The best calls aren't on the line too long

ON MEDIA

The Kickoff

October 20, 2006

The World Series creates lasting images. World Series announcers write the captions.

Both stick in the minds of baseball fans.

You remember seeing Kirk Gibson's dramatic home run in 1988, but you just as surely recall Jack Buck's call: "I don't believe what I just saw!"

So as the World Series begins tomorrow night, how much does the burden of history weigh on an announcer's mind? Fox's Joe Buck - son of Jack - said it can't be part of the thought process.

"It's something that just hits you at the moment," Buck said in a conference call yesterday. " ... You just do it, and if it's decent and if it's a big moment, it lives on.

"Otherwise, it goes into a black hole, like 99 percent of everything we say."

Buck said he learned his lesson when he was waiting to call Mark McGwire's record-breaking home run in 1998.

"It made me try to plan out what I was going to say, and I realized I can't do it that way," Buck said.

This will be Buck's ninth Series and the 17th for partner Tim McCarver, most ever for any announcer. Former Sun columnist Ken Rosenthal will work his first Series as a television reporter.

Fox is augmenting its pre- and post-game studio shows with Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder and ex-Oriole Eric Byrnes and former Florida Marlins manager Joe Girardi.

Fox will continue to use the dizziness-inducing Diamond-Cams imbedded in the field, and the network is introducing a CableCam to baseball. The device, familiar in football games, will run on a line between home and first base, suspended in foul territory over the stands. Which should thrill those people who paid big bucks for Series tickets, just to have their view blocked by a camera.

Now hear this

When Curt Smith wrote his fine history of baseball broadcasting several years ago, he called it Voices of the Game. And when you think about the men calling the games, it often seems the voices themselves - perhaps as much as what they're saying - make them stick in our minds.

That's not to say it's a matter of style over substance, because we've all heard guys with terrific voices who have nothing to say, but the best announcers have a certain tone and timbre that just evoke baseball.

The late Chuck Thompson and Jack Buck had it. Jon Miller has it. And Joe Buck has it. Of course, he has those good genes.

Now take another sport, football. Regardless of what he actually says during Ravens radio broadcasts - and I'm not saying he's doing a bad job - play-by-play man Gerry Sandusky makes his call in a sing-song voice that undermines the authority behind his announcing. Maybe he could borrow WBAL colleague Alan Walden's pipes each Sunday.

Flexible shuffle

When it comes to the flexible schedule the NFL put in for NBC's Sunday night games, it's a matter of this old principle: Those who know cannot say, and those who say cannot know.

Well, I don't know, but I'm just sayin'.

NBC's schedule is set through Week 9. The New York Times reported this week that Fox and CBS already have chosen four games each to protect in weeks 10 through 15 - i.e., to keep away from NBC. Because Fox and CBS won't say what they've blocked and NBC won't say what it has penciled in for moving to Sunday nights, it's a matter of guessing.

So, as concerns the Ravens, let's look at the schedule after Week 9 and speculate.

The most attractive matchups are Nov. 19 against the Atlanta Falcons and key division games against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals game is Nov. 30, a Thursday night NFL Network telecast and thus not eligible to move. The second Steelers game is on Dec. 24, when no games are being changed because it's Christmas Eve. The Nov. 26 Steelers game is one CBS may well have had the foresight to protect. Also, the Times reported NBC already has scheduled the Philadelphia Eagles-Indianapolis Colts for that day.

So that leaves the Falcons game, unless Fox has blocked it. However, Ravens-Falcons is just one of three possibilities to move Nov. 19 - Bengals-New Orleans Saints and San Diego Chargers-Denver Broncos are also on the schedule. (With the Colts tentatively on NBC the next week, according to the Times, it seems unlikely the network would take Indianapolis-Dallas Cowboys on Nov. 19.)

The NFL and NBC will announce changes at least 12 days before each game.

In other words - perhaps you've heard this before - stay tuned.

ray.frager@baltsun.com

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