Miller begins talk show on WBAL Tuesday night

ON THE AIR

March 30, 1995|By MILTON KENT

Remember how grumpy Jon Miller was late last summer when the baseball strike reared its grotesque head and abruptly ended the season?

Well, at least he has some work. His local employer, WBAL (1090 AM), last night announced that Miller will fill part of the hole left by the Orioles' absence by doing a talk show from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. weeknights, starting Tuesday, until the team returns to action.

Station manager Jeff Beauchamp said Miller himself had asked about doing some meaningful work for WBAL, which was continuing to pay him even while the Orioles were shut down.

Miller, who will replace Ellen Sauerbrey in the talk lineup, will do a show that resembles Bob Costas' weekly shindig in that it will not just be centered on baseball, but will be a general interest sports talk program, Beauchamp said.

Though some may read last night's decision as a referendum on Sauerbrey's performance, the station had planned to run continuous sports programming until 11 p.m. on off baseball nights. Beauchamp said Sauerbrey could return in the fall.

Beauchamp also said Fred Manfra, Miller's Orioles broadcast partner, will play host to the noon to 3 p.m. sports talk shows on Saturdays and Sundays.

"Ordinarily, I'd be excited about Opening Day, but I haven't even been to Florida yet for spring training," said Miller.

Miller, you see, would prefer not to be working, if that entails announcing games that involve replacement players.

"The problem I have with it professionally is that we're doing a nationally televised, coast-to-coast broadcast. Normally, there would be attractions and story lines in a game that we would want to bring out, but none of that exists here," said Miller.

Miller is concerned that the ludicrousness of presenting replacement players as major-league-level talent will damage the prestige of the award-winning "Sunday Night Baseball" series.

"Sunday Night Baseball is risking its credibility," said Miller. "What are we saying when we present these games? Here are the lineups? Who cares? What difference is there between the cleanup hitter and the eighth-place hitter in one of these games? The mere fact that we're doing these games means we're giving them legitimacy and puts our credibility in peril."

Yet, ESPN has no choice in the matter. Unlike some stations that carry individual teams, the network has no out-clause in its baseball contract involving the quality of players, so it is bound to carry replacement games, like Sunday's New York Mets-Florida Marlins season opener.

Miller, who will be joined by his usual partner, Joe Morgan, says he hopes to question Marlins and Mets front-office personnel during the game about the strike in lieu of continuous play-by-play. After all, since the clubs themselves won't care what happens to these players once the strike is settled, why should you?

"We could have had an opener with Bret Saberhagen and Ken Hill, two of the top pitchers in the game. Instead, we'll be looking at pitchers that their managers, their pitching coaches and their general managers are hoping against hope will be gone in a week," said Miller. "My job is not to say bad things about the replacement games, but by the same token, I'm just not interested in why they're there."

Words from a pioneer

The prospect of having an undefeated Connecticut meeting Tennessee in this weekend's Final Four has women's basketball junkies abuzz over the prospect of what could be the greatest championship.

Ann Meyers, who will analyze the games Saturday and Sunday alongside Sean McDonough, says such a matchup would have to go a long way to surpass recent women's Final Fours.

"Look at last year's Final Four. North Carolina wins it at the buzzer in the most dramatic finish, maybe, in basketball history, and the year before that, you had Sheryl Swoopes from Texas Tech set a record for scoring in a championship game," said Meyers. "This is just as good a matchup as any of them, but to say it's better might be a stretch."

Meyers, an All-American at UCLA, said Tennessee has an edge over Georgia and that Connecticut and Stanford appear even .

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