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Long, Wide World of ABC Highlighted in a 2-Hour Special

April 25, 1986|LARRY STEWART

Silver Anniversary: A lot of things on television don't last for 25 weeks, let alone 25 years, as has ABC's "Wide World of Sports."

Since 1961, ABC has been "spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sport, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, the human drama of athletic competition," as the show's familiar lead-in goes.

Highlights of the last 25 years have been packaged into a two-hour show that will be televised by ABC Saturday night at 8. The show also will include congratulatory comments from President Reagan.

The host will be Jim McKay, who was the host for the first show April 29, 1961. On that date, McKay stood in the rain at Philadelphia's Franklin Field, where the Penn Relays were being held, and introduced "Wide World of Sports" to a somewhat limited audience.

The show was originally scheduled as a 20-week replacement series, and it almost didn't last that long. "We went to the Soviet Union for the U.S.-USSR track meet (in July, 1961) and took 20 tons of equipment with us," McKay said. "That got some space in the newspapers, and the show was exciting. We took off from there."

Lasorda and Bevacqua: On the pregame show before last Saturday's Dodger-Atlanta telecast, NBC's Marv Albert interviewed Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda.

In a future show, the interviewer might be former San Diego Padre Kurt Bevacqua, immortalized locally on tape by Jim Healy as the target of one of Lasorda's most famous tirades.

"(Bleep)ing Bevacqua couldn't hit water if he fell out of a (bleep)ing boat," Lasorda said in 1982. After that, Bevacqua seemed to always be getting game-winning hits against the Dodgers.

Bevacqua, who says his playing career is now over since the Padres have chosen not to re-sign him, is among former players and managers whom NBC is talking to about appearing on its baseball pregame show.

For example, former White Sox broadcaster Jimmy Piersall, a major leaguer for 17 years who finished his career with the Angels, will be a studio guest on a pregame show Saturday to talk about baseball in Chicago.

Bevacqua, along with sportscaster Ron Reina, is currently co-host of a call-in sports show, "San Diego Sportsline," every Tuesday night on San Diego's Cox Cable, and is doing well.

If he gets a chance to interview Lasorda on NBC, what would Bevacqua ask him?

"I'd ask him why the Dodgers never showed any interest in me," he said.

Not a bad question, considering the way the Dodgers have been hitting at the start of the season.

Avoiding "Heidi": NBC, which in 1968 left in progress an exciting football game between the New York Jets and Oakland Raiders so the children's movie "Heidi" would start at the scheduled time, didn't leave a baseball game between the St. Louis Cardinals and Montreal Expos last Saturday, but many viewers in Southern California wished it had. The viewers were deprived of seeing the Angels' 5-4 victory over Minnesota.

NBC switched to the Cardinal-Expo game when the Dodgers and Braves finished 20 minutes early, then stuck with the Cardinals-Expos until the end--in the 17th inning. By the time that game was over, so was the Angel game, which was one of two regional games scheduled to be shown as the second half of a doubleheader.

Michael Weisman, the executive producer of NBC Sports and the person who made the decision to stick with the extra-inning game, said: "The feeling at first was it probably would not go past 11 or 12 innings, and we would switch then. But once it got past 12 innings, we felt obligated to stay with it."

The other game that didn't make it on the air in other parts of the country was Chicago at Boston. When asked why NBC didn't go to the other games in at least the markets of the teams involved, Weisman again said he didn't want to leave an exciting game before its conclusion.

But there was another factor. Had NBC switched to the second games in just four markets, the national rating would have been minuscule. It gets rather confusing, but for some reason, had the switch been made, the ratings services would have taken the local ratings from those four markets alone and converted them to a national rating.

So the decision not to switch had a lot to do with economics, too, since advertising rates are based on national ratings.

A victim: Ted Robinson, 28, a Bay Area sportscaster who does Oakland A's game for TV station KPIX, was scheduled to work the Angel telecast for NBC but got shut out. It was to have been his first network baseball assignment.

"I don't feel too bad," he said. "I was honored to be selected in the first place, and maybe I'll get another chance. At least I got to do a two-minute wrap-up and my parents in Florida and my friends back in New York where I grew up got to see me."

Retort: Marje Everett, Hollywood Park's chief operating officer, said that Mike Volpe, general manager of Channel 56, distorted the facts in explaining why the track has pulled its race-recall shows off the Anaheim-based station.

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