Buck, early with his calls, trapped off base Top dog at CBS not having his day

RADIO-TV

October 25, 1991|By RAY FRAGER

Maybe it's just because these World Series games run so late and delay bedtime, but CBS' coverage has got me feeling kind of cranky.

It shouldn't be that way. This Series has featured exciting games, unusual plays and unlikely heroes. But, after watching Wednesday's Game 4, I thought it was a good thing that I didn't have a dog, because I might have kicked it.

(OK, dog lovers, I really didn't mean that. A cat, though, that's a different story. Uh-oh, that'll tick off the cat people. Good.)

What's with Jack Buck? I've always thought the guy was a terrific announcer. And his voice, filtered through the smoke of 4 billion cigarettes, has seemed the perfect accompaniment to baseball. But I guess the smoke gets in his eyes.

On the winning run Wednesday night, he immediately called it a ballgame on a fly ball to medium right field. Then, when the Minnesota Twins' Shane Mack easily caught it and made a strong throw home, where Mark Lemke nearly was nailed, Buck said of the play at the plate, "He's ou . . . safe."

It was a close play, but Buck's call did nothing to make it more dramatic -- it was just annoying.

Earlier in the game, Buck was in the midst of complimenting Twins center fielder Kirby Puckett for cutting off Lemke's hit into right-center when the ball rolled under Puckett's glove. Then, in the top of the ninth, Buck called a line drive to left by the Twins' Scott Leius a "base hit perhaps" as it held up for Lonnie Smith to catch. And on Lemke's triple in the ninth, Buck had Puckett picking up the ball to throw it in, when left fielder Dan Gladden actually had retrieved the hit.

Was it just a bad game for Buck? Maybe, and, as fans of ketchup commercials and "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" know, there is nothing wrong with a little anticipation. Then again, as your mother used to say at the kitchen table, sometimes it's better to keep your mouth closed.

Someone whose mouth rarely is closed is Tim McCarver, Buck's partner. Still, McCarver is very astute, one of baseball's top analysts, and much of what he has to say is worth hearing.

For example, his explanation of the strategy behind stealing second with two out, though no great revelation, was well-put.

And McCarver was on Smith's case in the fifth inning, blaming him for bad base-running in getting thrown out at the plate. McCarver absolved third-base coach Jimy Williams for sending Smith. The blunder, McCarver said, came when Smith tagged up on a long drive -- which ended up over Puckett's head -- instead of going one-third of the way from second to third.

McCarver also added at least one good line. The bottom of the fifth featured Twins catcher Brian Harper's recording two outs by playing the kneeling duck on Smith's crash landing at home and retrieving a bounced pitch to tag out Terry Pendleton at the plate. McCarver said, "Caption this one Harper's Bizarre."

On the other hand, McCarver got in the way of a home-run call by Buck in the third, talking about the Braves' Greg Olson while Pendleton put one over the fence. Just before the game-winning play, McCarver went on and on -- something like that Energizer bunny (which, for the record, Mr. Chairman, I would not kick) -- about not liking the Twins' strategy of placing their middle infielders at double-play depth.

Pat O'Brien, usually a favorite, didn't help. He and Buck were talking at once when CBS returned for post-game comments. And O'Brien must be running out of questions for the commissioner, because he asked Fay Vincent something about the weather. However, O'Brien did manage to drag out of diet-drink spokesman and Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tom Lasorda that it had been an exciting game. Thanks, Tommy, go have another delicious shake.

Now, don't get me wrong -- don't you just love that phrase, as if it's supposed to make up for all the negative stuff that went before? -- CBS produced top-notch camera work. Every angle on every important play was there. The replays were excellent. And Jim Kaat may be redefining the role of reporter-outside-the-booth into something meaningful. Kaat's sound bites have real bite.

The Braves have been big on comebacks on this season. It seems that CBS' Series broadcasts could use one, too.

*

Were you Baltimore Blast fans hoping to hear coach Kenny Cooper on Jeff Rimer's WBAL Radio talk show any time soon? Don't hold your breath, or your cheeks will blow up like a pair of soccer balls.

Rimer said he had invited Cooper onto the show last week before the Blast's opener. But Rimer isn't exactly a Blast booster -- he says the lack of calls he receives about the team indicates little interest in the Blast. So club management decided Cooper wouldn't go on the air.

"Why should we go on?" said Drew Forrester, Blast vice president for soccer operations. "We're not in the business of defending our value to the fans.

"Kenny did not decline the interview. The franchise declined to participate."

*

My boss has been yawning a lot lately. No, he hasn't been rereading my old columns; he says it's because these World Series games are on so late. He longs for the days of his youth, when he could fake sickness to miss school and watch afternoon Series games. Now, the boss says, if he pretends to be sick, all he can watch are soap operas. Yes, we all consider ourselves fortunate to work for such a humorous boss. But on to this week's installment of:

Things My Boss Wants to Know: Why do Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott and exercise elf Richard Simmons sound so much alike? (Actually, Boss, Marge's voice is deeper.). . . . Does Pat O'Brien tape his "Entertainment Tonight" segments between his Series pre-game and post-game appearances? . . . With a possible Series Game 7 bumped off Washington's CBS affiliate by a Redskins game, the question is: If a Series game were played in a Redskins fan's back yard on Sunday night, would he watch? (Sure, Boss -- during commercials.)

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