Bullets trade big schedule for powerful signals of WBAL, WTOP


September 28, 1990|By RAY FRAGER

Given a choice between all of the games to some of the people or some of the games to more of the people, which would you choose? If you're the Washington Bullets, you pick the latter.

The Bullets' radio contracts expired last season, and the club traded up in Washington and Baltimore. Gone are WWDC of the District and WWIN here. Powerful WTOP (1500 AM) of Washington is the team's new flagship station. And, in Baltimore, the Bullets will be heard on WBAL (1090 AM).

Some of the time, that is.

WBAL will air a game of the week this season, including the four from the Baltimore Arena. Because of its commitment to the Baltimore Orioles and University of Maryland basketball, WBAL couldn't carry the full schedule, but that apparently was no obstacle to the Bullets.

"Immediately when our WWIN contract expired, we went to WBAL," said Susan O'Malley, Bullets executive vice president.

As for getting WBAL to pick up all of the team's broadcasts, "we never really talked about it," O'Malley said.

"They said they'd rather have half a loaf on WBAL than a full loaf anywhere else," WBAL station manager Jeff Beauchamp said.

Actually, it's more like one-third a loaf, but that loaf will be cooking at 50,000 watts, which is a lot warmer than WWIN's oven.


WBAL also picks up its National Football League schedule in October. The station will carry Sunday night and Monday night games, beginning Oct. 7. And baseball doesn't end when the Orioles season finishes; CBS Radio's League Championship Series and World Series broadcasts will be heard on WBAL.


As we sit and wait for the other microphone to drop in the wake of the Orioles' new radio contract with WBAL, it appears the key to the new television announcing lineup is Jim Palmer.

Brooks Robinson said he'd like to cut back to half of the games, and Jon Miller apparently will move from radio to television for about half of Channel 2's telecasts. Then Palmer could be the analyst when Miller does play-by-play and be play-by-play man with Robinson when Miller is not there.


Palmer said he has many options for next year -- more games on ESPN, possibly joining the New York Mets announcing team, maybe even working on a game show.

"I enjoyed doing the [Orioles] work this year," Palmer said. "Apparently, what I hear is they [Channel 2 and the Orioles] want me back.

"But, if you're going to do a baseball game, and you get paid twice as much to do the same thing. . . ."

That same thing would be working as an analyst on Channel 2 and ESPN.

"Local TV doesn't pay the same," he said. "It's not like I'm asking for more money. I know what the local market can bear."

And Palmer said he has been willing to take what the market could bear while picking up the new skill of play-by-play. But it appears he could do that only about half the time next season, so there are those options.

Still, he's not ruling out a return. "I'd certainly like to do it [Orioles games]," Palmer said.

Palmer won't be deciding any time soon, he said. So, Scott Garceau had better keep his voice healthy in the off-season, just in case.

Meanwhile, Chuck Thompson is having himself one busy retirement. In addition to doing 25 or so Orioles games as a radio fill-in this season, he likely will be the regular substitute in 1991, when Miller's Channel 2 and ESPN assignments could total at least 60 missed radio games. That would put Thompson on more games than he did in his last season as Channel 2 play-by-play announcer in 1987.

Thompson said he might feel a little more comfortable doing more games, though.

"The only thing that is a little unusual is working one or two games on a weekend," Thompson said. "Just when you get in a groove, you're off for another week."

(Speaking of fill-ins, Joe Angel's guest partner on radio tomorrow will be Channel 11 sports anchor Vince Bagli.)

Finally, the question remains how much money the Orioles got in the new radio contract. A $3 million-per-year figure reportedly was floated at one point, but it appears that float went flat by the time the contracts were signed, even with extra money kicked in by WTOP.


Go ahead, blame television for the two-day gap in the National League Championship Series. Baseball commissioner Fay Vincent probably won't argue with you.

"We have to make accommodations to business realities," Vincent told The Associated Press. "This is ultimately a business. Yes, it's more than a business. But the business aspects are very important."

And, with CBS having paid more than $1 billion for four seasons of baseball, that's a lot of reality. Not that it's all CBS' fault.

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