Ken Levine will join Miller and Thompson in Orioles' radio booth in 1991

December 21, 1990|By Larry Harris | Larry Harris,Evening Sun Staff

Radio station WBAL today named Ken Levine, an Emmy-winning television writer and producer, as its second man in the announcing booth for Orioles games next summer.

Station manager Jeff Beauchamp said Levine, currently living in Los Angeles, won out over 94 applicants for the opportunity to broadcast baseball with play-by-play announcers Jon Miller and Chuck Thompson.

Miller, who also has contracts to do Orioles TV games for Channel 2 and national games for ESPN, will split the 162-game VTC schedule with the veteran Thompson.

Levine replaces Joe Angel, who has moved on to the New York Yankees.

Levine, who will be 41 in February, has had immense success in the pressure-packed entertainment arena that is Hollywood. A 1971 graduate of UCLA, he and partner David Issacs have written scripts for "Cheers", "M*A*S*H*", "The Simpsons" and "The Jeffersons", among others.

A couple of years ago, however, Levine decided to pursue his first love, baseball, and began doing minor league games. In 1989 he did 146 games for the Syracuse Chiefs. Last year he was the Triple-A Tidewater Tides' man on the air. This will be his first major league post.

"Tell people in Baltimore I'm not really that ugly," said Levine today of a caricature drawn by artist Mike Ricigliano which appeared in The Evening Sun in a November story.

"Seriously, this is a dream come true. Certainly, Jon Miller is the premier baseball announcer in the country. What a thrill it was last year to get to hear him on ESPN broadcasts nationally. I was also able to pick him up in Norfolk when I was doing Tidewater games.

"And Chuck Thompson! Do you know I still have tape of him doing the Yankees-Pittsburgh World Series of 1960. Every once in a while I pop it in the player and still get goose bumps hearing him describe the [Bill] Mazeroski homer."

Asked if he would easily be able to make the switch from Hollywood cuisine to ballpark hot dogs, Levine replied, "Well, out there I always got to write the ending I wanted. Now I'll have to report what really happened. But the meal money in the majors is better. Besides, I never did get a good table at Spago's."

Levine said wife Debby and children Matthew, 8, and Diana, 4, would be joining him in Baltimore for the summer.

Beauchamp said the choice of Levine was handled by a two-man committee--himself and Miller. They broke the 94 applicants into a short list of eight, then held lengthy interviews. He said Levine's delivery, his basic knowledge of the game and his ability to tell a story elevated him over the other contestants.

"He is a wordsmith; he transcends nuts and bolts," said Beauchamp, "and there is an excellent chemistry between Ken and Jon Miller. It is, of course, very important that all parties get along. We have gone to California to meet with Ken, and he has come here to meet with Jon and Chuck. Everyone is geared for this."

Beauchamp said Levine would probably get his feet wet when WBAL broadcasts 15 Oriole exhibition games, although no firm announcing commitments have been set yet for those dates.

Levine's salary was not announced. Beauchamp said station policy prevented him from doing so.

The station manager said he was shocked this week to hear of the Detroit Tigers' dismissal -- at the end of the 1991 season -- of 72-year-old Ernie Harwell, a near-legend in baseball announcing circles.

Perhaps, someone suggested, Harwell, who called Oriole games for six seasons, might want to come back to Baltimore.

"I wouldn't rule that out in the future," said Beauchamp.

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