Ch. 13 runs good first leg of TV relay

April 05, 1994|By Phil Jackman

The TV Repairman:

The burning question with regard to Orioles baseball on television this season is, can John Lowenstein, a part-time player and, until now, a part-time analyst, hold up through the rigors of the 162-game season?

And along those lines, just how frazzled will Birds partisans become, as pennant fever reaches epidemic proportions, attempting to keep up with which of what seem like a dozen outlets will be carrying the game that night?

Yesterday's opener, for instance, was on Channels 13 and 20, while tomorrow night's game against Kansas City will serve as Home Team Sports' opener and Friday night's contest vs. Texas will see Channel 54 getting its feet wet. And, don't forget, Washington's Channel 50 has a piece of the action, too.

After being on the outside looking in since 1978, WJZ did a commendable job upon its return as main commercial carrier for Baltimore, showing unusually good sense restricting its pre-game show to a half-hour.

Remember all those years of Channel 2 news anchor types sitting there in their Orioles jackets and caps, babbling on mindlessly while trying to show us what just plain folks they were?

In business-like fashion, Channel 13's studio talent covered all the things that needed to be covered, conducted the necessary interviews and kept the silliness to a minimum. Even John Buren played it straight, not once mentioning his favored E-word.

Even with the welcomed cut of 30 minutes in the show -- which bore the very inspirational name "Gimme an O" -- things began to drag when features were done on the things that can be purchased at the park.

There's probably not a person alive who doesn't know everyone but a Rockefeller could go broke buying souvenirs and refreshments if not careful. "Pricey," Sally Thorner called the items on sale at OPACY. Oh well, she makes 250 big ones per annum.

Kudos to Al Sanders for maintaining that bemused look on his face any time anyone around him gave indication he or she might pass out from the excitement.

One problem the local channels involved will not have this summer is technical. HTS is producing just about all the games, and these guys are as expert as they come. Booth-wise, this means Mel Proctor at the controls and Lowenstein and Jim Palmer providing explanations when necessary.

With the Orioles moving ahead smartly by mid-game, the action entered the no-contest realm thereafter as Mike Mussina was mowing down the Royals. The guys didn't pump any unwarranted hype into the proceedings.

When O's manager Johnny Oates lifted Mussina out of a perfectly good two-hitter after eight innings, however, Lowenstein seemed almost ready to fight. "I hate to see what we're seeing in major-league baseball today when managers go to their bullpens," he yelped.

"The game's flying along, Mussina has the opposition completely throttled and, suddenly, an attempt is made to get the relievers ++ some work. That's what spring training was for. Don't go to your bullpen unless it's absolutely necessary. It's not automatic that you have to go to the bullpen in the ninth inning."

Hey, hey. Besides scoring twice, K.C. got the tying run to the plate. Another hit and Lowenstein probably would have had to have been sedated. Good. That's what an analyst is for, not for what a commentator on the later Braves-Padres telecast was heard saying: "And we [presumably the Braves and TBS] want to thank the columnist of USA Today for picking us to win."

* About the only flaw in CBS' coverage of Arkansas' pulsating victory over Duke for the NCAA hoops title was bringing in Dean Smith to do some analyzing in the studio. It was probably a union thing, the North Carolina coach getting the work since the Final Four was staged in the Charlotte Coliseum.

Smith just had nothing to say, which was remarkable considering the game was action-packed and contained at least a half-dozen turning points. He did reveal, on at least three occasions, that "it was a great game." No doubt Dino attended the Bo Schembechler School of Broadcast Journalism.

No matter. Billy Packer was up to over-analyze everything up to and including when and for how long all participants should be rested.

Thankfully, crowd shots were kept to a minimum as the late action grew tense, some wily producer-director team no doubt remembering that no maniac in row 52 wearing a basketball for a head has ever tossed in the winning three-pointer. Even shots of President Clinton, completing his sports fan fantasy day, were kept to a minimum.

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