With Miller as traffic cop, three men in booth isn't crime

Phil Jackman

April 09, 1991|By Phil Jackman

Three announcers in the booth, long the scourge of fankind the world over, can work. As a matter of fact, it did yesterday.

Of course, all it took as Channel 2 opened the baseball season out on 33rd Street, was Jon Miller to direct traffic.

No sooner did Miller get done playing "The Penguin" to Chicago White Sox hitting star Sammy Sosa's "Batman" down on the field, he quickly switched from pre-game introductions to getting the most out of Brooks Robinson and Jim Palmer in the booth.

Not to worry what was happening over on Miller's old stomping grounds, WBAL Radio. Chuck Thompson and newcomer Ken Levine had a fine-fine day, as Chuck would say.

Actually, it was the best of two worlds, Miller and Thompson working simultaneously. It made listening rather difficult.

Robinson is a quipster, light and relaxed. Jon did a nice job bringing that out. Palmer's sense of humor is strained, at best, so Miller set him up as the foil, perhaps to remind the pitcher that a little humility never hurt anyone.

"Tell you something," Brooks blurted in his beloved straightforward style, "the plate umpire's calling a lot of strikes today."

"Isn't it great?" asked Miller. "Heck, fans don't want to sit out there and watch guys draw walks all afternoon." Right on!

The understated Thompson soothed, "Plate umpire Jeff Evans seems to have a rather large strike zone."

Vice president Dan Quayle, out stumping a year early, showed up on TV first, then radio. He listened to the banter for a while and picked up on it immediately: "This is just Opening Day, folks. Are you guys going to make it through the year?"

He was making reference to Palmer, who has had difficulty picking up the nuances of play-by-play calling, and who usually leaves Brooks little to talk about as he drives onward.

For instance, Jimbo corrected the veep when he made a slight error while calling the play and Miller reminded him of this flaw by cautioning all hands "to clear things with Palmer" before saying them.

Finally, Quayle was gone. "The minimalist approach to broadcasting used by the vice president was probably appreciated by our listening audience," Miller said.

The White Sox were piling up the runs by mid-game. The chatter became more lively, more uninhibited.

Brooks (seeing Cal Ripken Sr. on the monitor), said, "There's a guy who really got shortchanged when he was managing."

When his career as an active player was drawing to a close, Robinson said the O's, in effect, said, "Hey, fella, get lost."

The too rigid Palmer even joined in the fun with a few ad-libbed comments and undoubtedly learned a lot about how to provide a smooth-flowing commentary throughout a game.

Over on radio, Thompson and Levine worked like a slick double-play combination, although the new kid on the block overdid the first major-league game broadcast to a farethewell. Be blase, fella.

Chuck wondered about Tim Raines changing his first name to Rock. "I picked up the nickname 'Rock' as a kid because of my intellect," said Levine.

Ken possesses an unhurried style that will take some getting used to. His speech pattern is such that he may not be able to recite the Gettysburg Address during a one-hour rain delay. But you never lack for the complete picture when he's at the mike.

WBAL Radio and the three TV stations were all over the festivities, some starting as early as 9 a.m. One with a trusty thumb could follow the path of a prospective guest from the time he got out of his car in the parking lot all the way up to the first pitch.

Mayor Kurt Schmoke got more free time to smile and say innocuous things than he figures to spend during his upcoming election bid. Whatever happened to the equal time proposal?

Larry King (of cliches), who doesn't get enough air time, informed one and all the O's-Chisox matchup "could be a preview of the American League Championship Series." It was the earliest this term has even been uttered.

King told his good buddy Jeff Rimer he has a new show coming up. CNN is going to do an hour of him sleeping between noon and 1 p.m.

Yes, three in the booth worked. Now it's up to Palmer to make PTC two better. Let's give Channel 2 the benefit of the doubt and point out that it hadn't done a ballgame in a while.

The crowd shots were uninspired, actually dull, and on Glenn Davis' double producing the only Oriole run of the day, the director wasn't clear what he wanted to show, so he just about missed the whole thing.

Page 1 of the director's handbook. When a guy hits the ball into the corner, let's assume the viewer knows the baserunner is off and running. Stay with the ball and, if eventually there's a play at a base or at home plate, you'll have it. Yesterday, the leftfielder flubbing the Davis double was missed and that's what the play was all about.

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