Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Broadcast Booth - May 26th update

ESPN had a situation just made for the fine print department, if there was such a thing. This past Saturday (May 22) night, ESPN was showing a NCAA softball tournament game as scheduled. However, the game between Auburn and Georgia Tech was running into ESPN's pre-game show for the Boston vs. Orlando NBA Playoff Game.

My feeling is that an NBA Playoff Game is an obvious priority over NCAA Softball, given that ESPN shows a lot of NCAA events primarily for the purpose of maintaining their football and basketball relationships.

Yet, I'll admit I have mixed feelings about the way ESPN handled this instance. At about 7:59 PM ET, there was only one out go to in the game for Georgia Tech to win it. At the same time, the game telecast was cutting in to the NBA pre-game show's time. Softball play-by-play announcer Beth Mowins suddenly sent it back to the studio, even with one more out needed to finish the game. Somehow, the studio hosts stayed on until about 8:02, mentioning that indeed GA Tech had won the game.

That is the part which makes no sense, and that is cause for concern. The game site announcer sent the telecast back to the studio, so this obviously was not a technical mishap. It remained a NCAA Softball telecast, rather than going directly to the NBA pre-game show.

My concern is the need to clarify whether or not ESPN is truly a sports "news" organization or primarily a contractor for programming. Even though I could understand leaving a NCAA event for a more important telecast, I still realize the Network had the responsibility to televise the entire live event. The one more out needed in the softball game was not guaranteed to happen within two minutes. It's not like football, basketball, or hockey where you know the clock will expire if there is no chance of overtime. Thus, an arrangement should have been in place to move any remaining part of the live softball telecast to ESPN Classic or ESPN News for those viewers. Or, at the very least, ESPN should have stuck with the softball game to capture the final out.

That I didn't care about the softball game is not important to this thought. After all, when a MLB telecast runs into SportsCenter time, ESPN constantly flashes across the bottom that "Sportscenter is next" (or words to that effect) as if the world would come to an end if they don't tell you that and they are sincerely sorry that the baseball game is taking away their precious time.

Why did it happen this way? I'm guessing it has to do with contracts, and not the viewers. My hunch is that ESPN chose not to show any other live sports event as of the top of the hour, which was NBA time. Showing the studio hosts fit that category, so they were able to report the final score and not let any softball game fans out to dry about the game's outcome.

However, ESPN is aware that Comcast now owns a chunk of NBC-TV, and might become a player for the next NBA television negotiations. They want to do good by the NBA, and saw the situation on Saturday in that light.

Again, on one hand, I understand their position from a viewership point of view. But as a sports fan, I find it frustrating that they would cut away from any live game just prior to conclusion in that manner.

Speaking of odd situations for networks, there was the battle for ice position (also on Saturday) between NBC and CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Co.) - instead of between the Flyers and Canadiens.

It seems that Quebec's RDS (sports network) allowed NBC to take over its spot between the benches for its Game 4 telecast as a result of a private deal made between the two entities. However, the NHL's television contracts only allow for priorities to be established in each NHL arena for networks televising the various games.

For Saturday, RDS originally had priority (the position between the team benches), with CBC 2nd and NBC 3rd. CBC stepped in and objected to the "deal" to help NBC, causing NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman to have to rule on which network would have the coveted spot. Bettman upheld the original decision, and RDS kept its originally scheduled priority.

Thus, Glenn Healy of CBC went on camera from the zamboni entrance, while NBC's Pierre McGuire had to cross the ice during breaks to conduct his in-game interviews. This happened after CBC objected to Bettman allowing NBC to move the game to the afternoon for NBC, taking away ratings points and revenue from CBC which would have benefitted far more with a night game.

And to think, there was only the one playoff game in both the NBA and NHL on Saturday.......

The "big-timing" of high school sports, as I call it, continues to grow slowly but surely. ESPN has announced it will televise "several" high school football games during the final weekend in August. Local coverage of high school games is one thing, but taking more and more of them regional and national is another. Friends may no longer think I'm joking when I speculate that "pretty soon kids will start going from 7th grade right into high school, foregoing the 8th grade to play football/basketball".

