Lowenstein has been missed, but Flanagan earning accolades

Media Watch

July 12, 1996|By Milton Kent

If you've paid any attention to the Sunday letters section of this newspaper, you've undoubtedly noticed that the absence of John Lowenstein from Home Team Sports and O's TV telecasts this season has been noted and lamented by a variety of readers.

To be certain, the iconoclastic Lowenstein brought a spirit of wackiness and a sense of mirth that the too-rigid game of baseball can use, and his presence has been missed.

But that's not to say that the man who has replaced him, former Orioles pitcher and pitching coach Mike Flanagan, hasn't been a joy to listen to, because he has.

Flanagan was brought in by HTS officials, presumably because of his more immediate connection to the game than Lowenstein's, yet the best thing the 1979 Cy Young Award winner brings to the booth is a old-fashioned attention to detail and a willingness to teach the game to his audience.

For example, during the Yankees series in New York two weeks ago, Flanagan noticed the rookie New York starter Ramiro Mendoza was repeatedly shaking off the sign from his catcher, and said that an astute hitter probably could guess which pitch was coming from the number of times Mendoza shook off the sign.

The serious seam-heads may know that, but the average fan quite likely doesn't. Flanagan has produced these pearls of wisdom throughout the season, and, as such, has made himself indispensable.

To be sure, the low-key Flanagan, who possesses an arid sense of humor that plays well, will never be the entertainer that Lowenstein is, but his approach is probably just right for HTS, whose viewers are naturally more baseball-intense than the general audience.

Flanagan's play-by-play partner, Mel Proctor, is a solid pro who almost always provides a good if not spectacular game call. He has curbed the tendency he had earlier in his tenure here to appear to be rooting for the home team, though it still crops up infrequently.

Over the years in the Orioles booth, Proctor, who also calls the Washington Bullets for HTS, has mastered the ability to defer to his color analyst. Many play-by-play men find it difficult to sublimate their egos to that extent, and as a result, the broadcast suffers. Proctor knows what his audience wants -- mainly for him to set the scene, then let his partner do the analysis -- and generally gives it to them.

Jim Palmer, who replaces Flanagan on a limited number of games, is a network-quality analyst, which shouldn't come as a surprise, since he did just that for ABC. He has all of Flanagan's insights, with a bit more flair. Palmer, however, does have a tendency to inject the personal pronoun, specifically "I," and references to his playing days into conversations a tad too much.

A victorious Cigar?

The highlight of this last week before the Olympics is tomorrow's "Arlington Citation Challenge" race, from Arlington, Ill., in which Cigar attempts to tie Citation's 46-year-old record for most consecutive victories, during the "CBS Sports Show" (Channel 13, 4 p.m.)

To get that 16th straight win, Cigar will have to defeat a fairly

talented field, which includes 1996 Kentucky Derby favorite Unbridled's Song and Derby entrant Honour and Glory. Gus Johnson is host of the telecast, with Johnny Morris and Howard Sudberry of the Chicago CBS affiliate calling the race and Bill Raftery reporting.

Curiously, with the Yankees and Orioles, the top two teams in the American League East, and representing two big markets to boot, meeting each other, the Fox baseball entry for tomorrow is Florida-Atlanta (Channel 45, 1 p.m.). Go figure.

Lord of the rings

It's safe to say that International Olympic Committee president Juan Antonio Samaranch won't be pleased with the scathing profile of him that airs on the latest edition of HBO's "Real Sports," at 8 p.m.

In the piece -- a rare interview with Samaranch in which he declares that the Olympic movement is "more important than the Catholic religion" -- Frank Deford reports allegations that Samaranch was a fascist and that members of the IOC, which he hand-picks, have leaned on officials from cities bidding for the Games for college scholarships and for sexual favors.

Clearing the record

I wrote incorrectly in yesterday's space that Channel 2 was the only local television station to have a reporting presence at Tuesday's baseball All-Star Game in Philadelphia.

In fact, Channel 45 reporter Steve Davis and cameraman Steve Weinstein also were at the game and, by virtue of their earlier start time, had the Cal Ripken broken nose story before Channel 2. Sorry about the error.

Pub Date: 7/12/96

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