Anyone who has been around the block more than once knows that old habits die hard. But the experiment of breaking away from the customary crash in front of the telly for World Series games proved rewarding enough to occasion future repeats.
While viewers were being anesthetized by meaningless replays, interminable commercial breaks, annoying graphics and superfluous crowd shots, all to the accompaniment of audio equipment turned up to full blast on CBS, over on radio Vin Scully and Johnny Bench have been a joy.
The way Scully describes the radio assignment is superb: "You show up with a canvas and your brushes and you go from there, painting a picture." Of course it should be pointed out that Vin arrives in the booth with the best paints, the best canvas and the best brushes known to man.
While the long lulls in a game as practiced nowadays pushes TV to train its cameras on expressionless managers, ballplayers spitting or scratching -- I think a teammate put itching powder in Rafael Belliard's underwear -- or fans aping, it always leads to interesting conversation when Scully is holding the reins.
Vin tells stories. Wednesday night, he spun a classic about the old Dodger and Cub first baseman and TV "Rifleman" Chuck Connors when he was playing in the minor leagues. He gets Bench going on ballplayers and their indiocyncracies, nerves, hypochondria, intimidation or any of a thousand and one subjects.
"Alvin Dark once had a pitcher on his team that was so intense and wrapped up in what he was doing out on the mound, he used to have to introduce himself when he went out there: 'Jack, Jack, it's Alvin!' " related Scully.
And off went Bench on a series of pitcher-catcher-mound yarns. Never did the banter infringe upon the game.
With Scully, it's the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth wrapped up in an acceptable way, mean-spiritness never entering into it. He pointed out the stadium in Atlanta used to be a "dreadful field," which, of course, it was. Sure, these guys were good enough to be in the Series, "but the Braves have a poor defensive outfield and no lateral movement at first and third base."
Meanwhile, Bench pokes fun at the game and its peculiarities by gasping when Mike Pagliarulo is pinch hit for despite being 3-for-3 with a home run and explaining, "Somebody just didn't like him," when Scully marvels that .312-hitting Jeff Treadway was given to Atlanta by Cincinnati for virtually nothing.
When the time comes, however, Scully closes the library and he's there with the best descriptions going. I mean, how are you going to beat his time-honored home run call of "so-and-so to the track, to the wall, it's gone."
As the Braves came up in the last of the ninth with the game square Wednesday night, the announcer said, "We have a seat right on the aisle for you, so pull up a chair, close your eyes and listen . . . but not if you're driving."
A fly to right with a runner on third sees the game end on a thrilling play at the plate. After three hours of not even being tempted to check out the TV, Bench points out that Minnesota catcher Brian Harper should have made a sweep tag and it's off to the picture tube for confirmation. Of course, the Hall of Fame catcher is right.
For a couple of nights at least, the Scully-Bench call not only complemented the pictures on CBS, they exceeded them.
The longer the World Series goes -- and this baby's headed for seven, gang -- the more meaningful the term "worst to first" becomes. Both the Twins and Braves finished last in their respective divisions in 1990 and they brought a lot of last year's traits with them.
* After broadcasting games for four different ballclubs the last decade and being a finalist in the bidding for two other jobs, a natural conclusion would be that Joe Angel is one hard-to-satisfy dude. Truth is, Nirvana for sportscasters is a No. 1 job and, surprisingly, the top banana post has eluded Joe. He still won't be "the guy" at WBAL doing Oriole games, but with Jon Miller constantly in search of the golden fleece, Angel is up to a 1-A rating at least until the new Miami franchise begins play next season.
* Famous last words from Tommy Morrison prior to the Ray Mercer fight on pay-per-view last week: "I expect it to go seven or eight round and I won't be beat." Morrison lasted five before Mercer deposited him into the middle of next week. Perhaps more importantly, the TVKO show was a hit, about 200,000 signing up at $20 a pop.
* The moving "900 East 33rd" program, WBAL's Memorial Stadium send-off, plus Dan Rodricks' "What is Baseball?", will be available on audio cassette ($11) in mid-November. Proceeds will benefit the station's Kids' Campaign.
* One of the basic tenets in sports advertising is you don't make fun of your patrons, which is exactly what is happening in those disgusting ads churned out by SRB of Fells Point, touting Skipjacks hockey at that emporium of epicurean delights, the Baltimore Arena.
* Pssst, N(D)BC has Notre Dame-Southern Cal tomorrow (gab at 1:30 p.m.) and it needs a big rating bad .