Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Remembering Harry Kalas and more

It's one team for their home games, but here comes another example of radio being passed up and overlooked. The Seattle Mariners have expanded their "at game" Nintendo DS services as of Tuesday's home opener.

This dedicated wireless network sends audio play-by-play, some game video, scores, and now chat to those at the stadium with dual-screen Nintendo DS devices as a free service at Mariners home games. The Mariners are even allowing free rentals for the first half of the season after having charged $10 during the past two seasons. (Makes more sense - it's not a "free" service if you pay $10 and you are already at the game!)

This feature is now available for food ordering. To top it all off, Nintendo has added a partnership with ESPN to provide sports headlines and columns, according to TechFlash.com. Looks like ESPN wants in as a ground floor opportunity since it would normally not partner with just one team.

The TechFlash.com story indicates that this application will only be available via certain Nintendo DS models and not via mobile phones.

But the use of the Nintendo DS at Mariners games is another sign of the times. Older baseball fans will tell you to a (person) about the days of bringing a radio to a baseball game. Or if you didn't, someone nearby had one playing.

It was the days of going to Dodger Stadium and feeling like the game didn't actually start until Vin Scully said it did. Or listening to Dodgers games when Scully would give a score such as the Giants losing and you could hear the cheers as the crowd heard him. Or Ernie Harwell echoing around Tigers Stadium or Harry Caray in St. Louis and then Comiskey Park in Chicago when he did White Sox radio in the 70's.

But these days, you can go to just about any baseball stadium and not even realize the game is on the radio. Or you have a radio broadcast on a few seconds delay so that if you are at the game you don't hear the play until after you have already seen it.

All the "extra" game information, except for live video and ordering food, used to be available by listening to the radio broadcast. I agree that ESPN is involved in this because they see this technology spreading to other stadiums and probably other sports to increase the information flow and to add to the fans' experiences. While the radio stations carrying the game wonder what is happening to the size of the audience.

Meanwhile, I had 3 thoughts race through me when I heard the sad news that the baseball and the broadcasting world lost Harry Kalas on Monday.

First, I thought about how even more happy I was that the Phillies let Harry call the 9th inning and World Series clincher for the Phillies last October. Now it is as though he quite literally lived for that opportunity.

Next was the philosophy shared by some that when a person passes away, let it be while doing what they loved most to do. That makes it fitting that Harry was literally in the Phillies' broadcast booth at the time. (The only exception being the added shock and sadness for the Phillies crew that had to go on the air moments later and then call the day's game.)

And then my thoughts flashed back to 1975 when I first met Mr. Kalas. From knowing then broadcast partner Andy Musser (through his doing NBA Chicago Bulls road games at that time), I would act as a statistician for Musser when the Phillies came to Wrigley Field in 1975 and 1976.

At that time, Musser did most of the game on radio, with Kalas coming over from the TV booth for the middle innings. I remember Harry being extremely polite and appreciating my trying to add some more information. And I remember getting to watch a professional in action first hand. In fact, I'll never forget it.

Moving along, the MLB Network has been nothing short of amazing, and this is after one week on the job. The live studio show running during the games on weeknights is already must-see TV for the serious baseball fan not watching his or her favorite team. One example was Monday night (4/13) when they were doing a "live look-in" from Minnesota with the tying run on base.

Suddenly they cut away, which seemed odd. But what they did was cut over to the Cincinnati at Milwaukee game live because the Brewers had the bases loaded in a one-run game at the time. That was "more important". After the Brewers failed to score, they then showed the tape of the outcome of the Twins at-bat from "moments ago" to complete these 2 key moments for the fans. Awesome!

This comes on the heels of MLB Network adding more live telecasts. Thursday night games aren't enough. They are picking up feeds on Saturday nights, as originally planned. But now these will be in addition to their Thursday telecasts!