NEW YORK: In the NYC area, it is not only sports on TV seeing a ratings surge of late. Radio listeners got caught up in the start of the baseball season just the same. The latest ratings show that WCBS 880 moved up to 4th place overall from March to April, coinciding with the start of the Yankees regular season broadcasts. Listeners also stayed around for the news, as WINS 1010 dropped out of its perennial position in the top 10.

It wasn't just the Yankees making a NYC ratings dent. WFAN showed an overall audience increase of nearly 50% from March to April, also finishing first in 25-54 males during the first month of the Mets regular season. The Fan now averages about four times the audience share of WEPN 1050.

On the TV side, MSG Network will be producing new versions of some of their feature and interview shows for this summer, along with adding some classic Knicks games, including the 1970 Willis Reed championship run. In addition, MSG will break away from sports content with some Friday night concert videos in the works.

INDIANAPOLIS: John JMV Michael is back for "The Ride" on The Fan WFNI 1070. His new show, called "The Ride" airs from 3 to 7 PM, and now competes against Mark Patrick's show on rival WNDE 1260. Michael worked with Patrick on WNDE prior to Patrick going to XM's MLB Channel in 2005, and in 2008 and some of 2009 Michael had a bigger audience than The Fan's "Kravitz and Eddie Show".

Kravitz, a local columnist, had left the show in March, while Eddie White remains with The Fan but now in a part-time capacity. The ratings for the first quarter of 2010 show The Fan with roughly a 40% larger audience than WNDE.

HOUSTON: Having 4 sports radio stations is tough enough, especially with the Astros off to a lackluster start, while the Rockets and Texans hang in with slow off seasons. Without much doing locally, the latest ratings show that ESPN's Mike & Mike on KFNC 97.5 now leads the other 3 sports stations in audience share during morning drive. (It should be noted that KILT leads mornings in weekly cume.) KFNC also leads middays, while KILT leads KMBE during afternoons.

On the TV side, Sports Business Journal reports that Comcast is looking to launch a local or regional network in partnership with the Astros and Rockets which could begin for the 2012-13 NBA season and the 2013 baseball season. The teams could opt out of their current deal with Fox Sports Houston.

This seems a realistic possibility, given Comcast's success at doing this in New York, Chicago, and San Francisco to date. In NYC, the Mets reportedly own an 80% interest in SNY, while in Chicago the Blackhawks, Bulls, White Sox, and Cubs share a 70% interest.

One difference is that losing the Rockets and Astros might not spell the end for Fox Sports Houston, even though it did for the former Fox Sports Chicago. FS Houston's strong lineup of Big 12 Conference football and basketball, along with established high school coverage (far more significant in Texas than Chicago, New York, and other large cities) could keep demand high enough to stay around.

BOSTON: Another former Red Sox player joins the NESN broadcast crew, as Kevin Millar will be a studio analyst for some of the upcoming games this season. Millar will start this Thursday (May 27) on the pre-game show leading into the Red Sox vs. Royals telecast.

SAN DIEGO: Even though the Padres are off to a suprisingly good start and are getting decent TV ratings this season, the city of "sports transplants" are not always focused on the local team. Thus far, at least 2 of the NBA Conference Semi-finals national telecasts have generated higher ratings (for TNT and ABC/ESPN) than local Padres telecasts during roughly the same time periods. Considering that the Padres TV ratings increased by around 30% during May from what they were in April, you can interpret this in a number of different ways.

My take is that the local Padres fans are coming back to follow their team, but the large number of sports "transplants" in the San Diego market are following the national NBA playoff telecasts in big numbers, like much of the country is.

SHREVEPORT: Local radio continues without any sports talk in afternoon drive, but John James Marshall will bring sports talk to his "Unscripted" show to air on KSHV-TV starting July 26th at 9:00 PM. The show is expected to be a TV version of his years of hosting local radio sports talk.

Wishing everyone a happy and safe Memorial Day weekend, and MLB Network adds to our baseball enjoyment:

MLB Network telecasts:
Thursday, May 27
2:00: L.A. Dodgers at Chicago Cubs
7:00: Philadelphia at N.Y. Mets

Friday, May 28
2:00: St. Louis at Chicago Cubs

Saturday, May 29
8:00: L.A. Dodgers at Colorado

Monday, May 31
4:00: Colorado at San Francisco
9:00: Arizona at L.A. Dodgers

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Broadcast Booth - May 20th update.....

