MacPhail leaves mark before leaving CBS, CNN

ON THE AIR

June 07, 1995|By MILTON KENT

Just like almost anyone who has decided to retire, Bill MacPhail admits that these first few days away from the office will be a little antsy.

But when you've had the kind of impact on the world of sports broadcasting as MacPhail, the former head of the sports divisions of both CBS and CNN, you've earned the right to rest.

"I'm doing what I want to do, but I'm a little scared. I am looking forward to it though. Hopefully, somebody will give me a call in July," said MacPhail.

Some television executive or wannabe would be wise to give MacPhail, 75, a call, since he is responsible for such cornerstones of the industry as televised NFL football, Olympics coverage and instant replay, as well as introducing such respected voices as Pat Summerall, Jack Buck, Chris Schenkel and Maryland's own Jim McKay to the national stage.

MacPhail, who left CNN last week after starting the network's sports department 15 years ago, left a safe post as publicity director for the Kansas City Athletics 40 years ago for the uncertainty of running the fledgling CBS Sports division.

Within a few years, MacPhail, with the assistance of commissioner Pete Rozelle, made the momentous decision to bring NFL football to a national television audience.

To accomplish that, both men had to convince the league's owners, particularly in large markets like New York and Chicago, to forgo their big-money local television rights in order to help smaller markets like Green Bay co-exist.

Sound familiar?

"This goes to the baseball problem right now. It was apparent to Pete Rozelle, the brand new commissioner, that the league would have problems surviving if one team was getting $35,000 [for rights] and another was getting $400,000," said MacPhail.

Rozelle got Congress to allow the NFL to band together to sell its TV

rights as a package, and MacPhail had started to make his mark.

While on the subject of baseball, Bill is maybe the only MacPhail to make his name out of the sport. His father, Larry, the former president of the Brooklyn Dodgers and Cincinnati Reds, introduced night games to the majors. His brother, Lee, was once general manager of the Orioles and president of the American League. His nephew, Andy, was the architect of the Minnesota teams that won the World Series in 1987 and 1991, while his great-nephew, Leland IV, is an assistant in the Orioles' minor-league department.

"I've told Lee he can expect a visit from me. I want to see that ballpark, and I've got the time now," said Bill MacPhail.

CBS nets Seles

CBS yesterday announced that it has purchased the rights to the July 29 match at which Monica Seles makes her return to tennis.

Seles, who has not played competitively since she was stabbed April 30, 1993, at a match in Hamburg, Germany, will meet Martina Navratilova in the three-set exhibition. Tim Ryan and Mary Carillo will call the match for CBS.

Speaking of tennis, absent the fact that it frequently missed the first points of games because of commercials, USA Network hit a big winner yesterday with its coverage of the men's French Open quarterfinals.

Of course, one wonders what audience NBC will be left with this weekend for the championship, what with top American draws Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi out.

Just a reminder . . .

The NBA Finals open tonight, with NBC (Channel 11) handling the TV chores.

On the radio side, WWLG (1360 AM) through the auspices of NBA Radio, will carry the games, with ex-Bullets great Wes Unseld doing color.

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