Dream game Tonight you can hear Yogi ground out to Cal Ripken

April 08, 1991|By Steve McKerrow | Steve McKerrow,Evening Sun Staff

IT'S THE TOP OF the seventh and, as color announcer Rex Barney notes, "Dave McNally is coming off just a magical year."

Now the veteran voice of the Orioles, Chuck Thompson, picks up the play-by-play as McNally winds and stretches and delivers . . . and Yogi Berra grounds out to shortstop Ripken. Next up is Rizzuto, but he fouls out to Brooks Robinson to end the Yanks' at-bat.

Whoa! Berra grounds out to Ripken? Cal Ripken? And is that Phil Rizzuto popping out to Brooks? What's going on?

Radio listeners who tune in WBAL-AM 1090 after the 9 o'clock news tonight will think they've been warped into a new major league zone of time and space.

The best players of all time for the longtime rival Yankees and Orioles -- each one having his best year -- are in action on the same field in "The Greatest Game Never Played," a three-inning "Field of Dreams" fantasy creation on "The Dan Rodricks Show."

Who wins? That's best left a surprise. But the fictional broadcast is a remarkably realistic production of a game. As Thompson notes at close, "It had everything."

Put together with WBAL producers Mike Wellbrock and Mike Gianninni, it's complete with well-edited crowd noises that were taped at the stadium during a September Orioles/Red Sox game.

A fanciful collection of improbable plays ranges from Lou Gehrig bunting as Mickey Mantle attempts a suicide squeeze, to scrappy Billy Martin playing peacemaker in an umpire rhubarb, intervening to keep Yankees manager Casey Stengel from getting the old heave ho.

Babe Ruth races in to try to catch a bloop single off the bat of Al Bumbry, and Barney notes of the legend, "He's not that quick any more." But the Bambino is quick enough to slam later into Andy Etchebarren at home plate (in a play that evokes the 1970 All-Star Game incident when Cincinnati's Pete Rose effectively ended the promising career of Cleveland catcher Ray Fosse).

Lefty Gomez, Gus Triandos, Earl Weaver, Bobby Grich, Joe DiMaggio, Don Buford, Frank Robinson and even umpire Nestor Shylock are among the players here.

"I don't think anybody's gonna drive off the Beltway in shock" by tuning in unexpectedly, says Rodricks. But he adds, "I'm sure we're going to get some phone calls" from confused listeners.

Airing tonight following today's Opening Day festivities at Memorial Stadium, the show was actually conceived as a mid-winter reminder of the glories of the national game, says Rodricks.

It was taped back in January, with Thompson and Barney reading a script based upon a full fantasy game charted by the talk show host and Evening Sun columnist. But the Persian Gulf war intervened, and the show was held until tonight's most appropriate timing.

Station announcers began promoting it on the air last week, in hopes of helping the majority of listeners realize they have not somehow fallen afoul of the late Rod Serling and fallen into "The Sandlot Zone."

Rodricks says, however, he originally wanted to drop the show on the air with no disclaimers or explanations. It would have been a kind of twist on Orson Welles' famous "War of the Worlds" broadcast of 1939, during which hundreds of New Jerseyans fled their homes in terror thinking Martians had actually landed in Trenton.

The idea was generated at a family picnic last summer, says Rodricks, who credits his brother, Eddie, with major contributions.

Careful listeners may note a couple of spots where the announcers inadvertently slip into the past tense, such as when Thompson notes, "Mantle really had great speed."

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