This may have been a first for a TV sportscast. The same anchor getting a player's name both right and then wrong during the same report. Mike Adamle, now with Chicago's WMAQ-TV (NBC) pulled that one off this past Sunday (May 16th).

The NBC station had just carried the NHL telecast of Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals with the Chicago Blackhawks (the local team) defeating the San Jose Sharks. Out of the telecast, the station went into their local news, and led with the Blackhawks story, even though it was only Game 1. Adamle began his report with the highlights and correctly identified "Duncan Keith" of the Blackhawks. Yet, in a subsequent highlight of the same report, he then said "Keith Duncan" and made no correction.

No correction even with then going to a live report from San Jose (where the game was played) and then another live cut-in to a sports bar filled with happy Blackhawks fans. (As if this was truly a lead story for the news? But that's another story.)

Keep in mind, this is the local team and this station had just shown the game. I had not planned to keep watching, but knew I had to stay tuned to see the regular sports segment later in the newscast.

To my amazement, the sports segment came on, and once again Adamle referred to "Keith Duncan" on the highlights during that segment. Granted, mistakes happen to even the best. But then to not only fail to correct it, but repeat it, is beyond belief. This was not the news anchor trying to do sports. This was a local sportscaster talking about the local team - and the station had just shown the game. Yet, no one seems to have pointed out this error. No editors, producers, or on-air colleagues. They let it go without another mention.

Of course, the idea of making the game the lead story was designed to attract more viewers to a station's newscasts which have been stuggling over the past couple of years. Good luck keeping any Blackhawks fans who saw the station's most experienced sportcaster flub the name of a prominent player moments after the game ended. Maybe the WMAQ personnel were all monitoring the competition's news trying to figure out why they lack viewers. Oh my.

The NHL Playoffs are a hit with viewers who suddenly are finding Versus and willing to deal with NBC's staggered start times to watch. The first 2 rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Versus have set cable TV records for viewership (of the Playoffs). To the point where Versus ranked among the Top 10 cable networks in prime time among adults 18-49. Across the border, TSN in Canada set a record as the Philadelphia vs. Boston Game 7 telecast was the highest audience for an NHL Game shown in Canada not involving any of the Canada teams.

In Chicago, that Game 1 telecast against San Jose this past Sunday did so well locally that it beat out the White Sox and Cubs telecasts, as well as the Boston vs. Orlando NBA telecast - combined.

Televised sports seem especially hot in the Chicago area, as Comcast SportsNet reports record ratings since April 1st. The CSN was the highest rated cable TV network for the Chicago market (of any network - not just sports) in the 25-54 adult demographic. The playoff run by the Blackhawks is one factor, along with the now concluded playoff games involving the Bulls, and White Sox and Cubs baseball telecasts while the teams still have a chance added to it.

ST. LOUIS: New ownership for KFNS 590 is likely to have a direct impact on the ratings. Tim KcKernan has reportedly excercised a contract clause allowing him to terminate his deal with KSLG 1380 and return to KFNS as of June 14th, after a 3-year "abscence". He is likely to take Jim Hayes and Doug Vaughn with him. It will be interesting to see if KSLG keeps the 3 hosts on the air until June 11th or lets them go early and jump starts their replacement show.

Since McKernan's morning show had been starting at 7 AM, there is no word yet whether or not they will now start at 6 AM when they complete the move. To make room, 590 would move Martin Kilcoyne to the 10 AM to 1 PM slot and team him with Frank Cusumano.

KFNS shows a slightly higher audience than KSLG in the recently released ratings for the first quarter of 2010, although WXOS 101.1 leads the market's sports station with nearly three times the audience size during the morning, midday, and afternoon dayparts. Incredibly, the station has done this in less than a year and one-half on the air with this format.

Also, the July 2nd Cardinals vs. Brewers telecast on Fox Sports Network will also air on American Forces Network, complete with a special feed to and from Missouri National Guard troops in Afghanistan with a plan to interview some of the troops during the telecast.

