HBO hits another homer with 'When It Was A Game II'

The TV Repairman:

June 26, 1992|By Phil Jackman

It's pretty well agreed that sequels have a way of coming up short, although the son of Philip of Macedonia certainly delivered the goods, and there's hope for "Batman Returns."

On the baseball specials front, it's hard to imagine Home Box Office being able to even approach its classic "When It Was A Game" effort of last season. But, thankfully, it has. WIWAG II is listed for July 13 at 10 p.m., the eve of the All-Star Game, with five other showings before the end of July.

If you recall, the visuals are composed entirely of 8- and 16-mm home videos and, if anything, the conversations with the ballplayers of the 1930s, '40s and '50s are even better than in Volume I.

"Baseball was a national institution," historian Don Honig says, "it penetrated our soul and elevated our heart." Lofty, perhaps, but as any old-timer will tell you, true.

Not only is it a kick catching the likes of icons Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio during unguarded moments, scenes set in the old ballparks elicit fond memories.

For instance, Joe Garagiola says, "I always loved the signs on the outfield walls and I'll never forget the one in Philadelphia. It said, 'The Phillies use Lifebuoy soap,' and, underneath, was scrawled, 'And they still stink.' "

Certainly a keeper.

* Easily the best thing about the ABC/ESPN coverage of the U.S. Open last weekend was the free-flowing analysis and storytelling of Peter Alliss, and old reliable Jim McKay adding his usual right touch. On the other hand, Brent Musburger tried too hard and it showed. For example, after unknown Andy Dillard had turned in a fine round, Brent said, "Dillard is certainly the hero of all my friends at the municipal courses around the country today." He played a municipal course once when he was in college.

Also, reports from on-the-course commentators were too numerous and repetitive, and it got a tad annoying with folks telling us how beautiful the scenery is at Pebble Beach and Cypress Point over and over when we were looking at it. Lacking, too, was someone taking the USGA to task for gimmicking up the course excessively. Placing that pin on the back of a seal lounging on the rocks off the 10th hole was too much.

* Meanwhile, over on NBC, the Olympic trials continue as simple marketing tools for the net's commercial and cable coverage of the Games in Spain next month. The track and field trials from New Orleans were no more than Chapter 173 of the the cutesy Jackie Joyner-Kersee and husband/coach Bob saga while the diving was Charlie Jones trying to make a gripping contest out of one guy leading another by a whopping 48 points for the second spot on the Olympic team.

NBC will be back on the track and at the Olympic Boxoff in Phoenix this weekend.

* Irrepressible Don King rolls out his heavyweight tubbies in Cleveland tonight (10) and Showtime will be there hopeful of fireworks from among Razor Ruddock (26-3) vs. Phil Jackson (25-0), Tony Tucker (44-1) vs. Oliver McCall (19-4) and Greg Page (34-10) vs. Bonecrusher Smith (32-9).

Maybe Smith put the whole heavyweight picture in proper perspective yesterday when he pointed out, "I'll be 40 years old next spring. If I keep winning I figure to get a shot against [Evander] Holyfield."

Regarding the replay of the Holyfield-Larry Holmes snoozer on HBO Wednesday, Ferdie Pacheco said, "What we again saw was a sham and fraudulent fight by a couple of multi-millionaires going through the motions. What we need is more fights like the Showtime show where something is at stake." P.S. -- the Fight Doctor is the commentator tonight.

* As though it wasn't bad enough, the 10 percent tax the state of Maryland laid on boxing and wrestling events on pay-per-view, that's now up another 5 percent, meaning the $40 charge for last week's Holyfield-Holmes affair ended up costing $46.20.

* Sportscasters should be aware that listeners immediately suspect their working knowledge of tennis when they gasp about how easy some first-round matches are for the top seeds. Come on, guys, Boris Becker doesn't figure to have much trouble with a No. 256-ranked clay courter on the lawns of Wimbledon now, does he?

* Sudden thought while watching the likes of Payne Stewart shoot 83 at the U.S. Open last weekend: Imagine what Mark Rypien, who shot a second-round 91 in the Kemper Open, would have shot playing Pebble Beach in that cyclone.

* Early nominee for sports ad of the year: The one that asks, "Why don't Olympic divers cannonball?" as a guy hits the water shins-first, creating a huge splash completely soaking the judges. They respond with scores of 1.5 and 2.0 and a guy says to his friend, "He was robbed!"

* When is one of the networks going to come to its senses and hire Jesse "The Body" Ventura to provide sports commentary? During a highly entertaining World Championship Wrestling show on TBS Monday night, Jesse was hot. "You mean to tell me he went to a high school named Sprayberry?" Jesse yelped. "I'd be embarrassed to admit that."

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