They have announced the schedule of Saturday games for the coming month:

April 18 — San Diego at Phil­adelphia, 7 p.m. ET

April 25 — Philadelphia at Florida, 7 p.m. ET

May 2 — Oakland at Seattle, 9 p.m. ET

May 9 — St. Louis at Cincinnati, 7 p.m. ET

May 16 — Colorado at Pittsburgh, 7 p.m. ET

Former pitcher David Wells has just been added to the TBS Sports broadcast booth. Wells' outgoing personality figures to be a good addition, and will be a part of some of TBS' Sunday afternoon package.

Wells has always enjoyed the media. I recall the time in mid-May 1998 that Wells very willingly went on Howard Stern's radio show and talked about a wide variety of subjects in addition to baseball. On his very next start, May 17, 1998, he pitched a perfect game against Minnesota.

Then he did one exclusive radio interview the next morning. He went back on with Stern and listened while Howard kiddingly took credit for getting Wells in the right frame of mind for the perfect game.

TBS shows the new Yankee Stadium this Sunday (4/19) with the Yankees hosting Cleveland.

NEW YORK - WEPN 1050 has revised its evening lineup, staying local while going up against Yankees and Mets play-by-play on other stations. Seth Everett now handles 7 to 10 PM during the week along with a Saturday afternoon shift when there is no ESPN play-by-play, and Bill Daughtry will be heard from 10 to Midnight.

CHICAGO - WRTO 1200 AM will carry 20 Cubs broadcasts in Spanish in a new deal just announced that will begin next Tuesday vs. Cincinnati. This is the first time in 14 seasons that there will a Spanish broadcast for select Cubs games. The station already carries select White Sox home games, with White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen's son handling color on some of those broadcasts. Talk about having an insight!

Those of you that remember the sports encyclopedia known as Les Grobstein from his days on WLS and in the late 90's on WSCR can hear him again, however brief. Les now hosts "Weekend Sports Report" on Saturday mornings on suburban Chicago WKRS radio. The station streams at WKRS.com, and you can hear Les each Saturday morning from 7 to 8 AM Central time.

HOUSTON - Even though Milo Hamilton will handle 6 innings of Astros home radio broadcasts this season (compared with 7 innings last season), Milo was honored last week with the naming of "Milo Hamilton Way" outside of the stadium in Houston. This is Milo's 25th season calling the Astros on radio. As long as that is, that is still less than half of Hamilton's outstanding MLB broadcasting career.

MIAMI - Still no official word on a replacement for Sid Rosenberg on 790 The Ticket. Jorge Sedano is still believed to be in the running, likely pending current negotiations between Sedano and the station.

KANSAS CITY - KCSP 610 has tweaked its local lineup in conjunction with the start of the Royals' season. "Chris and Cowboy" with Chris Hamblin and Cory Anderson moves from late morning into the 2 - 6 PM afternoon drive slot. Nick Wright moves from nights into the 9 to 11 AM slot, and will follow Roger Twibell and Josh Klinger's morning show. Neal Jones (former afternoon host) is no longer with the station.

BATON ROUGE - It seems that spring college football games are becoming quite the rage. This coming Saturday's (4/18) LSU spring game has been moved to a 5:00 PM local time start and will be broadcast on the LSU Sports Radio Network with Jim Hawthorne and Doug Moreau. This includes powerhouse WWL New Orleans. In addition, the broadcast will be available nationally on XM Satellite. No announcement (yet) about pre and post-game coaches shows for both squads, but it wouldn't shock me at this rate.

PROVIDENCE: WPRV 790 will continue to carry N.Y. Yankees broadcasts after its second annual format change. Thus, area Red Sox fans can continue to monitor the rival Yankees. The station has been "The Score" until last spring's switch away to an oldies format. For this spring and however long, the station changes to business and personal finance programming. Then again, with the price of baseball tickets these days, this is probably a more fitting format.

SPRINGFIELD MA: This market is far enough away from Providence for this to be counter programming, so we'll put it out there as a coincidence. 1450 AM has just changed call letters to WHLL "The Hall" and changed from (you guessed it) oldies to sports radio. The majority will be ESPN Radio including Mike & Mike in the morning, and "The Hall" will also carry Yankees baseball.

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