SAN DIEGO: San Diego News Network reports that some employees of 98.9 FM ESPN have not received paychecks since March 15th, citing a "person with knowledge of the situation". The station already has no local originated programming, airing ESPN programming except for Angels baseball broadcasts it picks up. The sister station at 800 AM, which carried ESPN until last fall, continues as the ESPN Deportes station.

MILWAUKEE: Any Monday Night Football telecasts involving the Packers will continue to be shown on Channel 12 in Milwaukee, as that station extended its rights to do so with a multi-year deal. The station has carried Sunday and Monday ESPN telecasts under this arrangement going back to 1992.

DENVER: With Jerry Schemmel having moved over to call Rockies games this season, Colorado State has moved Brian Roth to the play-by-play role for its football and basketball broadcasts. Kevin McGlue will stick on the broadcasts (couldn't resist), moving from sideline reporter to color commentator starting with the coming football season. Roth will also host the coaches radio shows. KLZ 560 continues as the flagship station.

TORONTO: The Fan 590 is holding its contest for aspiring sports reporters, at least for those between the ages of 6 and 14. Nine winners will be able to interview a Blue Jays player before the team's June 19 home game.

AUBURN: WKKR The Kicker 97.7 has a new 3-year agreement to continue airing Auburn football and basketball broadcasts, as well as baseball and the Thursday night "Tiger Talk" call-in shows. Sister station Mix 96 will air women's basketball when there is a conflict with men's broadcasts on WKKR.

RALEIGH: The Fan 99.9 FM will begin airing Carolina Panthers games for the upcoming season, as well as the Monday Coach's Show with John Fox and broadcasts from training camp in July.

ESPN has announced its Sunday Night Baseball matchups for the month of June:

June 6 – Milwaukee at St Louis
June 13 – Chicago White Sox at Chicago Cubs
June 20 – Los Angeles Dodgers at Boston
June 27 – New York Yankees at Dodgers

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Broadcast Booth - May 13th update......

Sun Sports Florida pitched a perfect game of its own with its coverage of Dallas Braden's perfect game on Sunday (May 9) for Oakland against the Rays. Dewayne Staats and Kevin Kennedy added the extraordinary excitement in their deliveries even though "their" team was the victim of this ultimate performance. (There are some announcers who would voice the disappointment to favor the team they describe.)

It didn't stop there. The production crew did an incredible job. The Rays telecast stayed on the field and showed Braden celebrate with his grandmother (who took over after Dallas' mother passed away). This was, after all, on Mother's Day.

Then, prior to signing off from Oakland, Sun Sports replayed all 27 outs. A classy move. Plus, when you factor in that the Tampa area has a lot of transplants from around the country who are baseball fans rather than Rays fans, you have a great service to the audience.

On a side note, the Rays have a dubious distinction that is likely to remain theirs for many many years. I don't know that the same franchise will ever again have a perfect game thrown at them 2 seasons in a row, let alone having one batter (Gabe Kapler) being part of both ninth innings. Mark Buehrle's perfecto was also against the Rays last July.

The Rays excellent start this season has already reflected in their TV ratings, which have almost doubled compared to the first month of last season.

Congratulations to Joe Tait on the 2010 Curt Gowdy Media Award from the Basketball Hall of Fame that he will receive on August 12th in Springfield MA. Except for a season in Chicago in the 80's when Cavaliers ownership was a mess, Joe has been the constant through the mostly bad times over the past 40 years. Also named for the Media Award is Jackie MacMullan, based on her nearly 30 years with the Boston Globe and books with the likes of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. Both are very deserving!

I'm not generally looking for things to complain about on telecasts, but I can't be alone on this one. Some of the regional and national baseball telecasts have started showing the batter's line for the game in scorecard form. That is showing the innings and then "F7" or "BB". I understand they are looking to appeal to the hardcore baseball fan who will understand it.

However, I have 2 problems with doing this. For one, this is only a row on the screen and not every screen people are watching on is big enough, nor are viewers always close enough to READ the letters and numbers. For another, it forces people to calculate. Not that we can or can't do it, but the information on the screen is supposed to help us enjoy the telecast, and not distract us from it while we add numbers.

Please - just tell us the guy is 1 for 4 with a double in the 5th inning and keep it simple and easy for us.

