Waldman puts women on base

ON THE AIR

July 25, 1995|By MILTON KENT

Last night's New York Yankees-Texas Rangers game on Channel 2 probably seemed like just another ho-hum midsummer night's baseball game, until you heard that voice that seemed a pitch higher than you're used to hearing during a baseball game.

The game may not have been extraordinary, but the presence of that voice, belonging to Suzyn Waldman, was quite out of the ordinary -- Waldman became the first woman to call a Major League Baseball contest for a broadcast network.

The placement of Waldman, a veteran sports reporter for New York's WFAN-AM, is just the latest step in a welcome development, the continuing, but ever so slow advancement of women in sports broadcasting.

Women have come a long way since Phyllis George and Jayne Kennedy served essentially as set ornaments on CBS' "The NFL Today" in the 1970s. From Gayle Gardner in the 1980s to Robin Roberts, the corps of women has deepened and improved at the networks, but only on the reporting and anchoring level.

Save for women's events -- and not always then -- the booth somehow remains taboo for females. Remember that before last night, you had to go back more than 10 years to find a woman who got a chance to call a game from one of the big four sports, a football contest, and that woman faded away after that. Do you remember her? Answer later.

Waldman, who has covered the Yankees for eight years and is credited as the first radio beat reporter, was a logical choice, and did herself proud with interesting insights on the psyche of surprise starter Sterling Hitchcock as well as bolstering a graphic of former Orioles on the Texas roster by adding Jack Voigt to the list.

Perhaps to keep the pressure to a minimum, ABC and The Baseball Network only sent her game to 14 percent of the nation and didn't go out beating the drums over her accomplishment. Here's hoping Waldman gets lots of work and that she gets lots of company soon.

So long, SportsNight

Nearly two years ago, on the premiere of ESPN2's "SportsNight," Keith Olbermann proclaimed that the channel would either be a bold new experiment or the end of the careers of everyone associated with it. Well, the channel continues, but "SportsNight," a "SportsCenter" for the young and hip, goes away for good, effective Saturday.

Josh Krulewitz, a network spokesman, said "SportsNight," the first program on the "Deuce" when it opened for business in October 1993, lived up to all the expectations of ESPN executives, but said that the company decided to go in a different direction.

"We always thought of this as a work in progress," said Krulewitz. "We do feel that this will give us a better way to serve our audience."

Many of the features in "SportsNight" will continue in other shows, Krulewitz said, and the "Sport- Smash," a miniaturized news and highlights block, also will live on. Krulewitz said ESPN2 will begin simulcasting "The Fabulous Sports Babe" radio talk show in September.

No "SportsNight" personnel will lose their jobs, Krulewitz said, but instead will be reassigned to other programs.

The answer is . . .

The woman who called a Kansas City-Tampa Bay game in the mid-1980s for NBC was Gayle Sierens.

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