'When It Was a Game'long on years, enjoyment

Phil Jackman

June 21, 1991|By Phil Jackman

The TV repairman:

"When It Was a Game" is a massively entertaining hour documentary on baseball in the 1930-1960 era that HBO begins showing July 8.The scenes are all done in 8mm and 16mm color film previously unseen by the public, the research and writing are superb, and the oldtime players provide terrific stories.Why,even young 'uns who think Joe Orsulak is a latter-day Stan Musial may enjoy.

* Word out there in Radioland is that WCAO is thinking of pink-slipping longtime voice of the Blast Art Sinclair, replacing him with a voice from (pause for effect) Washington? It doesn't rank with the Tigers getting rid of Ernie Harwell, true, but Art has been a huge part of indoor soccer for years here and will be missed.

* One of the better announcer matchups on ESPN baseball is Ray Knight and Gary Thorne. Ray is passionate, saying things like, "If I managed a ballclub, the best players would be on the field. Just because a guy is making $2 million, if there's a better guy on the bench he'd be in there." Thorne is cool, saying things like, "Good luck, Ray."

* A sure winner is the newly created Davis Sports Entertainment Co., which combines the money, power and contacts of oilman Marvin Davis and the creativity and experience of Mike Weisman, former executive producer for NBC Sports (when it was good).

"With the changing face of network sports, we're going to be seeing more and more syndication, pay-per-view events and other packages. We'll be buying rights and creating stuff, so you'll be seeing a lot of us," said Weisman.

* Home Box Office commences a daily 2 1/2 -hour package from Wimbledon Monday at 5 p.m. Losing the analysis work of Mary Carillo (USA, French Open) hurts, but a leveling influence is also getting rid of Barry Tompkins as host.

* Talk about a Catch 22: CBS, which doled out $1.06 billion to do baseball for four seasons, lost more than $100 million in the first year of the contract last year. In order to save, it will continue its skimpy regular-season schedule of games but, in so doing, the viewing public is sometimes unaware games are on, so the ratings continue to dip. Low ratings mean low advertising rates. Tomorrow (3 p.m.), it's Pirates vs. Dodgers.

* It's surprising with all the 1941 nostalgia kicking around that one of the networks or cables didn't do more than merely mention the 50th anniversary of the Joe Louis-Billy Conn fight Wednesday.

How big a deal was it? The Giants were playing the Buccos in Pittsburgh and the game was held up in the fourth inning so fans could listen to local hero Conn outbox the Brown Bomber until the 13th when Louis extinguished the lights.

P.S.: The game was ruled an 11-inning tie because of a rule saying no inning could start after 11:50 p.m.

* The WLAF may be expanding on the field, threatening to add anywhere from two to six teams to the present cast of 10, but the same won't hold true on TV. USA Network has said it will cut its obligation to one game weekly.

* The Prefontaine Classic track meet on TBS tomorrow (9:50 p.m.) figures to be a good watch if only because of the Suzy Favor Hamilton-PattiSue Plumer rematch in the women's 1,500. These young tigers staged a great stretch run at the USA/Mobil Championships on NBC last weekend, Favor prevailing in a duel that was reminiscent of WrestleMania V.

* Home Team Sports is doing the NHL draft from Buffalo tomorrow noon, which doesn't figure to be a ratings bonanza. But give "The channel you cheer for," which picked up an Emmy for its coverage of hockey (138 games), points for dedication.

* Because Channel 2 has Orioles at Kansas City Sunday (2:30 p.m.), it is scrubbing the PGA Tour stop in Williamsburg, Va., all weekend. Links lovers can recover with Channel 4 . . . Speaking of drops, Channel 13 will go with a movie Sunday while ABC (Channel 7, 4:30 p.m.) is sending along a review/preview of the Mike Tyson-Razor Ruddock fisticuffs. Speaking of which, if you're looking for a closed-circuit telecast of the Tyson-Ruddock bomb-throwing contest next Friday, DAR Constitutional Hall in Washington is picking it up.

* Considering the cloying goody-goodyism of Roger Twibell and the less than sparkling commentary of such as Dave Marr and Jim ("Is it in the bunker, Rosi?") McKay, it sets well that ABC doesn't do a whole lot of golf.

The net has always gloried in its "up close and personal" approach to events, but the worm's-eye view of the golf ball really threw me. Just about the time I got to 30 or so counting the dimples on the ball, the putter blade would come along and stroke it away.

* Not only did the folks who run high school athletics i Minnesota ruin a spectacular event by expanding a statewide eight-team hockey tournament to a two-tier, 16-team affair, it lost two-thirds of the TV revenue forthcoming from the championship.

* Hey, caught Oriole baseball on WBAL Radio a couple of times this week and Jon Miller was one of the announcers . . . If you want to see Mike Tyson punching out a camera, tune in "Wide World of Sports" tomorrow (4:30 p.m.) . . . Methinks the folks in New York are going to get awfully sick of Bill Parcells quickly with the former Giants coach doing a local cable show on Thursday, a post-Notre Dame game show Saturday and "NFL Live" on Sunday on NBC. Parcells says he's going to address audiences in "straightforward" fashion. Bravo.

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