Viewers should want, need, love 'Elvis' replays

Media Watch

October 10, 1997|By Milton Kent

You won't see or hear "Elvis" during Fox's American League Championship Series coverage, but its presence is kingly to what the network hopes to achieve this week.

"Elvis" is the nickname for a digital tape machine that allows for rapid-fire edits that, in the right hands, can make for insightful television.

Fox, which debuted "Elvis" last year, has made effective use of the machine so far in the series, specifically to show the entire at-bats of key batters, one pitch at a time.

Shown at normal speed, the replays give viewers a window into the thinking of a pitcher, showing how he sets up a batter by changing speeds and locations. In the third, for instance, "Elvis" showed how Cleveland starter Charles Nagy worked Rafael Palmeiro all over the plate, eventually striking him out looking.

Two innings later, we saw how Scott Kamieniecki showed Sandy Alomar a steady diet of curves before getting him to fly out to right on a fastball. Cal Ripken's second-inning homer was at the end of a pitch sequence that was interrupted by live action. It was a rare miss, but the intent was good.

Just as in Game 1, Fox's technical brilliance, under the guiding hand of coordinating producer John Fillipelli, rose to the forefront.

In the fifth, for instance, as analysts Bob Brenly and Tim McCarver were talking about Brady Anderson suffering a groin ailment after he reached on an error, the microphones in the first base bag picked up Anderson groaning as he dived back. A few moments later, there was a replay of Anderson getting hurt an inning before while running down down a drive to right-center by Bip Roberts.

Brenly and McCarver were exceptional at the game's key moment, the Cleveland eighth, as they dissected the Orioles' strategy, particularly Orioles manager Davey Johnson's decision to stay with reliever Armando Benitez to face first Jim Thome, then Marquis Grissom with two out.

McCarver thought Benitez should stay, as long as he was throwing fastballs, while Brenly favored the percentage move of having left-hander Jesse Orosco pitch to Thome, the left-handed pinch hitter. It was good banter between two knowledgeable baseball men, supported by nice work from the cameramen and production truck, who produced a replay of a checked swing from Thome on a 3-2 pitch that sent the batter to first, and of Johnson disputing the call.

When Grissom hit a pitch from Benitez over the wall in center, McCarver quickly recognized the offering as a slider, not the fastball he should have thrown.

As the series continues, however, Fillipelli, as producer, will need to curb McCarver's tendency to dominate the telecast. The former catcher makes good points, but when unchecked, a little of him can go a long way.

Play-by-play man Joe Buck continues to shine. His sparse call of Grissom's homer -- "To center field/track/wall/gone" -- much like his call of Cal Ripken's second-inning shot, was a thing of beauty, though someone should have known at the time of Ripken's home run that it was the first of his postseason career.

The ratings game

As you might expect, Tuesday's Game 1 did rather nicely for Channel 45 in the local Nielsen overnights, but not as well as last year's ALCS opener.

Tuesday's telecast did a 25.6 rating with a 37 share of the audience, down from last year's 31.1/54 for Game 1 of the Orioles-New York Yankees series on Channel 11.

However, we should note that 1997 coverage on Washington's Channel 5 did a 10.2/15 in this market, bringing the total rating in Baltimore to a 35.8/52, which is actually better than last year.

The Game 1 telecast did a 38.4/53 in Cleveland.

Around the dial

In the wake of Dean Smith's retirement from North Carolina yesterday, ESPN has patched together a 30-minute special, "Legend in Blue," which airs tonight at 7: 30, with Mike Tirico as host. At halftime of CBS' Notre Dame-Pittsburgh game tomorrow (Channel 13, 3: 30 p.m.), former Irish coach Lou Holtz will give his spin on why his former charges have played so poorly. Think he'll criticize himself? Don't hold your breath.

Pub Date: 10/10/97

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