Fans continue to watch televised pro sports in a big way. With the baseball season now into its 2nd full month, Neilsen Co. says that the St. Louis Cardinals were the most watched team in terms of local telecasts for the month of April with an increase over 30% compared with last year. Fox Sports Midwest also shows a 75% increase in the pre-game show audience and strong gains for its post-game programming. The Minnesota Twins were second, undoubtedly helped by the team's great start and new stadium.

The NHL ratings for the quarterfinal playoffs on both Versus and NBC showed significant increases in a few TV markets you wouldn't expect. Knoxville area combined ratings reportedly rose 200%, while Louisville, San Antonio, Dayton, Birmingham, and Albuquerque were among those markets which doubled their respective audiences. Of those, only Dayton is located within a 2-hour drive of an NHL franchise, and the Columbus Blue Jackets were not even in the playoffs. This is huge for the NHL, which will be able to renegotiate its network TV deals next year, if not sooner.

The existing NHL markets showing the biggest ratings increases for Versus and NBC telecasts were Chicago, Detroit, and Phoenix. Even this should not be overlooked, given that local telecasts took over for Versus during the quarterfinal round. For the final 2 rounds, local telecasts are over, and Versus and NBC televise exclusively into the home team markets.

On the college side, word is that the ACC is already in the process of wrapping up negotiations for its TV contracts, which are set to expire next spring at the end of the basketball regular season. Their contracts could again involve Fox Sports and Raycom Sports in addition to the ESPN/ABC family.

WASHINGTON D.C.: The Nationals having a winning month of April is being noticed after all. Ratings on MASN have been on the rise, including solid numbers for their recent series vs. the Mets, which resulted in a 43% increase over the same time period last season. While the NHL Capitals understandably have better ratings (the Caps finished the regular season with the East's best record), the NBA Wizards somehow had better ratings than the Nationals. At least the Nats games are on the upswing, for now.

SAN JOSE: Here is one of those "You could make a case either way" reports. has been providing additional coverage online of the Sharks during their playoff run, in addition to televising the first 2 round's games not on NBC.

The network reports a 200% increase in page views on its Sharks pages into the second round of playoffs.

One side says this is a huge positive for the network as it keeps the audience interested and bolsters its coverage. But there is the other point of view, and it's the one I support.

Since CSN's purpose is a TV network to drive revenue, and since there is this much interest in the Sharks, why don't they increase their Sharks programming on the network? Fans shouldn't have to go online to get "extra" coverage since there is this much demand.

If the online coverage was to replay Sharks programming which already aired, that would be fine. But it is extra coverage.

Sorry, but I find it odd that more of the TV and radio channels dedicated to local sports are taking the "additional coverage on our web site" approach. Without viewers or listeners, the TV or radio network or station doesn't survive. If it doesn't survive, an "additional revenue" opportunity doesn't get off the ground.

This is the same as how radio music stations that "sell" downloads of the songs they just played via their web sites are giving their listeners more and more reasons they don't have to listen to the station. If they can download only the songs they want (even if for a few bucks), then they have no reason to listen to the station for songs they don't want and endless clusters of commercials. So if sports stations and networks are going to send us to our computers for their coverage, they give us fewer reasons to watch or listen.

MINNEAPOLIS: The Star-Tribune reports that the NHL Wild will soon announce a contract extention with Fox Sports North. But there's one phase of this story that hasn't been announced yet. Rumor has it that by the 2011-12 season Fox will carry every game it can, phasing out the over-the-air telcasts on KSTC-TV.

The team's broadcasters are still not confirmed for the coming season, although changes are not expected. Dan Terhaar and Mike Greenlay are expected to continue in the TV booth with Bob Kurtz and Tom Reid on radio.

PHOENIX: Kevin Graham joins KTAR 620 as Program Director starting next week. He comes by way of The Zone in Salt Lake City where he co-hosted afternoons.

RALEIGH: The "Triangle Sports" stations of 99.9 The Fan, WCMC ESPN Radio, and 620 The Buzz have set a combined ratings record for the first quarter of 2010. This is bolsterd by 99.9 FM The Fan showing a 16% overall audience increase for the same period.

Glad to see how well the broadcast media handled the situation a few days back in Philadelphia when that fan ran onto the field and was tasered. Fox Sports Midwest's Dan McLaughlin described what was happening but the TV crew knew not to show it, even though it was a newsworthy story.

