Departed HTS producer glad to be free of Orioles' demands

Media Watch

June 25, 1998|By Milton Kent

For two years, Chris Glass had one of the jobs he had always dreamed of, heading up production for Home Team Sports, and in his hometown to boot. Life was pretty terrific.

Things aren't so bad today for Glass -- he serves as executive producer of Florida's Sunshine Network -- but the change of scenery wasn't exactly in his plan.

"I love it here. The two weeks I've been here have been great, but I was born and raised in Baltimore and I never expected I was going to leave," Glass said this week.

Glass, who spent 12 years with HTS, said the actual producing and directing of Orioles games made his job a joy. Dealing with the persistent demands of the team made the job untenable.

"There was some political stuff that I couldn't deal with. I felt I wasn't an executive producer at times. When I was hired as the executive producer, I thought I would get a chance to produce. That wasn't always the case," said Glass.

Jody Shapiro, HTS' vice president and general manager, said he "wholeheartedly" disagreed with the notion that the Orioles had attempted to impose their will on game telecasts.

"If anything, Chris may have felt that I was making intrusions in trying to have us do things in a different way and a better way," Shapiro said. "Chris is a great producer/director and he was frustrated by having to understand that there were issues larger than just the telecast. What we do in production is more than one person's vision. It's more than Chris' vision. It involves his boss, which was me. It involves our partners, which was the Orioles in this case, and our viewers."

Glass quickly points out that his differences were not with Shapiro or with other HTS management.

"Jody was terrific with me, and I wouldn't be saying this [to the media] if he didn't already know how I felt. It wasn't one incident that got me thinking it was time to leave. It was a mess of things," said Glass. "I am not political, and that's my fault."

Current and former HTS staffers privately say the Orioles have made their influence on game telecasts felt in a variety of areas.

The team has exercised vetoes over game announcers, HTS staffers say, blocking the return of former Oriole John Lowenstein, a popular analyst who was let go after the 1995 season, as well as rejecting Ken Singleton, another former Oriole, who was in contention for the play-by-play job that came open when Mel Proctor left after the 1996 campaign.

Shapiro acknowledged that the Orioles have a contractual right of approval over announcers.

According to staffers, the current announcing team -- play-by-play man Michael Reghi and analysts Rick Cerone and Jim Palmer -- have been told that they must wear jackets and ties during telecasts, rather than cooler golf shirts, with those instructions coming not just from HTS management, but from within the Orioles' organization.

Animation for a new opening montage for the game telecast that was ready to air in April was held for weeks until a dispute between the club and the channel over what was in the piece could be resolved.

Shapiro said he didn't consider conversations about clothing and graphics to be meddling into HTS business.

"What they [announcers] wear, the look of the graphics are all part of the presentation and each of them is an important element," said Shapiro. "The Orioles are very interested in how their product is presented, as they should be. I am very interested in making sure that we present the Orioles' product not only in the best way we can, but also in a way that makes them proud of what we do. I just don't believe the Orioles are an intrusion whatsoever. They are a contributor, a participant in the process."

Michael Lehr, the Orioles executive director of broadcasting and marketing, said he prefers that the announcers wear jackets and ties and has told them that, but believes that golf shirts are appropriate if the weather is unbearably hot.

According to staffers, team officials also have increasingly expressed their displeasure with what is said and shown on the air.

Glass, for instance, said he received a complaint call from Orioles officials last year after HTS showed a spectator climbing the left-field foul pole, while the surrounding crowd cheered him on.

The fear of repercussions may be placing a chill on what producers and directors elect to present to the viewing audience.

Friday, for instance, while the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's feed of the Orioles-Toronto game showed all of a dugout confrontation between Orioles manager Ray Miller and relief pitcher Terry Mathews, the HTS feed only showed the end of the squabble, where Miller appeared to be blasting Mathews.

HTS staffers say Miller thanked Cerone for the channel's presentation of the dispute, believing that it showed him as being in control of the club.

Shapiro said neither the Orioles nor the Washington Wizards or Capitals, the other two area professional teams HTS carries, have ever instructed announcers on what to say nor told producers what to show.

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