Tyson was born in Phillipsburg, Pennsylvania and he attended Penn State University. As a young man, he played ball and acted in nearby Tyrone, Pennsylvania. While acting in a play, he met another young man from Tyrone, Fred Waring. The two became fast friends. Tyson spent his early years jumping from job to job, including stints in the coal, wallpaper, and papermaking industries, a time in stationery with his father, and as mercantile appraiser. In addition, he spent two years of World War I in the Army, including 11 months of that time overseas.
Fred Waring, meanwhile, formed his famous orchestra, the Pennsylvanians, and began touring the country. After playing at the University of Michigan in 1922, Waring was invited to perform on WWJ in Detroit, then a radio station just a few months old. Bill Holiday, the station manager and nation's first radio announcer, was looking for someone to replace him. Waring suggested Tyson, and Holiday immediately telegraphed a job offer. Tyson accepted.
Tyson handled announcing chores for various events at WWJ, including broadcasting the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and the opening of the Ambassador Bridge and the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel. What he is best known for, however, is his pioneering work on play-by-play of live sports broadcasts for the station.
In 1924, Tyson broadcast the first University of Michigan football game aired on the radio. Fielding H. Yost had given WWJ permission to broadcast the game against Wisconsin only because the game had been sold out. He was afraid broadcasting would hurt sales, but before the next home game Michigan was inundated with ticket requests. Sensing a good thing, Yost agreed to more broadcasts.
On April 19, 1927, Tyson called his first Detroit Tigers game, inaugurating the first full season of radio broadcasts for a Major League Baseball team. He quickly became a popular figure with the team's fans. When the Tigers reached the World Series in 1934, baseball's then-commissioner, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, barred Tyson from appearing on any of the network radio coverage, citing the risk of partiality in his commentary. After Tiger fans sent more than 600,000 letters of protest, Landis compromised by allowing Tyson to announce the Series locally on WWJ. Tyson went on to call the 1935 Series (which involved the Tigers, and ended in their first-ever world championship) and the 1936 Series nationally for NBC.
Tyson continued broadcasting Tigers games on WWJ through 1942; the following year, the team granted exclusive broadcast rights to rival station WXYZ, with Harry Heilmann announcing. For the previous eight years, the Tigers had employed an unusual arrangement for their broadcasts, with Tyson broadcasting to metro Detroit while Heilmann's broadcasts anchored a network that stretched across Michigan. Tyson returned to call the Tigers' television broadcasts in 1947, and shifted back to radio in 1951 after Heilmann developed lung cancer. Tyson founded the Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association in 1948 after what was considered "second-class treatment" for the broadcasters (by the baseball writers) in the Briggs Stadium pressbox in Detroit.
Tyson also did Detroit Lions radio for one season (1951); broadcast the Gold Cup powerboat races, boxing, and other sporting events in Detroit; and founded the Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association in 1948 and was its first president. Tyson retired from broadcasting in 1953. On Father's Day in 1965, he was invited by the Tigers' then-current radio announcer, Ernie Harwell, to return to the booth as a guest commentator. In 2000, the Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association established an annual Ty Tyson Award for Excellence in Sports Broadcasting. Among its recipients are former Tigers announcers Ernie Harwell, Ray Lane, Josh Lewin, and Frank Beckmann, and current announcers Dan Dickerson and Mario Impemba.
Tyson died December 12, 1968 at Cottage Hospital in Grosse Pointe Farms, from an arterial ailment. He was 80 years old.
- Detroit News article
- Tyson announcing a game September 20, 1934 NY Yankees Vs Detroit Tigers
- Michigan Sports Hall of Fame