Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

'Dutch' Back in Booth for a Trip Down Nostalgia Lane

July 12, 1989|ERIC LICHTBLAU | Times Staff Writer

The words came slowly, occasionally mumbled or mispronounced. And by his own admission, the old Chicago Cubs' play-by-play man was a bit nervous upon his return to the broadcast booth. But for one shining moment, Ronald (Dutch) Reagan seemed almost prescient.

Extolling the athletic prowess of baseball All-Star and football running back Bo Jackson, the former President was interrupted in mid-sentence--"I don't know if there's ever been . . . "--by the crack of the bat.

The ball soared high over the center field wall at Anaheim Stadium as Royals' outfielder Jackson became only the ninth player in All-Star game history to homer in his first at bat.

Moments later, it was Reagan the Great Prognosticator again, calling out that "that one looks like it's going there, too!" as Wade Boggs followed Jackson's homer with another shot that ended up in the center field bleachers.

The on-the-ball predictions marked perhaps the high point of Reagan's one-inning, 16-minute return to broadcasting during the 60th All-Star game at Anaheim Stadium, a place that he described to an estimated 51 million watchers nationwide as "the greatest baseball stadium in America."

Reagan told his audience: "You know it's a great honor for me after broadcasting several years in Iowa, and now finally make it to the big time of a top network sports broadcasting job. . . . Well, I've been out of work for six months and maybe there's a future here."

Yet, all the moments may not have been perfectly smooth as Reagan, who re-created Chicago Cubs games from teletype in the mid-1930s for a Des Moines radio station before trying his hand at acting and later politics, took a stroll down what he called "a very nostalgic lane."

And at the close of his appearance, former President Reagan said: "I'm so sorry that it's all over for me now, but I'd like to confess that I was a little uptight. . . . I get a little self-conscious when you know the people can see what is going on."

Indeed, Reagan made surprisingly few comments early in the inning on the air, letting play-by-play announcer Vin Scully lead the broadcast. At one point early in the game, he seemed confused as to who had just gotten thrown out stealing. At another point, he mispronounced the first name of Texas Rangers second baseman Julio Franco, saying it with a hard j, which proved contagious as Scully later made the same mistake.

Reagan sounded occasionally ill at ease as he read biographical statistics on the players from cue cards that he had prepared and brought with him to the game.

("He had stayed up late (Monday) night and prepared cards on the first five or six players in the lineup that he brought with him," along with a diagram of the diamond with each of the players at his position, NBC sports information director Kevin Monoghan said.)

Scully said the chance to sit side-by-side with Reagan--a former neighbor in Pacific Palisades--was the highlight of the game for him, telling the former president: "We were just so thrilled just to have you, sir." And former All-Star pitcher Tom Seaver, who relieved Reagan as color commentator, said he had "the most difficult and the largest seat to fill."

But after Reagan's departure, Scully noted Reagan's apparent discomfort, saying on the air that: "I kept looking at him and thinking that he really is. He really was nervous."

Fans noted that, as well. Don Israel of Anaheim, who brought a small Panasonic television with him to see the game live at the stadium, said: "Vinnie's doing all the talking. Reagan sounds pretty good, but he's not taking any risks. He's the color man."

Added Dan Rainey of Lake Forest, a Republican and American League fan who listened on a transistor radio: "He sounded to me like he was a little nervous. He probably wasn't comfortable talking without a script. It's been a couple of years since he called a game, but overall, he did OK."

Before the game, Reagan, under watch by Secret Service agents, had toured the dugouts of both leagues and of the umpires, signing a few autographs, chatting with ballplayers and telling a few jokes.

Reagan received no pay for the appearance, asking only for a hot dog and a Coke, said Monoghan of NBC Sports. After his appearance, he got just that as he visited for a few innings with Gene Autry in the Angels owner's box before leaving the stadium. Reagan, 78, joked on the air that the 81-year-old Autry made him feel "kind of like a kid."

Here are excepts from the broadcast:

Reagan, chuckling: " . . . You know it's a great honor for me after broadcasting several years in Iowa, and now finally make it to the big time of a top network sports broadcasting job. And, it's reassuring that only after six months away from a job that I had. Well, I've been out of work for six months and maybe there is a future here."

Scully: " . . . I was worrying as was the nation when we read about your horse bucking and rearing and throwing you off, and we thought you might have more than fractured syntax."

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|