WBAL's Manfra can't seem to score inside the Fred zoneThe...

RADIO-TV

May 21, 1993|By RAY FRAGER

WBAL's Manfra can't seem to score inside the Fred zone

The history of broadcasting is loaded with great Freds. Fred Allen. Fred MacMurray. Fred Mertz (he'd meet Ricky at da cloob, remember?). Fred Flintstone. J. Fred Muggs.

Orioles radio broadcasts have their own Fred, first-year announcer Fred Manfra. How does he rank in the Fred pecking order?

He's taller than J. Fred Muggs, dresses better than Fred Flintstone and has more hair than Fred Mertz. Unlike Fred MacMurray, he doesn't have three sons. Unlike Fred Allen, he's not feuding with Jack Benny.

But is he Right Said Fred?

So far, no.

A month and a half into the season, Manfra still suffers by comparison with Jon Miller's previous WBAL partner, Joe Angel. Though Manfra is a veteran sportscaster, this is his first extended stint at baseball play-by-play, and he doesn't have the on-air polish that marked his work on ABC Radio.

Manfra is anyone's equal on pre-game and post-game portions of the broadcasts. He has a fine voice and moves efficiently through interviews with Johnny Oates or updates of the day's major-league news. But game time is another matter.

Manfra often is far behind the play. The crowd's cheers already have risen and fallen before listeners discover what has occurred.

Manfra gives the audience the facts, but not much of a picture. We hear that there's a double play, but not until Miller jumps in to describe the acrobatic turn at second base do we see it.

Manfra still seems uncomfortable weaving a story or a discussion of strategy into the play-by-play. At times, it appears Manfra's only departures from straight play-by-play are the popular Esskay scoreboard or the exciting Melart time check.

It probably doesn't help that Manfra's work is juxtaposed (half of the time, anyway) with that of Miller, perhaps baseball's best announcer. Not only does Miller give you the shtick (didn't he do an inning imitating Vic Davalillo the other day?), but he also tells you what is happening on the field in unerring fashion.

But Manfra sounds better in the middle of May than he did in early April. And he's better than Jack Wiers and Ken Levine, two recent one-year wonders of the radio booth.

Also, among the Fred fraternity, he definitely has a better manicurist than Freddy Krueger.

Happy trails to you

It's enough to make you drop the pickles at the Fixin's Bar. Those "Roy Rogers Review" segments during Orioles games on WBAL Radio, in which taped action from earlier in the game is replayed at the beginning of an inning, are jolting. They interrupt the flow of the game and can be confusing for someone who was off making a liverwurst sandwich during the commercial.

Otis Day and the Knights?

TNT's extensive coverage of the NBA playoffs is a great reason to have cable television, but here is one request: Can't teams come up with a late-game rallying song other than "Shout"? The same goes for "Rock and Roll, Part 2." . . .

TNT's play-by-play announcers are pretty much interchangeable. In fact, they might be one person -- Ron Bob Pete Thulin Neal Van Wieren. Analysts Hubie Brown and Doug Collins, on the other hand, are distinctive presences.

Brown and Collins have lessons to impart. Brown is by far the more didactic. And you wouldn't chew gum in his class. "OK, you'll write 1,000 times on the blackboard: 'I will not leave a man on the baseline when double-teaming the post.' " Collins has the same lesson plans, but he just would shake his head and tell you how disappointed he is that you didn't remember about not taking a three-point shot first when you need two scores.

Who's better? That depends. Say this for Brown: He might be the only person in the country who could explain "Wild Palms."

Hot memories

During Sunday's Kemper Open telecast on CBS (3 p.m., channels 11, 9), Ben Wright's "History of Golf" segment will focus on broadcast partner Ken Venturi's 1964 U.S. Open victory at Congressional Country Club, former home of the Kemper. Playing in 100-degree weather, Venturi staggered to victory through heat exhaustion.

That was the last year the Open played its final two rounds on Saturday, not that Venturi remembers much of the final 18.

What I recall most are the things that I don't recall," Venturi said yesterday. "I never did remember going to the clubhouse [after the third round] and to the first tee [for the fourth round]."

Venturi's playing partner was Raymond Floyd. The two were supposed to keep each other's cards.

But, at the end of the last round, Venturi said, he hadn't written a single score for Floyd.

Venturi said one of the biggest differences between today's PGA Tour and his day is the approach to winning taken by many players.

"You don't see as many chances being taken," said Venturi, citing increased prize money that makes finishing near the top so lucrative. "They don't take as many chances as we did, because we had to."

Switching the dial

The Washington Bullets have announced that WXZL (103 FM) will replace WBAL as the team's Baltimore radio outlet. WXZL will carry all 82 games. The team's flagship will be Washington's WTEM (570 AM). . . . Remember last week's note about Orioles games always getting the best sports ratings in town? Let's make an exception: the Preakness. The last hour of ABC's telecast drew a 14.0 rating and 35 share, bettering Friday night's Orioles game at 13.5/25. Nationally, the Preakness telecast ranked fourth, behind three NBA playoff games on NBC. . . . Ratings measure the percentage of television households watching a program. Shares measure the percentage among homes where television is in use. But you probably already knew that. And I'm so proud of you.

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