I just heard that Nat Albright passed away last weekend. If the name’s not familiar to you, then you’re likely under 50, since Albright’s heyday as a D.C.-area sportscaster was in the 1950s and 1960s.
I didn’t know Albright well, but every time I’d see him, he’d say in that very distinctive voice, “Whaddya say, babe?” Nat did sports on almost every radio station in the market at one time or another, sometimes several at the same time. He never really wrote a script; it was just rip-and-read off the old teletype. On occasion, he’d pick up a piece of copy that was actually a few days old but read it like it just happened. It was all about the delivery with Nat - and being able to plug his sponsor that day.
Albright’s defining moment as a broadcaster came during the 1950s when he was the voice of the Dodgers, in Brooklyn and briefly in Los Angeles. He did the games, but never actually set foot inside of Ebbets Field or the L.A. Coliseum. He re-created the games using a ticker - not unlike a stock ticker - that gave him every pitch and result. He set up his own network of stations and fed the program through phone lines for several years.
In the late 1950s, Albright approached Senators owner Calvin Griffith about doing the Washington games. As Nat told the story, he promised Griffith that if he allowed Nat to do the broadcasts, the Senators would double their attendance. “Calvin said to me, ‘Nat, we don’t play the kind of baseball that draws big crowds,’ and I said to him, ‘Cal, you’d be playing that kind on the radio with me doin’ the games.’ “
I don’t know how old Albright was, but it’s safe to say he was around 90. He sold cars for the past few years in Annandale, and I’m quite sure made the buyer feel like he’d just gotten the bargain of the century.
Nat Albright - “This is Nat the cat, battin’ atcha ...” Truly unforgettable.