver’s window of the van.  Tied to a nearby pole, from there they continued to Cameras 3, 2, and 1.  Most of the time, those cameras would be operated by three high-school students who were part-time employees of TV3.



Our farthest camera peered through the fence down the right-field line, a little beyond first base.  Any closer to home plate would have blocked the view from the gold seats.  Because this camera was a borrowed Panasonic, our engineers had to rig up a special cable for it:  three RG59s, AC, and intercom.

We had no graphics, so Camera 3 also sometimes swung around to shoot the scoreboard in right field.



Our “low home” camera was at ground level between the dugouts.  In newer major-league ballparks, this position is occupied by the highest-priced seats.  Any TV pictures from here come from a small robotic camera mounted on a pole at least nine feet high.

But at PONY Field, the ground-level location was ideal for us.  We rolled the camera up as close as possible to the screen, so the wires would be mostly out of focus.

The result looked somewhat better than this, which is a frame of movie film shot off a TV monitor.  It wasn’t high-def, but it was baseball.

We used Camera 2 to cover most pitches.  We didn’t have nearly enough cable to locate a camera way out in center field.



To get our “high home” camera onto the roof, we climbed a ladder through a gap in the awning, then lifted the camera up through the hole.

Earlier that summer, the screw that attached the camera head to its tripod had broken.  The two sections were now held together by strapping tape.

The set of wheels also had to be carried up to the roof.

Camera 1 didn’t move around very much on the rooftop, but we needed the wheel assembly to keep the tripod legs properly spread.


These connections were simple cotter pins.

Finally, we attached the camera cable to carry the video down to the mobile unit.  This cable had a number of conductors; it also carried power and synchronization and intercom signals from the mobile unit up to the camera.

One of the ring gears around the lens sometimes came loose, and we had to reach around the camera to zoom the lens by hand.


Camera 1 could see the whole ballpark, but it was mainly used for action in the field.

For example, here’s a play at second base.


The rooftop camera could be used for covering pitches.

However, from such a high angle, it was difficult to see whether a given pitch was in the strike zone.

Although the backstop screen kept foul balls away from the ground-level Camera 2, the pressbox level P, and the announcer’s position A, the screen went up only as far as the awning.  It did not protect the roof level. 

I recall operating Camera 1 one evening when a foul ball came my way.  It clearly was going to miss me, so I didn’t flinch; but it was odd to see the baseball come cruising by, in almost-level flight, a few feet to my left.



Larry Schwingel, TV3’s newscaster and sportscaster, called the play-by-play.

To his left was our analyst, Paul Abraham, an administrator at Trinity High School.  Next to him was a monitor and, on top of it, the Shure mixer that sent the audio from their lavalier microphones down to the mobile unit.

Paul and Larry had most recently worked together on our coverage of high school wrestling.

If we can flash back to the studio for a moment, our control room normally looked like this.  I’m directing Greater Washington Today, and you can see Larry reading the news on the center-left monitor.

The equipment had been designed so that the left rack with its camera-switching equipment could be unplugged, hoisted onto a furniture dolly, and moved into the mobile unit.  That made multiple-camera remotes possible for special occasions like wrestling tournaments and high school commencements.  It was not easy to move the rack and reinstall it properly afterwards, so we didn’t transport it often, but the Bronco World Series certainly qualified as a special occasion.



As seen through the rear doors of the mobile unit, the control rack was securely strapped to the right-hand wall.  On the left were cabinets, with our video tape equipment on top.

Our program monitor, a GE Porta-Color TV, sat on top of the rack.  Here it’s showing the Paul Gaudino Family Fitness Program.  Each week Paul taped five color half-hours of his exercise show at Butler, PA; then cable systems “bicycled” the cassettes from one city to the next.  During the World Series, we rescheduled him as our lead-in.  In the half hour before the first pitch each day, we cablecast the Fitness Program from our mobile unit, partly so we could discover any transmission problems in time to resolve them.  There weren’t any.

