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NBC May Make a Move to Alleviate ABC Overcrowding

October 23, 1987|Larry Stewart

ABC has a problem. Unable to decide who is the better baseball commentator, Jim Palmer or Tim McCarver, it uses both during the World Series.

They, plus play-by-play announcer Al Michaels, make an outstanding team, one that has excelled during the Series.

Still, Palmer or McCarver working alone with Michaels probably would be just as effective and less expensive.

What to do? Actually, ABC may not have to do anything. McCarver is said to be headed for NBC.

If McCarver does make the switch, and a New York source said Thursday that he probably will, he most likely would be paired with Vin Scully.

That would mean that Joe Garagiola would either be demoted or dumped, depending on what NBC does with Tony Kubek.

Kubek's NBC contract has expired. Garagiola's has a year left.

Palmer, meanwhile, just had his ABC contract extended two years.

Sources also have said that ABC is close to signing Joe Morgan as a backup baseball commentator, another indication that McCarver might be gone.

Curt Gowdy is playing a major role in ABC's Series coverage.

No, not the former NBC sportscaster. This is Curt Gowdy Jr., his 34-year-old son, who is producing his first World Series.

Curt Jr. has been with ABC since 1976, when he joined the network as a production assistant, and he has worked his way up.

Said Curt Sr.: "I never called Roone Arledge or anyone else at ABC and asked them to give him a job. He's done everything on his own. I'm very proud of him."

Curt Jr. worked briefly as a newscaster for one of his father's radio stations in the Boston area after graduating from Colby College in Waterville, Me., where he was a goalie on the hockey team.

But sports production is what interested him most, and when he got the opportunity to go to work for ABC, he grabbed it.

And now he is producing the World Series.

"It's the pinnacle, the ultimate," Curt Jr. said from St. Louis. "I love baseball. And what makes this assignment all that much enjoyable is the people I work with, particularly the announcers."

He might not feel that way if Howard Cosell were still around. Cosell hasn't worked baseball since the 1984 playoffs, having been replaced by McCarver in 1985.

"The best trade ever made," Michaels says.

Gowdy, as the producer, is responsible for the overall look of the telecasts. Craig Janoff, the director, picks the shots, and Peter Lasser produces the pregame shows.

Using Tony Gwynn and Paul Molitor to analyze the pitchers was Gowdy's idea.

Molitor was ABC's second choice among American League players. Boston's Wade Boggs was the first but declined.

Curt Gowdy Sr. has also been a part of the Series coverage. His voice was used in an animated feature shown Wednesday night, and he does the Series "Success Stories" that air periodically.

There was a high point in ABC's coverage Wednesday night when St. Louis' seldom-used Tom Lawless hit his three-run home run.

The cameras caught Lawless' reaction perfectly, and it was particularly impressive that ABC later showed viewers Carlton Fisk's reaction to his homer in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. And that Series was covered by NBC.

After Lawless finished trotting around the bases, Michaels came up with one of his classics: "Did we really see that? (Pause.) He hit .080 in the regular season and had one lifetime home run."

There was one flaw, though. The announcers talked about how little Lawless was used during the regular season but never mentioned that he'd had only 25 at-bats. Viewers didn't learn that until Reggie Jackson's postgame interview with Lawless.

Jackson got off a great line when, sporting a wry smile, he told Lawless: "Heroes are made in October, buddy!"

During the eighth inning of Game 3 Tuesday night, McCarver suggested that St. Louis third baseman Jose Oquendo was playing too close to the bag, and the camera showed Cardinal coach Nick Leyva motioning to Oquendo to guard the line.

"I don't agree with that," McCarver said. "What they're doing there, in effect, is giving up a run."

Palmer agreed. "It doesn't make a whole lot of sense," he said.

Minnesota's Gary Gaetti promptly hit a liner right at Oquendo.

"We are unbelievably dumb," Palmer said, coming up with an appropriate comment. It was a nifty way of getting the announcers off the hook.

McCarver delivered this line Wednesday night: "Pitching is kind of like real estate, the price goes goes up with the best location."

Palmer: "That's a real groaner."

McCarver: "Yeah, that will make the groan column."

Michaels: "No, it only runs on Mondays."

He was referring to Rudy Martzke's TV column in USA Today. Maybe a bit too inside.

The announcers were lax Wednesday night when they mentioned that Twin pitcher George Frazier had lost a record three games during the 1981 Series. They never said that he was pitching for the New York Yankees at the time, and that it was the Dodgers who beat him.

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