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SPORTS WEEKEND | TV-Radio

Big Joe Stays Up Late for the Big Story

June 26, 1998|LARRY STEWART

The blockbuster news that Dodger executive vice president Fred Claire and manager Bill Russell were being replaced by Tom Lasorda and Glenn Hoffman broke a few minutes before 11 Sunday night, which sent the Southland sports media into a frenzy.

For the print media, it was a case of scrambling to remake sections to get the news in the paper, even after edition deadlines. It was a stop-the-presses situation.

An Associated Press report about the Dodger firings hit the wires about 11:15, and local TV stations broke in with special-bulletin reports shortly after that.

Because it was so late, newspapers and TV stations could only do so much.

Radio had more flexibility.

XTRA 1150, the Dodger flagship station, turned to veteran Joe McDonnell, who, like him or not, is one talk-show host with journalistic instincts.

McDonnell was at his favorite hangout, Trani's restaurant in Long Beach, when he got an emergency page at about 11:15. His station was calling and wanted him to get on the air as quickly as possible.

McDonnell thought the best thing to do was go to Dodger Stadium and report from the station's booth there. He figured he was half an hour away from the stadium if he ignored speed limits.

When he got to Dodger Stadium, a security guard wouldn't let him in. So McDonnell raced to the station in Burbank. He was on the air by 11:59 and got Lasorda to come on and take calls until 1 a.m.

McDonnell got about half an hour of sleep that night and was on the "Big Show" the next morning, which is done from the Fox Sports West studios in Century City and carried by both XTRA 1150 and Fox Sports West 2.

Then he had to do his own show that day.

"It was a wild odyssey," McDonnell said. "But it's things like this that make this business fun."

FIXING DODGERS, FXING BOXING

It's not hard to figure out why Fox is so impatient with the Dodgers. The new owners need a winning team not only to draw fans but also to attract viewers and sponsors for the telecasts on Fox Sports West 2. The plan is to put 80 games on Fox Sports West 2 next season.

There are also peripheral benefits. For instance, Monday night's Angel-Dodger game, which was an Angel home game on Fox Sports West, drew a 5.3 rating, an all-time high for baseball on Fox Sports West, and that night's edition of "Fox Sports News" beat ESPN's "SportsCenter," 1.5 to 0.2.

Although it remains to be seen if Fox's quick-fix approach will turn the Dodgers into a winner, you at least begin to see why it is so important.

Meanwhile, Fox is also delving into boxing. It may not be able to fix it, but it will FX it.

The four-year-old Fox cable network makes its foray into boxing Saturday night with an attractive card. Olympic gold-medal winner David Reid (9-0, six knockouts), a junior-middleweight, takes on three-time world champion Simon Brown (47-7, 34 KOs) in the main event, and Pomona boxer Shane Mosley (27-0, 25 KOs) puts his International Boxing Federation title on the line against Wilfredo Ruiz (25-3, 19 KOs).

The promoter of the card at the Apollo of Temple in Philadelphia is America Presents, a Denver outfit that is backed by Bill Daniels, the former Prime Ticket owner who is considered the "father of cable television" and is also a 5% owner of the Lakers. The company is run by Mat Tinley, Daniels' grand-nephew, and Dan Goossen, formerly of Van Nuys.

FX is going all out, with Arthur Smith, the head of production for Fox Sports Net, overseeing a production that Smith says will be Fox quality. Also, colorful referee Mills Lane makes his broadcasting debut, joining an announcing team that includes Barry Tompkins, Rich Marotta and Sean O'Grady.

Mark Sonnenberg, the president of FX, said, "Our plan is to put on only marquee fights, whether it's three fights a year or four."

It's all part of FX's plan to make Saturday night a big sports night. This Saturday the two-hour boxing show at 5 p.m. will be followed at 7 by the Dodgers and Pittsburgh Pirates. Also, at 3 p.m., FX will show the 1993 award-winning documentary, "Fallen Champion: The Untold Story of Mike Tyson."

SHORT WAVES

The 32nd Victor Awards, the longest running sports award program on television, will be televised from the Las Vegas Hilton Saturday at 5 p.m. by Fox Sports Net and can be seen on Fox Sports West. There will be repeat shows Sunday at 6 p.m. and Monday at 8 p.m. Chick Hearn, former Grambling coach Eddie Robinson and basketball's Bill Russell are among those getting special awards. The show benefits the City of Hope in Duarte. . . . To clarify a recent item in this space, Fox Sports West executive producer Gary Garcia--not Athletic Director Mike Garrett--said he was the one exploring the possibility of simulcasting Tom Kelly and Craig Fertig on Trojan football radio broadcasts this fall.

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