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To Announcers, It Still Is Baseball : Television: They say they will continue to put the game in the best possible light. Former players Rick Monday and Ken Brett have no qualms about broadcasting.

March 31, 1995|JERRY CROWE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Vin Scully offered a disclaimer at the start of the first Dodger telecast this spring.

"We're not going to lie to you," the veteran announcer said. "What you're about to see is not major league baseball, but you are going to see professional baseball."

Scully, a Dodger announcer since 1950, said he was compelled to make the statement out of respect for his audience. On the field were replacement players substituting for striking major league players.

"I had not talked to one person on the air since last August, so I thought it was a natural," Scully said. "You don't just come on and say, 'Hi, here's the starting lineup.' That would be a little rude, I would think, to say the least."

But even if replacement players take the field when the regular season opens next week, Scully will not repeat the words.

Nor will Scully's Dodger broadcast partners, Ross Porter and Rick Monday, belabor the point that replacement baseball is not major league baseball. And Angel announcers Ken Wilson, Ken Brett, Bob Starr and Mario Impemba won't apologize for what's happening on the field.

The announcers, employees of the teams, are paid to promote the product being offered, presenting it in the best possible light.

"When they cross the lines and throw the ball," Porter said, "you describe it as you would a World Series game."

Said Scully: "If you're a car salesman, you sell the cars that are on the lot. You don't say, 'Well, we used to have a better car.' "

At the same time, Scully added, "We're not trying to tell people that these players are anything but what they are. We're not trying to say that they're major leaguers. What we are saying is, it's professional baseball and we're delighted to have it because, otherwise, we wouldn't have anything at all."

None of the announcers expressed any reservations about working replacement games.

"This is my job," said Starr, echoing his colleagues' comments. "It's what I get paid for."

Monday and Brett, former players who stand to reap pension benefits from the union, said they had no qualms about broadcasting games that have been belittled by the Major League Players Assn.

Neither has much sympathy for the union's hard-line approach toward replacement players, many of whom are minor league players. But neither expects to be ostracized by the regular players when the regulars return after the resolution of a dispute that has lingered since last August.

"That's absolutely the furthest thing from my mind," said Brett, who, along with Wilson, has not yet worked a replacement game because KTLA-TV canceled the two Angel telecasts it had scheduled for the exhibition season. "If I get backlash from them, that's a problem they're going to have. It's not a problem I'll have. . . .

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"The union cares about the 800 people that are in uniform, and that's all they really (care) about. They don't care about me anymore. They don't care about the minor leaguers that are being put in a bind here."

Monday, too, said that the striking players, who have threatened retaliation against the strike-breakers, have been too harsh in their attitude and comments toward the replacements.

"The players that are in uniform right now are the innocent bystanders caught in the middle of somebody else's argument," he said. "I thought it was unfair, frankly, to put the added pressure on these guys who, for the most part, had been invisible to the players' association for their entire careers and who, after a settlement is finally reached, will again become invisible."

Making them visible in the meantime has presented a challenge to the announcers, who many times this spring have known little more about the players than fans have known.

"You don't have the customary material to rely on," Scully said. "When somebody comes up to the plate, you can't bring up, 'Gee, remember that base-hit he got against the Reds that knocked in two?' You don't have any of that. You just have to talk about the kid and try to introduce him to the fan. You have to do a little more digging."

Starr, on Angel radio broadcasts this spring, has tried to interject as much information as possible about the players' backgrounds while describing the games.

"What we have done is itemize each player's career, to emphasize to the people listening that these are not guys who walked in off the street," he said.

Also presenting a quandary to the announcers, of course, is the question of how much to say about the ongoing labor dispute between management and players.

"Baseball fans are smart," Wilson said. "They know what you have to sell and they accept that you're offering it, presenting it in the best fashion.

"There's no reason to dwell on the strike. Everybody knows there's a strike, everybody knows the issues. So we really wouldn't be in much of a position to provide new information. I wouldn't hide it, but even if you didn't talk about it much, you wouldn't be hiding it because everybody knows what's happening."

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