In memoirs, McKay hits mark, Jon Miller withholds details

Media Watch

May 05, 1998|By Milton Kent

Many celebrity autobiographies rise or fall on the ability of the author to provide detail and nuance to the events of their lives, to take the reader into the important moments and explain the context of critical actions and decisions.

In other words, dish the dirt.

If you're looking for that from either Jim McKay's new "The Real McKay: My Wide World of Sports" (Dutton, 293 ppg, $24.95) or Jon Miller's "Confessions of A Baseball Purist" (Simon & Schuster, 269 ppg, $24), don't bother. Both McKay and Miller are far too classy individuals to turn tail on the people who have been front and center in their lives.

But, while McKay's memoir is about as full an accounting of one of the most sterling careers in sports broadcasting history, Miller's book, ghost written by former Sun sportswriter Mark Hyman, is disappointingly short on facts and reflection, particularly on things that are of interest to Baltimoreans.

"Confessions" is a witty and self-deprecating paean to baseball from the perspective of one of its best announcers, Miller, who ruminates on topics as varied as losing his score book in Milwaukee to Cal Ripken's pursuit of the consecutive-games streak to his years in the booth on Sunday nights with ESPN analyst Joe Morgan.

All of it is delivered with Miller's usual charm, humor and grace, if not passion, but ultimately the book goes hollow on matters that appear to cry out for attention.

For instance, Miller, who spent 14 years as the main voice on Orioles radio broadcasts, speaks in great detail about partners from previous assignments in Boston and Oakland, as well as Joe Garagiola and Tony Kubek, but has precious little to say about anyone that he worked with in Baltimore except Chuck Thompson, with whom he shared a booth only sporadically.

Meanwhile, the rather controversial circumstances surrounding his departure from Baltimore are covered rather matter-of-factly in a chapter with little passion. Miller has said on numerous occasions that he never wanted to leave the Orioles, and there's no reason not to believe him.

But the descriptions of the negotiations between himself and owner Peter Angelos read in "Confessions" as though they are happening to someone else, not to the author. Miller's desire to be an objective reporter is admirable, but not when describing one of the more tumultuous periods of his life.

McKay, meanwhile, is a happy warrior interested only in telling the good news of a charmed life. In other story-tellers, that could make for numerous chapters of saccharine, sappy prose.

However, in the hands of one of television's most gifted writers, McKay's life moves briskly and realistically, starting in the middle with a chilling re-telling of his coverage of the kidnapping and massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, Germany, the defining moment of his 50-year career.

McKay's observations about the state of sports and his admiration for the athletes he has met along the way are certainly fascinating, and his lament for what "Wide World of Sports" has become is touching in the way a father's mourning for the loss of a son would be.

But what makes "The Real McKay" sing is its poignant look inside the family life of James McManus, McKay's real name, from his courtship of his wife, Margaret, to moments shared with his children. Of particular note is the recounting of a golf round shared between McKay and his 15-year-old grandson after last year's British Open, a story that is guaranteed to put a lump in the throat of even the most hardened reader.

CBS hires Tasker

CBS has hired former Buffalo Bills special teams standout Steve Tasker as a game analyst for its impending NFL coverage this fall.

Tasker, 36, who retired following the 1997 season after 15 seasons in the league, joins Phil Simms and Randy Cross on CBS' booth roster, with at least three more selections still to be made.

Still the best

Though ESPN Magazine has certainly been flashier since its March debut, Sports Illustrated has taken the challenge of its new competitor in stride and come out smoking.

Last week's SI cover piece on the illegitimate offspring of some of professional sports' highest profile stars by Grant Wahl and L. Jon Wertheim was the kind of uncompromising enterprise journalism that doesn't get done very much these days.

If ESPN wants to be taken as seriously in the print realm as "SportsCenter" and "Outside the Lines" are in broadcasting, then its new magazine ought to consider more stories like these, rather than hero worship and the flatulence of all-star quarterbacks.

Pub Date: 5/05/98

Weekend ratings

The ratings for the top 10 most-watched sporting events on broadcast television in Baltimore last weekend:

Event .. .. .. .. .. .. ..Day .. ..Ch. .. .. ..R/S

Bulls-Hornets .. .. .. ...Sun. .. .11 .. .. 8.0/15

Kentucky Derby .. .. .. ..Sat. .. ..2 .. ...7.6/17

Orioles-Twins .. .. .. ...Fri. .. .54 .. ...6.9/12

Jazz-Rockets .. .. .. .. .Sun. .. .11 .. ...5.7/14

Knicks-Heat .. .. .. .. ..Sun. .. .11 .. ...3.7/11

Orioles-White Sox .. .. ..Thu. .. .54 .. ...3.6/12

T'wolves-Sonics .. .. .. .Sat. .. .11 .. ....3.1/7

NBA pre-game .. .. .. .. .Sun. .. .11 .. .. .2.8/9

Gymnastics .. .. .. .. ...Sun. .. .13 .. .. .2.6/7

NBA pre-game .. .. .. .. .Sat. .. .11 .. .. .2.0/5

R-Rating. S-Share

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