"The squeeze is on," yelped Jon Miller, and it's a good thing the Oriole announcer was providing radio-style play-by-play for Channel 2's telecast of the O's glittery opener yesterday.
The suicide squeeze, perhaps the most exciting play in baseball, was executed perfectly by Billy Ripken, ninth man in the batting order. It not only took the Cleveland Indians by shock, it caught WMAR with its, uh, cameras down.
While Leo Gomez chugged in from third and Ripken sprinted for first as the Cleveland pitcher scurried to make a play, viewers were being treated to a slow-motion replay of Chris Hoiles ambling into second base on a ground-rule double. What are the chances of an exciting play occurring at the end of a ground-rule double?
Surprisingly, no replay of the squeeze was available. Perhaps it was being saved for the 11 o'clock news.
Considering the final tally was 2-0, Birds, at least the flagship station did a nice job on half of the runs. Hey, .500 ain't bad.
Actually, this boot was one of the few Channel 2 was guilty of all day. Its pre-game "Orioles On Deck" show, covering two hours, was smooth, informative and entertaining. That constitutes a major turnaround from its effort prior to the final game in Memorial Stadium six months ago.
Making Stan Stovall and Sally Thorner and the whole gang -- including agent Ron Shapiro and his legion of clients who always seem to make it on camera -- look even better was the effort turned in by Channel 11 in mid-morning. If WBAL didn't know it before, rest assured after "Take Me Out to the Ballyard," it now realizes you can't simply wing it live for an hour. Too many things can go wrong.
Technically, the show looked as if very little of the equipment was checked out before air time. Mikes went dead. Camera transmission broke up. Commercials cut into the few taped pieces and vice versa. The back-and-forth between staffers and the wind-swept anchors, Rod Daniels and Carolyn McEnrue, was forced and pointless.
Connie Chung and her husband Maury Povich were visitors, because WBAL is a CBS affiliate and it carries Povich's show. Somehow the talk turned to football. Fortunately, the picture went black. Good grief, Dan Rather on another rampage.
A feature running throughout had Doug "Please Stick to Radio" Roberts seeking out the best seat in the park. The best thing about it was when Doug's mike went dead.
Combined with Channel 11's ineptitude was the fact that Channel 13, with its finely honed aversion to sports, did virtually nothing with the historic event. So WMAR had clear sailing. Its features, both taped and live, were well-prepared and edited to proper length.
Example: Boog Powell is a marvelous fellow, but there's only so much he can say about the barbecue shack that bears his name beyond the right-field fence.
Among the more interesting tidbits of information gleaned from the show was the disclosure that the Prescription Athletic Turf system can not only drain excessive moisture rapidly, it can water the field from the underside even as a game is in progress. The stuff on the refurbished warehouse was good, as were short interviews with Jim Palmer, Larry King and Chuck Thompson.
Up front, Thorner and Stovall kept things moving briskly and their happy talk blended right in, even when Stan began his striptease as the temperature hit 60 degrees. A woman handling the traffic reports editorialized, "By the way, Stan, nice arms."