Byrum F. Saam, remembered by generations of Philadelphia fans as the voice of Philadelphia baseball, died of a stroke at the age of 85 on January 16, 2000. He announced more than 8,000 games for the Philadelphia Phillies and Athletics and was inducted in 1990 into Baseball's Hall of Fame and into the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia's Hall of Fame in 1993.
When you heard his voice on the radio or television, you knew it was a Philadelphia baseball game. He did play by play for the Philadelphia A's from 1938 to 1954. The Phillies games done by By Saam were from 1939 to 1949 and from 1955 to 1975.
During his four decades in Philly broadcasting, he announced 13 no-hitters, including Jim Bunting's perfect game against the New York Mets in 1964, and the final two games of 1941, when Ted Williams continued to bat over .400 for the season.
He also broadcast Philadelphia Eagles and University of Pennsylvania football games. Saam did college and professional basketball, and Ramblers (forerunner to the Flyers) hockey games. Saam was also doing color that night during the Warriors game when Wilt Chamberlain racked up 100 points.
Saam will be remembered as an even-tempered professional who never displayed any signs of an ego. Broadcast Pioneers member Harry Kalas said, "Socially and professionally, By was a joy to be around. Between innings, he would crack Whitey (Ashburn) and me up with his sense of humor and one-liners. By's sense of humor never really came across to the public. He was trained in the old school where everything on the air was serious business."
Gene Kelly, Chuck Thompson, Bill Campbell and Claude Haring were among his many other broadcasting "team mates." Broadcast Pioneers member Bill Campbell said, "He'd always say, 'Rolling along,' We're rolling along into the seventh. That was the phrase everybody associated with him. And it really described his temperament. I was always very emotional, but he never got too high or too low." Another thing he would say in answer to another broadcaster was, "right you are." In fact, in 1959, Saam was working with Mel Allen. Allen introduced Saam with the phrase telling the audience that he was one of the great voices in the business and a great human being. Without thinking, By said, "Right you are, Mel." (Mel was right). That was one of two times, he broadcast a World Series. The other one was in 1965.
Known for saying, "Hi everyone, This is By Saam." One night, he said, ": "Hi, By Saam. This is everybody."
He began his broadcasting career in Philadelphia during 1937, covering football games for Temple and Villanova. The next year, he started announcing both the Phillies (the Phils were on WIBG Radio) and Athletics (A's were on WCAU Radio) home games. At that time, the broadcasters did not travel, so he was able to do both teams until the late 1940s.
Then, the Phillies wanted to broadcast away games too, meaning the city's two teams would need separate announcers. (The A's would follow suit.) Until that time, it wasn't a problem, since both played at Shibe Park, later renamed Connie Mack Stadium. Road games were re-created in the studios. In fact, it was out of loyalty to Athletics manager Connie Mack that Saam became the A's home and road announcer in 1950. He remained in that position until 1954, when the team left town and moved to Kansas City.
The Phils jumped at the chance to get him back, teaming him up with Gene Kelly who took over By's announcing duties for the Phils games when Saam left. They alternated announcers. That is, one day Saam did radio while Kelly did TV. The next day, they switched. He was one of the Phillies' announcers from 1955 to 1975. At that time, he retired. By was only 61, but his eyes started to go.
During a game in St. Louis, he was doing play-by-play, a Cardinals player homered. By Saam said, "Here's a ground ball to shortstop." Richie Ashburn was frantically signaling that it had been a home run. Saam added, : "And it's outta here." Another time, a San Diego player hit a double and Saam said that it was a "slide into second, a stand-up double." Then there's his first visit to the Astrodome, an indoor stadium. By remarked, "What a beautiful night for baseball. The flags are hanging limp. There's no breeze at all."
But Saam couldn't be kept out of the game and in 1976 returned to call the National League championship series. Robin Roberts, famed Phillies pitcher (who also hosted the Robin Roberts TV show in the fifties) said that Saam had a "beautiful voice." Roberts wasn't the only one to think that. By the way, in the mid fifties, Saam's voice on the Phillies television games could be heard over Channels 3, 6 and 12 (then a commercial station.) Seems Channels 3 and 6, split the day games and Channel 12 carried the evening events and about a third of the total games were aired in Philadelphia. He liked all sports but especially loved to play golf.
Born in 1914, he was a native of Fort Worth, Texas with that easy going Texan charm, similar to Weathercaster Jim O'Brien. There, Saam began announcing games in his senior high school year when appendicitis took him off the baseball's playing field. He went on to Texas Christian University as a pigskin announcer until nationally known CBS announcer Ted Husing heard him and recommended him for a professional job in 1934.
He transferred to the University of Minnesota and began broadcasting their football games over WCCO, then coached by the famed Bernie Bierman, in addition to doing the Minneapolis Millers (Triple A) baseball games. He also became that station's Sports Director. By 1935, his voice had been broadcast network wide. His wife of almost half a century, Anne Fitzpatrick Saam, passed away in 1986. The couple had three children, a son and two daughters.
As the voice of Philadelphia baseball for 40 years, Saam, lived in Narberth, Pa. for four decades. He had the distinction of broadcasting for more losing teams than any other announcer and called games for 11 teams that lost 100 or more games, 19 last-place clubs, and not one pennant winner. In 1950 both clubs decided to allow live road broadcasts, and Saam was forced to choose. He chose the A's, and the Phillies won the pennant.
By Saam knew how to turn a phrase, whether on purpose or not. On WPHL, Channel 17, he stated, "The double play went 4-6-3 for those of you who might be home scoring in bed."
From the official archives of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia
Written and researched by Broadcast Pioneers member Gerry Wilkinson
Photo originally donated by Broadcast Pioneers member Bill Bransome
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