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THE INSIDE TRACK | PAGE TWO / RANDY HARVEY

Broadcasting Giants Cast Long Shadows

January 19, 1998|RANDY HARVEY

Two native Angelenos, now in their 50s, told me in separate conversations a few years ago that they misspent their youth acting as if they were broadcasting Laker games from the Sports Arena's cheap seats. Both had dreams of growing up to become Chick Hearn.

Years later, realizing that Hearn was a simulcast version of Dorian Gray, they became sportswriters. They figured some day they would replace Jim Murray. But that's another story.

Old sportscasters never put their careers in the refrigerator. They just fade to commercial.

At least it seems like that in Los Angeles.

Hearn is broadcasting his 3,000th consecutive Laker game today, a streak that began a little more than 32 years ago. But this actually is his 38th year as the team's voice. Vin Scully is about to begin his 49th season with the Dodgers. Even the kid, Bob Miller, is celebrating his 25th year with the Kings.

For baby-boomers who aspired to those jobs, their children have children who are growing up listening to Hearn, Scully and Miller.

"When I took this job, there was some 8-year-old out there who said his goal in life was to become the Kings' broadcaster," Miller said. "Now he's 33, and the job still isn't open. I hope he's found another market."

Al Michaels did.

Watching Dodger games at Brooklyn's Ebbets Field with his dad, Michaels didn't dream of becoming Duke Snider. Michaels dreamed of becoming Scully.

A short time after the Dodgers moved West, so did the Michaels family. Al went to Hamilton High, his dream still alive.

As it turned out, Michaels had a closer brush with Hearn than Scully.

He was Hearn's first color analyst. As a 22-year-old recent college graduate in 1967, Michaels had the job for eight games before Jack Kent Cooke fired him to make room for Hot Rod Hundley.

Hearn preferred working solo. He continued to do so even with Michaels at his side.

"I uttered 73 words, nine per broadcast," Michaels said.

Fortunately for him, he found fame as the play-by-play announcer for Cincinnati's Big Red Machine, the San Francisco Giants, the Miracle on Ice and "Monday Night Football."

Who knows what would have happened if he had waited around Los Angeles to replace Hearn or Scully? Maybe he would be selling used cars. Or writing the Page Two column.

*

Murray Chass, the New York Times national baseball writer, recently polled 16 general managers on whether they'd rather have Sandy Koufax or Don Sutton. . . .

Believe it or not, only half said Koufax. Six said Sutton and two couldn't make up their minds. . . .

If I were an owner whose general manager said Sutton, I'd find a new general manager. . . .

I don't mean that as a criticism of Sutton, but we're talking about SANDY KOUFAX. . . .

Sutton voters said it's better to have a pitcher who wins 324 games over 23 seasons than one who has six magnificent seasons. . . .

I say it's better to have a pitcher who carries you to the World Series every other season for six seasons than one who averages 14 wins. . . .

"It's not even a question in my mind," Al Campanis said last week. "Don was a good pitcher; Sandy was a great one." . . .

Campanis, the Dodger scout who signed Koufax, said he almost missed out when the bird dog who told about the young pitcher spelled the name "Kofacs." . . .

"We didn't have a Kofacs on any of our lists," Campanis said. . . .

If you're a high school basketball fan, the only place to be today is the Martin Luther King Holiday Challenge at Pauley Pavilion. . . .

Among the players featured on the eight-game schedule are the area's most talked about senior (Tayshaun Prince of Compton Dominguez), junior (Jason Kapono of Lakewood Artesia) and sophomore (Andrew Zahn of Redondo Union.) . . .

The player there with the brightest future, however, might be Tyson Chandler, the 6 foot 11 1/2 Dominguez freshman. . . .

Agent Leigh Steinberg likes to say, "Quarterbacks don't grow on trees." . . .

One of his does. He signed Ryan Leaf. . . .

Billy Packer had to handle most of the commentary during the UCLA-Stanford game Saturday because broadcast partner Jim Nantz had laryngitis. . . .

Get well, Jim. . . .

But, first, breathe on Dick Vitale.

*

While wondering if Chick will ever tell his age, I was thinking: It's OK as long as he continues not to act it, he told the truth about these Lakers long before Tim Hardaway did, may the mustard never be off the hot dog.

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