The Library of Congress (LC) January 9 announced the acquisition of an audio archive of 15 years’ worth of athlete interviews from the radio network program Sports Byline USA between 1988 and 2003. LC said that the acquisition “marks the beginning of a three-year collaboration with the program’s producers to preserve these historic interviews and to make them available for listening on a streaming basis free to the public on the Library’s website. Programs produced from 2004-2014 will be added to the collection over the next two years.”
Highlights from the candid interviews conducted by Sports Byline USA’s Emmy Award-winning host Ron Barr include Mickey Mantle discussing his father’s early death and his alcoholism, Hank Aaron on breaking Babe Ruth’s home run record, Willie Mays on his impact on baseball, and Bill Russell setting the record straight about his relationship with fellow NBA great Wilt Chamberlain.
The interviews will be digitally preserved at LC’s Packard Campus for Audiovisual Conservation in Culpeper, VA. The Sports Byline collection will join the facility’s extensive holdings of sports recordings, including Clem McCarthy’s classic calls of the Joe Louis-Max Schmeling rematch, and the race between Seabiscuit and War Admiral, as well as many broadcasts featuring such sports casting notables as Bill Stearns and Mel Allen.
“Sports in America embody the nation’s indomitable spirit of competition, excellence, and teamwork,” said Librarian of Congress James H. Billington discussing the acquisition. “This collection of interviews will be an important addition to the Library’s holdings, ensuring that we preserve a significant part of the nation’s culture and history,” he concluded.—Mike Rogers