Mr. Allbright, who died July 18 of pneumonia at Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington County, was one of baseball’s finest practitioners — and perhaps its last — of the forgotten art of game re-creation. He was 87.
During the 12 years that he broadcast Dodger games, he visited Brooklyn only once. Listeners to the far-flung Dodger radio network thought Mr. Allbright was sitting in the press box at Ebbets Field and other big league stadiums, but he was actually at a studio in Washington.
He received sketchy summaries of the game — whether a pitch was a ball or strike, where a batted ball landed — from telegrams or wire service reports. But everything else that brought baseball to life — from crowd noises to vendors hawking their wares to the crack of the bat — was improvised by Mr. Allbright.
He had recordings of crowds in various states of excitement and used a click of his tongue to mimic the sound of the bat striking a ball. Each time a player tugged at his cap or a manager shouted at an umpire, the drama was supplied by Mr. Allbright.
He was, in the words of former Washington Post sports columnist Bob Addie, “king of the baseball re-creators.”
The practice of re-creating baseball games dated to the earliest days of radio. Before he went into acting and politics, Ronald Reagan re-created Chicago Cubs games for a station in Des Moines.
Mr. Allbright had broadcast minor league games in Columbus, Ga. — often through re-creation — in the late 1940s. When the Dodgers hired him in 1950, he was working for WEAM in Arlington County.
It was too expensive in those years for the live play-by-play broadcast to be carried on many stations. Mr. Allbright, simulating the action in a studio, became the ideal solution.
By 1953, Mr. Allbright’s broadcasts were carried on 117 radio outlets from Cleveland to Miami Beach, according to “Voices of the Game,” Curt Smith’s authoritative history of baseball announcers. In the Washington area, Mr. Allbright was heard on WEAM, WINX and WOOK, often drawing larger audiences than the games of the hometown Senators.
Mr. Allbright spent a month each year at the Dodgers’ spring training camp in Vero Beach, Fla., where he interviewed players and learned their mannerisms on the field, from Robinson’s daring base running to Gil Hodges’s bulging biceps and Clem Labine’s sweeping curveball.
Mr. Allbright had a photograph of each National League stadium on his studio wall and recordings of the national anthem to correspond with the practices in each city. For color, he’d lean away from the microphone and shout, “Getcher cold beer here, cold beer!”