Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Sports Media Report - December 9 update

Congrats to former All-Star shortstop and long time baseball TV analyst Tony Kubek on being honored with the Baseball Hall of Fame's Ford C. Frick Award. Kubek, now 73, will be honored in Cooperstown at the July 26, 2009 ceremony.

Kubek helped to pioneer the role of a national TV analyst for many years on NBC-TV's Game of the Week. Although today's baseball analysts often get critical and more personal during a broadcast, Kubek helped to define the role.

It probably seems like science fiction to younger fans who can't comprehend the era when baseball fans would get one "out of town" game per week. That was NBC-TV each Saturday afternoon throughout the season. The home or local team couldn't be shown. The network would do a "back-up game" most weeks which would feed into the markets (or sometimes one market when a Canadian team was featured) of the two teams participating in the "main" game.

There were no "live looks", multiple nights of games on cable. and for that matter many local teams would only televise half of their games or less. Kubek helped provide the window to the "outside world" of baseball for millions. He got to work with the likes of Curt Gowdy, Bob Costas, and Jim Simpson, as well as Joe Garagiola. Those were also the days of (gulp) one color commentator for the entire telecast. There were no studio hosts, sideline reporters, or third men in the booth for the vast majority of Kubek's run.

The early to mid-80's brought additional baseball coverage to cable, such as USA Network's Thursday Night Baseball, but the color commentators at the national level generally maintained the Kubek influence of explaining the plays and the game and not being overly critical.

In addition to his NBC-TV work, Kubek also did color for the Yankees and Blue Jays. In fact, he becomes the first broadcaster to win this honor who called games for a Canadian team. Fittingly, Kubek was a part of NBC-TV's final "Game of the Week" telecast in September of 1989. That was the end of an era. The 1990 season opened with ESPN beginning its relationship with MLB including multiple telecasts each week (with doubleheaders on many Wednesday nights) and the debut of "Baseball Tonight".

To me, the best news is that Kubek lived to experience this announcement.

The only downer about this is that a few others who are also qualified didn't make it. At least not yet. Lanny Frattare, who just retired after a 30+ year run as the voice of the Pirates is among them, along with long time Red Sox voice Ken Coleman. Dave Van Horne, who could just as easily have been the first broadcaster honored who called a Canadian team (long time Expos voice) also did not get in this time, nor did the late Joe Nuxhall for his years as part of "Marty and Joe on Reds Radio" in Cincinnati.

Meanwhile, NBC-TV did make an announcement within hours of Kubek's award, although very much coincidental. Sunday Night Football is exercising its right to flex scheduling and has changed its December 21 telecast. Gone from NBC is the San Diego vs. Tampa Bay game, and (understandably) now on their schedule is the game between the New York Giants and Carolina Panthers in what is very possibly a playoff preview. CBS-TV will now have the Chargers game at Tampa at 1:00 ET on the afternoon of the 21st.

DALLAS - The Metroplex now, as of this past Monday (Dec. 8) has three sports stations. 105.3 FM became "The Fan" at 3:00 PM in a surprise move. The station hopes that the buzz surrounding the Cowboys' playoff chances and the upcoming BCS bowl games will result in a good start. Almost all of the programming on the talk station before it is gone, except that Chris Jagger and his morning crew are staying in place. It is also expected that "The Fan" will change call letters from the current KLLI.

Personally, I see one possible obstacle. KESN ESPN Radio for Dallas is at 103.3 FM, while The Fan is at 105.3. While the PPM is there to measure the audience, the PPM does not help listeners tune to the frequency they desire. A listener could be scanning the dial and hear sports on 103.3 and not make it over to 105.3, or perhaps mistake an advertisement for the ESPN Radio which is more established and has the better known brand. Here's hoping that they go by something like "105 The Fan" and keep the ".3" out of the equation.

St. LOUIS - It seems like every week brings another announcement about the upcoming new sports station, now known as Movin' WMVN. The station has just announced that Derrick Goold will bring his "The Hot Corner" baseball beat show over from KMOX on Sunday mornings to "Movin'" starting in February. Goold, also the Cardinals' beat writer for the Post-Dispatch, will host 8:00 to 10:00 AM each Sunday.

Across town, KFNS just happens to be revising its lineup starting December 15th, 2 weeks before WMVN starts. Frank Cusumano will start his show an hour earlier at 9 AM, with Jeff Gordon and Jeff Vernetti moving up to Noon to 2 PM. The station plans a rotating hour at 2:00 including veteran personalities such as Howard Balzer and Jay Randolph Sr.

SAN DIEGO - XX Sports 1090 has gone into cost-cutting mode this month. Bill Werndl and Joe Tutino are both on the outs from their respective shows where they each served as co-hosts. For now, John Kentera continues in the early afternoon spot, and Darren Smith stays at 3 - 7 PM. No word yet as to whether or not each will be given another co-host or continue solo or with guest hosts.

No word yet about a new Padres TV voice, replacing Matt Vasgersian who moves on to host on the upcoming MLB-TV Network. Among those reportedly interviewed are Dave Sims of the Mariners and Victor Rojas of the Rangers.

CHICAGO - The MLB-TV Network also will likely have an impact on baseball broadcast coverage in Chicago. Word is that at least one of the two among Dan Plesac and Darrin Jackson will also be hired as a studio analyst by the new network. If Plesac is chosen, there will be a studio analyst opening for Chicago Cubs telecasts on Comcast SportsNet. If Jackson is chosen, there will be an opening in the White Sox radio booth. Jackson is expected to learn of his "fate" by the end of this week.

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