Viewers who tuned into yesterday's Orioles season opener expecting new/old analyst Mike Flanagan to bowl them over with dazzling stuff probably came away disappointed.
And that's no dig at Flanagan, who starts his third tour of duty in the booth, wrapped around turns as the Orioles' pitching coach. The team's all-time winningest left-hander is a fount of baseball knowledge and possesses one of the game's quickest wits as well.
For instance, while Flanagan, fellow analyst Jim Palmer and play-by-play man Michael Reghi were discussing Arthur Rhodes and his off-season weight loss, Flanagan dropped in that he had once lost 15 pounds during an off-season.
"I could back up third really fast, but I wasn't all that effective," quipped Flanagan.
OK, so he's no Robin Williams, but Flanagan, while not terribly exciting to listen to, is easy enough on the ears that come July or August, it's easy to picture a viewer propping his (or her) feet up and settling in for a night's listen without feeling poked or prodded.
Still, it bears repeating that Flanagan, with his all-too-obvious ties to the Orioles organization, is not going to criticize the club or management when needed. Viewers also will have to get re-accustomed to Flanagan's laid-back manner and his lack of interest in making tough calls.
Palmer, of course, is a master of game strategy, and is perfectly used by the Home Team Sports production team in the 50 or so games that he will work this year. His commentary is noteworthy, without being intrusive.
And the ultra-serious Hall of Famer is showing signs of a good, self-deprecating sense of humor. Witness his fifth-inning riff after Mike Mussina tumbled into the Tampa Bay dugout for a foul ball. The conversation drifted to how Mussina's number had been retired at his old high school.
"That's what they do when you're 30. They retired my whole high school. That's how you know you're old," said Palmer.
Reghi continues to grow on these ears, and is one of the better play-by-play men at setting up his booth colleagues to shine. We just wish he would let more moments tell themselves and refrain from dramatic language like "bombs" and "blasts" for home runs.
Finally, a salute to producer Bill Bell and director Tim Walbert for the usually solid pictures and replays, though one of them might give their colleagues at Channel 13 a call to ask why the game's close was interrupted for the news.
One consequence of the return of "Monday Night Football" to its 9 p.m. slot is the end of the "Monday Night Blast" pre-game show, which originated this past season from the new ESPN Zone restaurant in the Inner Harbor.
Mark Mandel, an ABC spokesman, said there would not be enough time before the 9: 07 p.m. kickoff to do a pre-game show, but said the network had not made a decision on where the halftime show would come from.
With a new ESPN Zone scheduled to open in New York later this year, you'd have to figure that it would make more corporate sense to keep the halftime show in New York. But strange things can happen at the network level, so stay tuned.
A new look
The new 1 a.m. edition of "SportsCenter" arrives this week with a multi-part retrospective on Hank Aaron's pursuit of the all-time career home run record during its 25th anniversary.
The three-part series, which will re-air the same day at 6: 30 and 11 p.m., will include segments comparing Aaron's chase of Babe Ruth's career mark against Roger Maris' quest of Ruth's single-season mark, and on Aaron's consistency.
By the way, have you caught the new "SportsCenter" graphics? The presentation features an orange background with a main score panel done in olive that appears to be moving alongside a black panel that carries game statistics. It could be made better with the inclusion of the teams' records after each game, but it's not a bad look.
You may feel free to consider this item an admission that your friendly neighborhood media watcher needs a life.
Milton Kent can be reached via E-mail at MEDIAWTCHR@aol.com.
Pub Date: 4/06/99