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Fox Broadcast Makes a Monkey of Itself

October 20, 2002|Mike Penner

"Monkey! Monkey! Who's got the monkey?!" Joe Buck hollered shortly before the first pitch of the first game of the World Series on Saturday evening. I don't know, call me old school, but I miss the days when "Play ball" used to suffice.

Buck, lead play-by-play baseball broadcaster for Fox, was excited, and why shouldn't he be? Friday, while he was in town, Buck stopped by Craig Kilborn's show to introduce the host before holdover Letterman viewers switched to Conan O'Brien. A day later, Buck was calling Game 1 of the World Series, and chances were good people were going to stay tuned awhile, at least until Tim McCarver drove them to the radio.

Who's got the monkey? Buck didn't have to ask. Fox was all over it, especially local Channel 11, which made 11 mentions of the rally monkey, not counting a feature on the infernal beast, during its "World Series Countdown" pregame show, which featured this highlight: field reporter Jennifer Gould, standing outside Edison Field, clicking the heels of her bright red sandals and announcing, "All right, Dorothy had her ruby slippers, I've got my red. So Angels win the World Series."

Who was Gould's journalism instructor in college? Rex Hudler?

Serious baseball fans thinking they were about to watch a historic encounter between the Angels and the San Francisco Giants were stunned when Channel 11's pregame show instead introduced another new Fox cartoon: Super Barry versus The Rally Monkey.

The matchup, as teased by the station:

"One team led by one of the giants of the game."

Cue footage of Barry Bonds' home-run swing.

"The other spurred on by a monkey that rallies fans that thunder."

No mention of Tim Salmon, Garret Anderson, Troy Glaus, Darin Erstad or Jarrod Washburn.

The Angels wait 42 years to play in their first World Series and we're told the reason they finally got there is a mangy video mascot.

For those who wondered, this is what happens when Disney puts a team in the World Series.

Once the local affiliate handed off to national Fox, at least we learned that Salmon and Anderson and Glaus held roster spots on the 2002 American League champions.

But we didn't hear anything about closer Troy Percival or backup catcher Jose Molina or pinch-run specialist Chone Figgins during pregame introductions.

That's because the Angel reserves and relief pitchers, along with the Giants', were not introduced before the game. Starters only.

The Angels wanted to give every player on the playoff roster their few moments in the spotlight -- it had been 42 years, after all -- but Fox pulled rank and cut the introductions short. "It was a network decision," Angel vice president of communications Tim Mead explained.

Television viewers also missed the ceremonial first pitch -- another major moment in Angel history, since it was delivered by Gene Autry's widow, Jackie, and caught by former Angel Chuck Finley, who labored fruitlessly through so many failed Angel summers. Fox cut that, too, although it generously managed to squeeze in a replay during the game.

Can't let baseball get in the way of "Boston Public" commercials.

Baseball eventually happened, although Fox big-footed its way all over another big event, Bonds' first World Series at-bat, which also happened to produce Bonds' first World Series home run.

This was can't-miss television, the game's biggest star breaking another historic drought, but Fox found a way to foul it up, piping in the sound of cheesy regal trumpets while Buck mock-dramatically declared, "Royalty circles the bases in the second."

The Giants won the opener, 4-3, but even if they go on to sweep this thing, you get the feeling this is going to be a long World Series.

McCarver started talking about the rally monkey in the fourth inning and Buck jokingly chided him, "You're not allowed to talk about it till later in the game. For the sake of this country ... I'm sure that before the end of this World Series, we'll have had our monkey's fill."

I do believe we're there already.

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