On the radio side, John Rooney and Mike Shannon were both laughing on the air and having fun with the incident, yet brought across the serious nature of the event. The idea of not showing fans who do this sort of thing is a positive one even though most people want to see it.

Former Heisman Trophy winner and Notre Dame standout Tim Brown now hosts "The Legends of Sport With Tim Brown" each Saturday on Sports Byline USA Radio. The first show featured a Dallas Cowboys theme with Everson Wallas and former Player Personnel Direcdtor Gil Brandt as the guests. The show will usually air on Saturdays at 11 AM ET and again at 10 PM.

The hunger of many baseball fans for minor league games continues to be responded to. MLB Network has begun its Monday telecasts of select minor league games.

Now comes word that the Bradenton (FL) Marauders class A home games, along with selected road games, are being streamed at Great to see the Pirates affiliate doing this. There are some fans at the major league level who would enjoy being able to listen in to hear about the prospects for their favorite team(s).

Better yet, at least so far, no stupid blackouts of these minor league streams.

On the schedule side, ESPN has announced some of its Pac 10 football telecast schedule for the coming season:

Thu, Sep 2 11 p.m. No. 15 USC at Hawaii * ESPN
Fri, Sep 3 8 p.m. Arizona at Toledo * ESPN
Sat, Sep 4 3:30 p.m. UCLA at Kansas State ABC
7:45 p.m. Cowboys Classic: Oregon State vs. No. 6 TCU * ESPN
Sat, Sep 11 7 p.m. No. 10 Oregon at Tennessee ESPN2
10:30 p.m. No. 24 Stanford at UCLA ESPN
Fri, Sep 17 10 p.m. California at Nevada * ESPN2
Sat, Sep 18 3:30 p.m. No. 7 Nebraska at Washington ABC
Arizona State at No. 9 Wisconsin ABC and ESPN2
3:30 p.m. No. 15 USC at Minnesota ESPN
10:30 p.m. No. 11 Iowa at Arizona ESPN
11:15 p.m. Wake Forest at No. 24 Stanford ESPN2
Sat, Sep 25 TBD Oregon State at No. 2 Boise State * ABC, ESPN or ESPN2
TBD UCLA at No. 4 Texas * ABC
Sat, Oct 2 8 p.m. Washington at No. 15 USC ABC, ESPN or ESPN2
11:15 p.m. No. 24 Stanford at No. 10 Oregon ESPN
Sat, Oct 9 8 p.m. No. 15 USC at No. 24 Stanford ABC
Thu, Oct 21 9 p.m. UCLA at No. 10 Oregon * ESPN
Sat, Oct 30 8 p.m. No. 10 Oregon at No. 15 USC ABC
Sat, Nov 13 8 p.m. No. 15 USC at Arizona ABC
Thu, Nov 18 8 p.m. UCLA at Washington * ESPN
Sat, Nov 20 8 p.m. No. 15 USC at Oregon State ABC, ESPN or ESPN2
Fri, Nov 26 7 p.m. Arizona at No. 10 Oregon ESPN
Sat, Nov 27 8 p.m. Notre Dame at No. 15 USC ABC, ESPN or ESPN2
Thu, Dec 2 8 p.m. Arizona State at Arizona * ESPN

ESPN has also announced its TV games for this fall's ACC/Big Ten (basketball) Challenge. (Although given the ACC's total dominance, "Challenge" is an overstatement!)

Mon, Nov 29 Virginia at Minnesota
Tue, Nov 30 No. 11 North Carolina at No. 15 Illinois
No. 6 Ohio State at Florida State
Michigan at Clemson
Georgia Tech at Northwestern
Iowa at Wake Forest
Wed, Dec 1 No. 3 Michigan State at No. 1 Duke
No. 2 Purdue at No. 22 Virginia Tech
North Carolina State at Wisconsin
Indiana at Boston College
Maryland at Penn State

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Broadcast Booth - May 5th update......

Ernie Harwell's timing was perfect even in his passing on Tuesday night (May 4). It was just like him to pass on during a night with a full slate of baseball games around the country. I'm sure that those of you who heard the sad news during a baseball broadcast like I did will understand. It seemed so fitting.

