Berman's Cal call tonight an easy job about hard work

ON THE AIR

September 06, 1995|By MILTON KENT

For Chris Berman, the waiting has been the hardest part.

Moments after the American League schedule was released in the spring, Berman, the signature voice of ESPN, checked it to see which day Cal Ripken was due to set the consecutive-games-played mark of 2,131.

When he saw the date, Sept. 6, and the day it fell on, a Wednesday, an ESPN telecast night, Berman knew he would be a witness to history.

"We never thought we'd be in a position to show something like this, for those of us who have been there from the start," said Berman, who will call tonight's game with Buck Martinez. "I'm tiptoeing around me being a part of history. I'm happy to be here. Somebody has to say something. It's me."

It goes without saying that tonight's telecast will not be your normal Wednesday night baseball show, though what will happen tonight when the game becomes official and Ripken passes Lou Gehrig is about something simple.

"If you think about it, you get up, you go to work every day and you come home to your family," Berman said yesterday. "Pretty basic, but yet I don't think we've looked at baseball and the players that way for a while. I don't think we've looked at sports that way for a while, and it's kind of how America was founded, [with] hard work.

"It's all basic things, but I don't think we've talked about these things as much as we should or like. I mean, it's his hometown team. He grew up here and he's doing it in front of the hometown fans and he's done it for one team. These are becoming times where this doesn't happen at all, let alone for 2,131 straight games."

Berman says he plans to let the moment at which Ripken takes over the record speak for itself.

"I will say a lot less than people would think. What do I need to say? Just watch him," Berman said. "The best thing would be if they [the Orioles] are behind [or tied] and he goes out to short when they change the number. You don't need me to tell you what the hell you're seeing."

There's a chance that Berman himself won't be able to see what he's said or done. You see, Berman, an Ivy League man who graduated from Brown, can't program his own VCR, and has had to get his father to tape tonight's game. Like Berman, Mel Proctor and Fred Manfra have seen their share of big events.

Proctor, the television voice of the Orioles and the Washington Bullets on HTS, has called NBA championship series events and NFL playoffs. Manfra, who teams with Jon Miller on Orioles radio, has had a seat at Olympic Games for ABC Radio.

Both men, however, expect tonight to be the pinnacle of their broadcasting careers.

"In [Olympic] closing ceremonies, there's been this wave of emotion that overcomes everyone, athletes and spectators alike," Manfra said. "I'll be surprised if all of us don't feel what I've felt covering closing ceremonies. It's hard to put this in words. He [Ripken] is something that baseball needs at this point."

Said Proctor: "[Oakland announcer] Dick Stockton asks announcers what their greatest broadcasting memory is, and I had to tell him last week that mine was coming [tonight]. This is at the top of the list of things I've done."

By the way, you'll have a chance to make suggestions to Proctor about what to say through America Online, which is offering another real-time chat with HTS announcers during tonight's game.

Just a reminder

ESPN will get a double shot tonight in this area, as the game feed will be seen on both the network's usual cable spot and on Channel 13. Berman and Martinez will be visited during the evening by such dignitaries as Earl Weaver, Brooks Robinson, Miller, and President Clinton, who will join the pair in the sixth inning.

For those desiring a more local spin on the festivities, HTS' feed will be made available for free on your cable lineup, and the channel will carry the post-game ceremonies in their entirety.

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