Originally published in the Radio Listeners Lyceum, 2013.
Play-Ask-It-Ball premiered on WGN on Saturday, May 3, 1941, at 7:00 in front of an enthusiastic live audience of over 1,500 sailors in the drill hall at the Great Lakes Naval Training Station in North Chicago. During the debut broadcast the sailors managed four runs during the half-hour program.
Standings: Navy 4, Army 0
For the second show the WGN crew traveled to Fort Sheridan, just north of Chicago, for the 7:00 broadcast. Again an estimated 1,500 servicemen packed into a gymnasium to see five fellow soldiers compete in the contest. The team proved more than capable, tripling up the number of runs scored by the previous week’s team with twelve, giving the Army an eight run lead in the standings. After the quiz portion had ended Brig. Gen. John L. Homer, commandant at Fort Sheridan, spoke to listeners.
Standings: Navy 4, Army 12
The third episode aired May 17 from the Naval Reserve Aviation Training base at Glenview, IL. Following the quiz portion of the show Lieutentant-Commander R. K. Gaines, commanding officer of the aviation base, gave a short update to listeners on the base’s training activities. A prodigious output of scoring by the Navy men put them up by six runs over their Army counterparts.
Standings: Navy 18, Army 12
Episode four aired May 24 from Camp Grant, Rockford, IL. Camp Grant’s soldiers were up for the task and knocked in a whopping fourteen runs to leapfrog their Navy peers who had earned an impressive 18 runs in their first two outings. Notably, a female participant was chosen for the night’s broadcast and she proved her worth. Lieut. Dorothy Case, a nurse at the camp’s hospital and perhaps the series’ only female participant, went two for three on the night. Col. Joseph Hamilton Davidson, commanding officer, was the guest speaker at the end of the broadcast.
Standings: Navy 18, Army 26
The fifth broadcast was made from the only base outside the Chicago metropolitan area. For the May 31 show (originally scheduled for June 7), WGN’s team traveled all the way to Tullahoma, TN, where they set up at Camp Forrest to perform with members of the Illinois National Guard units. That evening the soldiers amassed a show-record eighteen runs during the half hour. Maj. Gen. Samuel T. Lawton, commanding officer of the 33rd division, discussed the role of the camp in national defense.
Standings: Navy 18, Army 44