I recalled growing up in Chicago and being able to pick up most of the Tigers broadcasts on the radio and listening to Ernie's unique style. I even remember hearing him describe the pennant clincher in 1968, the last year before divisions in baseball. The Tigers clinched first place during the final days of the regular season, and that meant they went right to the World Series. That would never happen again in that manner, although Ernie Harwell continued "happening" for 40 more seasons, thank you.

During the mid-70's when I started covering MLB games, I remember covering a Tigers game in Chicago. I saw Ernie on the field before the game, and got up the nerve to say hello to him. I introduced myself, and got to tell him how much I enjoyed his work. he said "thank you", or something very brief, and I let him go since I was also a member of the media. After hearing the news of his passing, I remain glad that I was fortunate enough to have the chance to thank him in person.

It will be sad the next time I see a batter "who stood there like a house by the side of the road", and not because the batter took a called third strike. Or a foul ball that isn't "caught by a man from Saginaw".

Even in this age where almost every baseball game is televised and statistical information is updated every few seconds around the world, we still need more like Ernie Harwell. It was the people like him that helped to develop and maintain our interest in the greatest game in the world. Without him, it won't be quite as great.

At least he spent many of his years describing the game he loved during a simpler time. He got to enjoy players being with one team for year after year, some scrambling to make the team the next season, teams having to finish in first place in order to get to the World Series, pitchers finishing games they started, and stadiums that were about baseball and not luxury suites.

And there was WJR beaming out of Detroit and across much of the eastern part of the country at night. Back when radio ruled the roost for baseball fans and most cities had the dominating station and signal doing the games every night.

There was Paul Carey, Jim Woods, George Kell, and a host of broadcast partners over the years.

The "shot heard around the world", the Bobby Thompson homerun that put the then N.Y. Giants into the World Series in 1951 happened before I was born. Yet, hearing Ernie Harwell's memory of that moment over the years has that etched into my baseball memory as if I was watching that game. Ernie loved to tell the story about how every baseball fan knows "the Giants win the pennant!!" call from the late Russ Hodges used to celebrate that moment. And how Ernie was doing the TV call of that moment, but "nobody remembers that I was even there". He chuckled every time he told that story.

Baseball fans should be glad that Ernie had his night to be honored in Detroit last season when word of his failing health first got out. And we are glad to have had Ernie Harwell be a part of our baseball experience.


A unique honor for another long time play-by-play voice. The L.A. Times let fans vote for their "Top 10 L.A. Kings of all-time". Even with fewer than half of ballots doing a "write-in" vote, the voice of the Kings, Bob Miller, finished at #7. A wonderful gesture for the Hockey Hall of Fame inductee who has called Kings games for 37 seasons. Not all of them pleasant, to put it mildly. The L.A. Kings have had to share the building and the media coverage with the Lakers, and that is a major challenge right there. I'm glad the Times went ahead and kept Miller on their list. Even though he never played, Miller is definitely a big "player" in the success of the franchise.

SEATTLE: KRKO 1380 gave The Fish the hook after last Friday (April 30). Jeff "The Fish" Aaron's afternoon show was stopped after nearly 8 years since he came over from KJR. As it goes in radio these days, management said it was not a ratings move or anything about the show itself. It was "the economy", and management was quoted as saying they hope to bring the show back at some point. For however long, national sports shows will air during that and other time slots.

MEMPHIS: It looks like the end is near for KQPN Fox Sports 730, as the station was just sold to a group which is expected to change to religious programming as soon as possible.

The Memphis market is a challenge for additional sports talk when you realize there is only 1 pro team in the market, and the Grizzlies season just ended. Fox Sports may face a challenge to get back into that city.

BUFFALO: Even though the baseball AAA Bisons games air on 1520 WWKB, the larger WGR Sports 550 will also broadcast the team's Friday night games for the remainder of this season. The first one will be this Friday (May 7) when the Bisons play at Indianapolis. The team also streams every game on

YOUNGSTOWN: Youngstown State football on WKBN 570 will have Ed Muransky as its new analyst starting for the coming season. The Youngstown native won a Super Bowl ring with the 1984 Oakland Raiders and was a college standout at the University of Michigan. Bob Hannon continues as play-by-play voice.