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Hits And Errors Of The Playoffs

October 18, 1985|HOWARD ROSENBERG

More bazzzzzzeball.

This week's big bad news is that Howard Cosell--who is traveling the talk-show circuit promoting his new book that savages much of professional sports--will not be in the ABC telecast booth for the World Series.

The even worse news is that ABC will telecast the World Series anyway.

Oh, c'mon! Stop howling! I'm not either a Commie! In your heart you know that I'm right. The national pastime is the national pass-the-pillow-and-wake-me-when-it's-overtime.

Get ready for Saturday's start of the World Snores in Kansas City, the American League champion Royals against the National League champion St. Louis Cardinals in a best of seven. Yes, there could be seven more games.

It's a long shot, but the baseball season could be over by Christmas.

The World Series would be more promising if professional baseball and TV had not conspired this year to increase profits by extending the league playoff championships to a marathon best of seven games. In the past, the maximum was five games.

It took the entire seven games for the Royals to top the Toronto Blue Jays and six for the Cardinals to eliminate the Dodgers. Who can get excited now about seeing a World Series on ABC between two teams we've already tired of watching the two previous weeks on NBC?

The Dodgers were the only coast-to-coast draw in the playoffs. The Cardinals and Royals playing for the championship of Missouri? ABC has to be really thrilled about that.

Meanwhile, This Viewer comes away from NBC's playoff coverage with three vivid memories.

One is Ozzie Smith's dramatic ninth-inning home run to win the fifth game and give the Cardinals a 3-2 edge over the Dodgers. But you had to endure almost nine sluggish innings before getting to the winning home run.

Another is Royals pitcher Bret Saberhagen facing the Blue Jays with a bulge in his right cheek. Oh great, only 21 years old and already chewing and squirting tobacco.

The third memory is of NBC's wondrous Tony Kubek describing Royals pitcher Danny Jackson on the mound: "The last two pitches he appeared Danny Jackson to have a little more zip on."

Uh . . . precisely.

Later he said: "Dick Howser with his ace, he's been with him a lot years this year he's sluggish in the bullpen, Quisenberry."

Kubek also said that Saberhagen would "try to keep the fastball from the right-handed and left-handed hitters." But apparently he would throw it to hitters who hold a bat between their teeth.

This Viewer sincerely thanks Tony for the memories.

There seems to be a consensus that no one knows more about baseball than Kubek. But working the American League playoffs with the meticulous Bob Costas, he was a real earful.

It was not enough that he continuously lectured about a game that Americans already know like the back of their mitt. He overtalked and overexamined. Did anyone really yearn to hear detailed analysis of the circle change-up and the cut fastball? Or that the circle change-up is a half screwball, but not a true screwball (and not a screwy trueball)?

As an added bonus, Kubek was virtually impossible to understand.

He either slurred his words or mixed them up. What Joe Garagiola said at one point about the Dodgers also applied to Kubek: "Everything's going wrong. They plug in the toaster and the TV set goes on."

Working the National League playoffs, however, Vin Scully and Garagiola lit up the scoreboard. They covered every angle without being repetitious or contrived.

What a fine team they have become: Scully the first banana and Garagiola first-minus. If nothing else, the playoffs allowed Garagiola to unburden himself of several dozen Stan Musial and Red Schoendienst stories.

Much is made of Scully's broadcast prose. Unlike many garrulous announcers, though, he also knows when not to talk. So he was appropriately silent while the Dodgers celebrated on the field after they whipped the Cardinals for an early 2-0 lead in the games.

But when Scully does talk, well . . .

His detractors are sure that his poetic alleged ad libs are actually scripted, that he is more of a technician and opportunist than an artist. Maybe so. Whatever the preparation, though, the results are smashing.

He is so good.

When the Cardinals blew ahead of the Dodgers 9-0 early in the fourth game, Scully observed: "If this were a fight, they would have stopped it already on cuts."

Facing the Cardinals, he noted about the St. Louis attack: It was "like being eaten to death by a moth." From Kubek's lips, it would have sounded like this: "The last two games the Cardinals they appeared to have been eating to death like a moth the Dodgers."

The Dodgers' big man, Pedro Guerrero was "shrinking by the minute," Scully said.

When it came to visual coverage, too, the National League fared better than the American, where NBC's penchant for close-ups of pitchers' faces and shot after shot after shot after shot from behind first base drove This Viewer up the wall.

This Viewer was equally dismayed by NBC's preoccupation with multiangle replays of close calls by the umpires. Yet, the camera coverage of spectacular plays in both league playoffs was, well, spectacular. If only ABC does as well during the World Series.

ABC will have its own skilled man behind the mike in Al Michaels, assisted by Jim Palmer and Tim McCarver. Not that it will matter. In a rare gesture, NBC put a slide on the screen after Wednesday night's Royals clincher wishing ABC luck in telecasting the Missouri championship. Luck is exactly what ABC will need. As Kubek might observe:

It appears this World Series to have little zip.

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