Play-Ask-It-Ball: Army vs. Navy on the Air, Pt. 3

Originally published in the Radio Listeners Lyceum, 2013.

            On June 7 (originally scheduled for May 31) the Play-Ask-It-Ball crew journeyed to the Naval Reserve Midshipmen’s School in Chicago. The contestants were apparently getting comfortable with the show’s format because every week seemed to see scores get higher and higher. During this episode the Navy contestants scored 22 runs to pull within four runs of Army in the standings.

Standings: Navy 40, Army 44

When round two started on June 14 the show returned to the Great Lakes Naval Training Station. Commander T. Dewitt Carr, new executive officer of the station, spoke after the conclusion of the quiz during what was now being billed as the seventh inning stretch. The Navy’s men came through and pulled ahead of Army with a  fourteen-run performance.

Standings: Navy 54, Army 44

The following week for the 8th show Fogarty and company returned to Fort Sheridan on June 21. The evening’s speaker was Lieut. Sidney DeLove, Fort Sheridan’s provost marshal. From here on out the scores were rarely reported so weekly standings are unknown.

Episode 9, broadcast June 28, was a return engagement to the Naval Reserve aviation station in Glenview, IL. Lieutenant Commander Richard K. Gaines was the post-quiz speaker again.

During the July 5 production the WGN team returned to Rockford’s Camp Grant where Brig. Gen. John M. Willis, the camp’s commanding officer, spoke to listeners afterward.

As of July 19, 1941, when Play Ask-It-Ball completed its second round in Camp Forrest at Tullahoma, TN, Navy had taken the lead in the two-team standings. Maj. Gen. Samuel T. Lawton again spoke during the seventh inning stretch.

On July 26 the third and final round of the armed forces quiz show hit the air. WGN’s production crew returned one last time to the Great Lakes Naval Training station with Army leading Navy 94 to 82. Unfortunately, this is the last score so far discovered in research of the program.

Play-Ask-It-Ball returned to Gleview, IL, and the Naval Reserve Aviation school on August 9 and the following week, August 16, Brickhouse and Kirkpatrick made made their third and final appearance at Camp Grant in Rockford.

The final broadcast in the Play Ask-It-Ball series aired August 30. It was hyped as the first radio quiz show to be aired from the scene of Army maneuvers, a mock battlefield near Camden, AR. The Illinois soldiers who had been located at Camp Forest, Tullahoma, TN for their previous two appearances, were on maneuvers with the second Army, necessitating the change in broadcast origination. Army went into the final contest down twelve runs. Did they overtake their Navy opponent or fall just short? The historical documents don’t record the ultimate winner of the series.

Play-Ask-It-Ball may have been the first quiz show to feature members of the military but it was not the last. Jim Cox has identified at least one other, The Army-Navy Game featuring Fred Uttal. This series premiered the following year, 1942, and appeared on NBC Blue and the Mutual system until 1944. Interestingly, there’s no indication that WGN considered reviving Play-Ask-It-Ball after World War II broke out just a few months after it left the air.

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