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SPORTS WEEKEND | TV-RADIO / LARRY STEWART

ESPN Radio Becomes Claire Frequency

July 03, 1998|LARRY STEWART

The Dodgers are in Fred Claire's past, and broadcasting may be in his future.

ESPN radio has hired Claire to work as a commentator on Saturday's broadcast of the New York Mets and Atlanta Braves, which will be carried in Southern California on XTRA 690 at 4 p.m.

"I hope it works out; I'd love to do more broadcasting," Claire said as he was cleaning out his Dodger Stadium office to make room for Tom Lasorda.

Our guess is, he'll do fine. Claire offers 30 years of experience in baseball to go with a pleasant personality.

"I think the best advice I can give myself is to just be myself," he said.

Some may say Claire's high-pitched voice isn't suited for broadcasting, but it's distinctive, and that's a plus. Too many broadcasters sound alike.

When you hear Claire, you'll know it's he, particularly since he'll be working with baritone-voiced play-by-play man Charley Steiner.

Public relations guru Steve Brener, a former colleague of Claire's at the Dodgers, served as the middle man for Claire. Brener got a call from ESPN radio's Len Weiner, former program director at KMPC, and Drew Hayes, who is headed for KABC radio, to inquire about using Claire.

"For some reason, I wasn't thinking, and I thought they wanted to use Fred on ESPN television," Brener said. "I had to call Fred back and tell him it was for ESPN radio and not television."

Said Claire, "I said to Steve, 'What did you do, send them my picture?' "

Claire said that when he was told there wasn't much money involved, his response was, "Good, because I can't afford to pay much."

Claire told his wife, Sheryl, that he might steal Vin Scully's line and open with, "Hello everybody, pull up a chair."

"Sheryl said Vin probably isn't too worried about me," he said.

Don't expect Claire to be the next Bob Uecker, but he does have a sense of humor--and a million stories. With the Mets as one of the teams, he'll be able to talk about Mike Piazza, Hideo Nomo and Bobby Valentine.

Claire and Valentine go back to 1969, when Lasorda, then the manager of the triple-A Spokane Indians, as a lark, subbed sportswriter and former JV high school player Claire in at shortstop for Valentine during a spring training game against the Class-A Bakersfield Dodgers at Dodgertown in Vero Beach, Fla.

Don't know about you, but I know how I'm going to spend part of my July 4 holiday. I'll be pulling up a chair and listening to Claire.

STILL PLENTY OF FIREWORKS

With the postponement of the NASCAR Pepsi 400, which CBS was to televise Saturday evening, Wimbledon tennis, World Cup soccer and baseball dominate the holiday fare.

To no one's surprise, the Dodgers, visiting San Francisco, are back on Fox Saturday afternoon.

One thing you can say about baseball on Fox is that it is entertaining. One reason is Fox's liberal use of microphones--whether on Roger the Peanut Man or the elderly Ball Dudes at 3Com Park.

Michael Weisman, recognized as one of the most innovative minds in television when he was NBC's executive producer of sports, is now a game producer with Fox and responsible for much of the ingenuity.

Weisman said that Saturday he hopes to have a microphone on the Giants' Orel Hershiser, provided he gets approval from major league baseball. Weisman also plans to put a microphone on Lasorda, who is expected to be at the game.

The Angels' 6 p.m. game against the Oakland Athletics will be on the FX network, with former Angel commentator Ken Brett joining Steve Physioc. FX, however, is not planning to show the fireworks show that will follow the game. For that, you'll have to go to Edison Field.

ALL-STAR LINEUP

Bob Costas, a couple of weeks removed from the NBA finals, jumps back into his favorite sport, baseball, with NBC's coverage of Tuesday's All-Star game. He'll be joined by Joe Morgan. Each won an Emmy award for his work on baseball last season.

Missing from the NBC team this year is Uecker, who bowed out because of a chronic back problem that will require off-season surgery and because of his duties as an announcer with the Milwaukee Brewers.

"We'll not only miss Bob on the air but also off the air," Morgan said. "He's such a great guy to be around. I think what he did for me as a broadcaster is get me to lighten up a little. Some people say, as a former player, I take the game too seriously."

During a conference call with reporters Thursday, Costas fielded a number of questions about his work on the NBA finals, which was criticized by some.

Without agreeing with his critics, Costas did say the pace of baseball was more suited to his style.

Costas said he will be back on the NBA next season. He said the return of partner Isiah Thomas--"a rookie who showed improvement"--had not been discussed.

ERROR JORDAN

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