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Monday Tries to Be as Natural at Mike as He Was at Bat

April 04, 1986|Larry Stewart

Some former athletes who turn to broadcasting, such as Joe Namath, bomb out because they attempt to handle a big-time job before getting some practical experience.

That's a mistake that Rick Monday isn't making.

Monday, released by the Dodgers in June 1984 and considered a natural for the broadcast booth, turned down a couple of offers to become a full-time baseball announcer before the 1985 season.

One of the offers was from the Chicago Cubs, and the other came from an American League team, but Monday wouldn't say which one.

"I didn't think I was ready," he said. "It's like a minor league ballplayer who is sent up to the majors too quickly and is a bust."

There is talk that Monday will move into the Dodger broadcast booth when Jerry Doggett retires.

Monday said that sounds attractive, but no one in the Dodger organization has talked to him about it.

Meanwhile, he is learning the broadcasting business, both as a commentator on Dodgervision, which will open its 25-game schedule with tonight's Dodger-Angel game at Dodger Stadium, and as a sports anchor for Channel 11.

Channel 11 recently won the Greater L.A. Press Club's awards for best 30- and 60-minute newscasts for 1985, beating out L.A.'s six other major stations.

"I'm enjoying what I'm doing and learning a lot," Monday said. "Bob Guerrero (Channel 11's sports director) has been very helpful. Some nights I think, 'Yeah, I'm doing all right,' and other nights I go home after speaking Chinese when I should be reading English and think, 'Boy, have I got a lot to learn.' "

Monday Night Blues?: There has been talk that ABC Sports, which lost about $50 million last year, may drop "Monday Night Football" after the NFL TV contract expires after next season.

That would probably mean the end of pro football telecasts on Monday night. Both Art Watson, president of NBC Sports, and Peter Lund, president of CBS Sports, said it appears doubtful that their networks would be interested in the package.

Negotiations on the new TV contract are about a year away. They should be very interesting.

Radio station KABC has hired former major league pitcher Jim (Mudcat) Grant to work with Bud Furillo and Lee Marshall on both "Sportstalk" and "Dodgertalk" when the Dodgers are home. Grant made his debut Wednesday night when he was called to fill in for Furillo, who wasn't feeling well.

KABC has also re-signed Al Downing to be the host of the postgame shows when the Dodgers are on the road. Recently, it appeared KABC might drop Downing. "There were contractual problems," George Green, KABC's general manger, said. "Al is a gentleman, but he can be a demanding gentleman. He's a tough negotiator."

Grant is a former TV commentator for the Cleveland Indians and also had a radio show in Cleveland. He's been living in Los Angeles for four years, hoping to break into broadcasting here.

Grant played major league baseball for 14 years, the first seven with Cleveland, beginning in 1958. He also played for Minnesota, the Dodgers (in 1968), Montreal, Oakland and finished his career with Pittsburgh in 1971 when the Pirates won the World Series. His career pitching record was 145-119.

New TV star: As common as it is for athletes to go into broadcasting after their playing days, the Dodgers' Steve Sax may go most of them one better. He may wind up in show business, a la Bob Uecker.

Sax is an entertaining after-dinner speaker and also does an excellent imitation of Billy Crystal imitating Fernando Lamas, as seen in the Dodgers' 1985 highlight film.

Now, Sax is hitting the big time. He will make his network prime-time debut next Tuesday night, playing himself in ABC's "Who's the Boss." Billy Martin and Uecker will appear on the same show, which includes a softball game.

Sax will also appear in an episode of "Brothers" on Showtime.

Is this the start of a second career?

"I've thought about taking some acting classes," Sax said earlier this week from Vero Beach, Fla. "But acting isn't something I'm really planning to do after baseball or anything like that. But I'd like to do more on a part-time basis. It's a kick."

He may have to learn to show a little restraint. During the taping of "Who's the Boss," Sax, while up to bat on the set, unloaded on a pitch, and the ball crashed into a light, smashing it to pieces. "I don't think I was supposed to do that," he said.

If Sax doesn't make it as an actor, there's also music. He has played the drums for 16 years, and last week in West Palm Beach played with the Beach Boys during a concert. "The drummer, Mike Kowalski, is a friend of mine," Sax said. "He invited me to sit in for two songs. I loved it."

Sax also has an autobiography, "Sax," coming out next week.

Charity work: Charlie Jones and Lee Trevino will be working together on NBC's coverage of the Nabisco Dinah Shore Invitational golf tournament this weekend.

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