Hammond makes most of jump at announcing starting gate

Media Watch

November 07, 1997|By MILTON KENT

Just as the reputation of athletes can be made from a big performance at a crucial time, so also can announcers pick up a big name from being at the right event at the right time in their career.

Take NBC's Tom Hammond, for example. Hammond, who will be host of the network's coverage of the Breeders' Cup tomorrow (Channel 11, 1: 30 p.m.), is in a pretty good spot with the network now, calling track and field during the Olympics and as one of the logical choices to get some of Marv Albert's NFL and NBA work.

But, back in 1984, the first year of the Cup, Hammond was a free-lancer, working for NBC only on the day of the races. Hammond, a Louisville, Ky., native, was brought on by former NBC Sports executive producer Michael Weisman just to do reporting from the backstretch at Hollywood Park, the site of this year's event.

"I was low man on the totem pole, but this was the first time that NBC had done something like this on horse racing, so nobody knew exactly what was going to happen," said Hammond. "Michael Weisman came to me and said, 'If there comes a time where we don't know what to do or where to go, can we call you?' I said sure."

As it happened, there was a bumping incident among Wild Again, Gate Dancer and Slew of Gold in the Cup Classic, the crown jewel of the day's events. The trainers and jockeys, who all knew Hammond, talked to him, and a star was born.

"When the day was over and we went off the air, Michael Weisman said, 'We didn't realize we had a broadcaster on our hands. Can you do some other things for NBC?' Again, I said, 'Sure,' " said Hammond yesterday.

Alas, Hammond may be about the only star present for this year's Breeders' Cup, as a number of big-name horses won't be in the lineup for the seven-race event, where each race has a purse of at least $1 million.

Hammond says the Juvenile and Distaff races should be the most competitive, though the Cup Classic, a 1 1/4 -mile race for horses 3 years old and up with a $4.4 million purse, will have the two horses with name recognition, Skip Away, who won the Jockey Club Gold Cup, and Touch Gold, who denied Silver Charm a Triple Crown with a win in the Belmont.

Heading down denial

As if the shame and humiliation from his assault trial last month weren't enough, former NBC Sports announcer Albert feels obliged to unburden his soul to Barbara Walters on tonight's "20-20," dragging his fiancee, Heather Faulkiner, along for the ride.

Among the lowlights in the hour-long interview, according to a transcript made available yesterday, Albert denies ever forcing himself upon the woman who brought charges that she was forced to have sex and was bitten more than a dozen times by him. He also denies having a relationship of any sort with a second woman who testified that Albert also bit her.

There are lots of other lurid things asked about in the show, but they don't belong in a family newspaper, and frankly not on this television show. Albert and Walters should be ashamed, but we know that's not possible.

Sunday ticket

You'll no doubt notice that this Sunday's local NFL menu is different from what you've been accustomed to in the Ravens era.

For one thing, the afternoon slate has three games -- none involving the Ravens. That can only happen, at most, twice a year, once when the Ravens are on a bye week and the other if they're scheduled to play a Sunday or Monday night game.

Speaking of which, the Ravens draw Pittsburgh Sunday night at 8 in a game that will be televised on ESPN and Channel 2, which will take the cable channel's feed and national commercials, by NFL rules, which mandate that a cable broadcast has to appear on a local over-the-air station.

Channel 2 is making a party of it, with a one-hour pre-game show, "Rockin' Ravens Sunday Night," to air at 7 p.m. Sunday. From Padonia Station, Keith Mills and Rick White will be host to the live program, which will include interviews with Ravens players and former Colts.

Around the dial

Most of these college football showdown games hardly ever live up to the billing, but tomorrow's "Judgment Day" doubleheader of clashes should be all they've been advertised to be and more.

ABC (Channel 2) opens with No. 2 Penn State host to fourth-ranked Michigan in a game that should not only propel the winner to the Rose Bowl, but also possibly give the Big Ten champion a chance to win the national title for the first time since dinosaurs walked the Earth.

At 7 p.m., ESPN will have the Atlantic Coast Conference fracas between third-ranked Florida State and No. 5 North Carolina from Chapel Hill, not to mention "GameDay" (11: 30 p.m.) which will originate from the site of both games. The Maryland-North Carolina State game (Channel 13, noon) could serve as a warmup of sorts, provided the Terps can stay competitive.

Meanwhile, there's a figure skating tripleheader available Sunday for those who need it, commencing at 1 p.m., when ABC airs the Skate America International competition, followed at 4: 30 or thereabouts, by Fox's (Channel 45) coverage of the Skate International of Germany meet, which took place last week. Finally, TBS will have the Vail Figure Skating Festival at 9 p.m.

Pub Date: 11/07/97

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