Further down in the rack you see the monitors for our three black-and-white cameras and the green waveform monitor, which measured the cameras' brightness.  Then there’s a stopwatch, the switcher, a headset, and the log listing commercials to be run.

I took turns directing the games with Tim Verderber (seen here), a recent high school graduate who had been with TV3 for a couple of years.

Our telecasts were live, but we also employed three videotape machines.  Two were U-Matic cassette machines using ¾” tape.  These were among the first VCRs; they had been introduced by Sony only three years before and quickly found wide application in TV production, including cable TV.  We used one to make a “master record” of the entire game and the other to play back commercials.  The third machine was a Panasonic open-reel VTR whose usual function in the studio was to play back ½” tapes recorded on location by our Rover.  All three machines were monitored by a single TV set with an auxiliary video input, as shown in the diagram below.

The output of the “master record” machine, identical to our live program, was also recorded on the Panasonic.  Then if we wanted to replay a bit of action, we’d switch the Panasonic out of record, rewind it, and play the scene again (from the same angle as before).  That video was looped through the monitor and sent on to the rack to be switched into the live feed when desired.

If we wanted to check the operation of the “master record,” we could tune the monitor to Channel 4.  Or if we wanted to cue up a commercial, we could tune the monitor to Channel 3.

We couldn’t afford enough blank cassettes to preserve all our “master records” for posterity.  Therefore, each morning I’d choose the most interesting portion from each of the previous night’s games and dub only that half-inning to a compilation tape.  With commercials and commentary added, that compilation became a TV3 special the following week, looking back at the recently completed World Series.



People began arriving in late afternoon for that evening’s doubleheader.  This member of the Bronco World Series committee happens to be my boss, Jim Loker.  I think the briefcase was the cash box for the ticket booth.

Team supporters found their seats in the bleachers.  There were five squads from the United States:  Honolulu, HI; Waukegan, IL; Lake Worth, FL; Linthicum-Ferndale, MD; and of course the host team, Washington, PA.

There were also three Latin American teams.  These fans were rooting for Maturín, in the state of Monagas, Venezuela.  Two other teams came from Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, and Maya, Mexico.

Of course, the spectators also found time to visit the concession stands ...


... as well as the balloon vendor.  Many of the fans were 11 and 12 years old, as were the players, so a few balloons somehow became filled with water and tossed around playfully.


John Duskey, chairman of the Bronco World Series committee, led the pregame ceremonies.  This particular game would match Venezuela and Lake Worth.

The players were introduced one by one and took their places on the field.

Lake Worth manager Wally Alexander watched his team line up.

The organist played their national anthems ...



... as the players stood at attention along the baselines.

And then it was time for baseball!

When it was all over after 14 games, who were the champions of the 1974 Bronco League World Series?

The team from Lake Worth, Florida!  And here they are.

One of the players on the Lake Worth team was Robby Thompson, who went on to become a two-time All-Star second baseman with the San Francisco Giants.  He played for the Giants from 1986 through 1996, and he's now the bench coach for the Seattle Mariners.

Another World Series participant was Ed Sedar, a native of Waukegan, Illinois, who is now the third base coach for the Milwaukee Brewers.  How do I know that?  After posting this article, I got an e-mail from Pete Rucks, Ed's teammate in 1974.

Pete writes, "I was a member of the team from Waukegan, IL.  We lost our first two games, to Mexico (1-0) and Puerto Rico (9-7) although my memory may have failed me there though.  Our team stayed at the college dorms and I remember watching the games on TV.  Our team got to go see the Pirates play at Three Rivers Stadium.

"After reading your website I went and looked through a box of stuff I had from my younger days, and I still have the baseball bat and program they gave us for participating in the tournament."

In 1974, we all had a grand time at the old ball game!

POSTSCRIPT, FORTY YEARS LATER:  Lew Hays Pony Field hosted its 31st consecutive Pony League World Series in August 2014 (below).  The layout of the park is still the same, but the facilities have been upgraded.  I think I like the blue paint.


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