Costas-Morgan-Uecker, talent combo that works

Media Watch

October 14, 1996|By MILTON KENT

It's often been said in the athletic arena that to simply throw a collection of talent together without letting it develop as a unit is a prescription for disaster, and that theory has often been proved correct.

That can also be true in sports announcing, if the roles aren't clearly delineated. NBC's baseball troika of Bob Costas, Joe Morgan and Bob Uecker is a solid example of how it can work when you put talented people together, making sure they know their roles and perform them.

It's been clear throughout their Division Series and American League Championship Series work that Costas, the play-by-play man, is at the helm, with Morgan providing the serious analysis and Uecker along, mainly, for the comic relief.

There are some definite cracks in the arrangement, but it has worked well over the last 1 1/2 weeks and should be interesting next season, when NBC gets the World Series.

Costas is within an elite group of sportscasters whose presence enriches a telecast. Some Baltimoreans supposedly have detected a Yankee bias in his call, but that's a complaint from people in need of a clue.

However, the Costas armor has chinks. He has a tendency to use silly puns -- Game 4 on Saturday, for example, when he used a hot-and-cold line in a remark about pitcher David Weathers.

Costas can also overreach and occasionally preach on points. For instance -- and forgive this opinion's provincial tone -- his observation that a scattering of boos for Roberto Alomar during his first at-bat yesterday showed that some Orioles fans wanted Alomar to know that he had done wrong, over well, you know what.

That may have been true, but a goodly number of Yankees fans were in the Oriole Park crowd, and perhaps it was they, not Orioles fans, who were showing their disapproval. That tendency to take a point and make it into something more than it may be worth is about the only blotch on his otherwise spotless record as an announcer.

As for Morgan, the Hall of Fame second baseman has no peer among baseball analysts. In every telecast, Morgan provides a clinic of inside information and insight for those knowledgeable about baseball as well as the casual fan.

In the Yankees seventh Saturday, Morgan noticed that catcher Joe Girardi seemed to be taking an inordinate amount of time getting to the plate and even went back to have drops placed in his eyes.

Morgan suspected that Girardi was stalling to buy reliever Mariano Rivera more time to warm up in the bullpen, and the smile on Orioles manager Davey Johnson showed Johnson shared his suspicions.

Uecker, the voice of the Milwaukee Brewers, commercial pitchman and erstwhile actor, is the comic foil, trading on his sad-sack playing days.

The former catcher has a keen sense of humor, which is needed when Costas and Morgan take baseball so seriously. However, the network would do well to let Uecker tone down that act and do some serious analysis.

Jim Gray, the usually astute sideline reporter, was spotty throughout the postseason, with some hustle, to be sure, mixed with a few fawning interviews, first of young Jeff Maier, then with Bernie Williams the last couple of nights.

After a slow start at the beginning of the ALCS, NBC's production team, led by producer David Neal and director Andy Rosenberg, improved significantly.

The improvement was especially noticeable this weekend, as they exploited television-friendly Camden Yards to the maximum, with a host of telling shots into each dugout and a new wrinkle for regular Orioles television watchers: a camera in the bullpen to capture relievers warming up and leaving the 'pen to enter the game.

By the way, Saturday's coverage drew a 30.4 rating and a 51 share of the audience for Channel 11. No New York or national numbers were available.

Pub Date: 10/14/96

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