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TV provides a window into the big-leagues world of the 1950s

Two television stations went on the air in Billings in 1953: KOOK-TV, now KTVQ, and KGHL-TV, now KULR-TV. At about that time, Beth McNally got a TV set, according to her daughter, Dee Nobles. Thus, Dave may have joined millions of Americans who watched major league baseball games on the small screen from time to time.

There is no way of knowing if, when or how often he watched TV games, possibly picking out heroes. They might have included New York Yankees slugger Mickey Mantle, New York and later San Francisco Giants star Willie Mays, or Detroit Tigers pitcher Jim Bunning, all future Hall of Famers. Or future big league teammates such as Brooks Robinson, just starting his sensational career with the Orioles, and Frank Robinson, then a young slugger for the Cincinnati Reds. Still, those baseball greats and others showed up in Billings on TV screens throughout the city.

By 1958, Security Trust and Savings Bank was sponsoring a daily TV log that ran in the Billings Gazette. Weekend broadcasts included the “Game of The Week,” broadcast late Sunday mornings. Thus, on June 22, 1958, sports fans, teenagers and otherwise, McNally included, could have watched the Baltimore Orioles play the Chicago White Sox at Comiskey Park. For variety, in May that year, KOOK broadcast the Yankees vs. the Kansas City Athletics and the Senators versus the Yankees.

Ed Bayne, Jr., one of McNally’s best friends, remembers that time. Recalling the period in a June 2023 conversation, he said Dave and Bill McIntosh, another member of McNally’s circle, came over to the Bayne house several times. The Baynes lived in the same neighborhood near the Eastern Montana College campus, so they probably walked over.

“They’d come to the house and talk to Dad (Ed Bayne, their coach), then watch or listen (to baseball games).”

The Yankees were a “a big deal” as were the Brooklyn Dodgers, especially during the 1955 World Series between the two New York teams just before the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles. That was the Series when the Dodgers finally beat the Bronx Bombers, an outcome sealed by Johnny Podres’ shutout victory in Game 7.

“That was a big deal because the Dodgers never beat the Yankees,” Bayne said.

This, long before McNally became a hero to hundreds of aspiring baseball players, in Billings, in Montana, in Baltimore and across the country, he could find his own baseball diamond heroes on a TV set in his hometown.

Another memorable event during that time was when Legion Post 4 scrimmaged with the baseball team from Eastern Montana College. Bayne recalled that McNally struck out 12 EMC batters, and his Legion team won “something like 20-0.”

McNally’s curveball baffled the EMC batters so completely that one pitch he threw caused the batter to swing before the ball hit him in the stomach, Bayne said.

Probably influenced by TV and what they read in the Billings Gazette—and maybe in the “Bible of Baseball,” The Sporting News—Dave and his Billings baseball buddies imagined a future in the big leagues. It was something that several Billings players, all signed by major league teams in the late 1950s and early 1960s, got a shot at.

“We always talked about that,” Bayne said, remembering conversations he and his teenage friends had about making “the bigs.” Using Topps baseball cards and dice, the youths played a baseball simulation game.

“I always wanted to play for the Yankees,” Bayne said. Dave, though, said, “I just want to play ball. If I don’t get that, I’ll get a job,” according to Bayne.

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Jamie Larson