We hear good game when Holliday, Sandusky call it

ON THE AIR

September 19, 1994|By MILTON KENT

Here's a quiz: Name five great radio baseball broadcasters. Piece of cake, right?

Now, name one great football radio broadcaster. OK, Chuck Thompson shows up on both lists, but can you name another?

The reason you can't is simple. Football, with its bursts of action, larger-than-life figures and easier-to-follow ball, is a much more conducive game for television's purposes than baseball, whose natural gaps between plays allow for the more personable contact of radio.

Still, football can be a pleasing game to listen to on the radio, provided, of course, you find the right announcers.

For the first time in quite a while, Maryland football, heard locally on WBAL (1090 AM), has become listenable, regardless of the on-field doings, thanks to the announcer tandem of Johnny Holliday and Gerry Sandusky.

Holliday, who also does Maryland men's basketball broadcasts, as well as sports reports for ABC radio, always has been a solid professional play-by-play man, though he should give the game situation and time a bit more frequently.

But in recent years, Holliday's work has been dragged down by a series of analyst partners who didn't have a feel for work in the booth.

Not so Sandusky, Channel 11's weeknight sports anchor, who not only is a former player, but more importantly is a broadcaster.

Sandusky knows when to talk and when to shut up and almost always has interesting, informative things to say.

In their second year together, Holliday and Sandusky are well worth the effort.

Any announcer will say he really earns his salary during blowouts, because it's there where pre-game preparation shines through, as well as the ability to keep the audience entertained.

If that's true, on WEAA (88.9 FM), the trio of play-by-play man Lamont Germany, analyst Renard Stubbs and field reporter Brian Johnson deserve double what they're earning for making

Saturday night's Morgan State-Grambling State blowout sound fresh.

Though it was clear the three were suffering through Grambling's 75-point pasting of the Bears, neither Germany, Stubbs nor Johnson ever resorted to accusing the Tigers of running up the score on a severely overmatched Morgan squad.

And then there's the Washington Redskins' radio crew of Frank Herzog, Sonny Jurgensen and Sam Huff, heard here also on WBAL, who once were so enjoyable that you could turn down the TV sound and listen to a good call.

But not anymore. The predictable, cloying antics of Jurgensen and Huff have worn thin, though of the two, Jurgensen is always the more informative.

Huff just doesn't know when to stop talking, and his utterances leave the listener scratching his head.

For example, on a third-quarter play in yesterday's Giants-Redskins game, Huff couldn't or wouldn't understand why the Giants would take a 5-yard defensive holding penalty against Washington -- with an automatic first down -- rather than an offside penalty.

And one wonders what has happened to Herzog, who called the Washington Bullets 1978 championship season, and was a fine announcer, but who now stumbles over names.

Herzog resorts with increasing frequency to identifying opposing players by numbers, not by name. That's barely acceptable for an analyst, but inexcusable for a play-by-play man.

Headin' to Anaheim

Channel 11 has dispatched weekend news anchor Virg Jacques to California for reports on the possibility of the Los Angeles Rams moving east for the 11 p.m. news today and tomorrow.

"Baseball" blitz

If you personally haven't been swept under by the avalanche of hype attached to Ken Burns' nine-part, 18-hour "Baseball" miniseries that began last night on PBS, you've obviously spent the past few weeks cloistered with Tibetian monks.

Walk into a bookstore and come face to face with "Baseball" displays, complete with four different books, two calendars, an audiotape and a compact disc.

There's a "Baseball" soundtrack available in record stores, and Burns has been relentlessly visible, ever so subtly hawking his program by wearing a T-shirt with the show's logo on it.

It's interesting that many conservatives claim that some PBS programming has a slightly socialistic bent, because Burns seems to have a pretty good grasp on this capitalism thing.

For the most part, "Baseball" does merit a chunk of the massive publicity it has received. In places, particularly in Thursday's fifth episode, "Shadow Ball," a look at the impact of the Negro Leagues, the series is gripping and comprehensive.

But, even in the grandeur of "Shadow Ball," the viewer can't help wondering if this series might not have been more effective if it weren't considerably shorter, perhaps of the 11-hour length of Burns' previous epic, "The Civil War."

Maybe they needed the extra time for the commercials.

Graphic problems

Channel 45 continues to stubbornly run a giant station ID marker every 15 minutes in the lower right-corner of the screen during NFL telecasts. The graphic is too large, and the frequency of its appearance is annoying.

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