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Sports Weekend | TV-RADIO / LARRY STEWART

Ken Brett's Talents Were Many

November 21, 2003|LARRY STEWART

Ken Brett was certainly a talented baseball player. Peter Gammons, in a column he did for ESPN.com, wrote that a few years ago he asked the late Joe Stephenson, a respected baseball scout, to name the best prospect he ever saw.

"Kemer Brett," Stephenson told Gammons. (Kemer, his real name, is what those close to Brett called him.)

According to Stephenson, Brett could have played any position. The Boston Red Sox, who drafted him in 1966, made him a pitcher because he had a strong left arm and the team was desperate for pitching.

"Kemer was a combination of [his brother] George, Fred Lynn and Roger Maris," Gammons quoted Stephenson as saying.

However, in Southern California, Brett, who died at 55 Wednesday, may be better remembered as a baseball announcer.

He started with the Angels on radio in 1987, then worked Angel telecasts from 1991 to '96.

He had done some television commentating for the Seattle Mariners before coming to the Angels but had zero experience doing play by play. However, by June of his first season, Brett was thrust into a play-by-play role.

He wasn't very good, and we wrote as much. Did Brett complain about the criticism? Hardly. It was exactly the opposite. He admitted he was raw, and had some fun with it. He'd feign anger, then have a good laugh.

Brett laughed a lot. He smiled a lot. He also worked at his craft and became a first-rate baseball announcer. He'd always been a first-rate human being.

"You can't think of Ken Brett without smiling," said former Angel radio announcer Al Conin, who is now retired and living in Mission Viejo. "He had that kind of effect on everybody he came in contact with."

Conin is right. The news that Brett had lost his 5 1/2-year battle with brain cancer was indeed sad, but the thought of the many conversations and all the good-natured kidding does bring a smile.

Doc Is In

It was suggested in this space two weeks ago that Doc Rivers might fit the bill as Al Michaels' commentating partner on ABC's NBA telecasts if he were to lose his coaching job with the Orlando Magic.

Rivers was fired, and Thursday ABC named him its new lead NBA analyst.

"Doc is absolutely the right fit," said ABC Sports executive producer Mike Pearl.

ABC also announced that Michele Tafoya will return as the lead sideline reporter.

Rivers was a commentator for TNT for three seasons after his 13-year NBA career ended in 1996 and recently had talks with TNT. But because TNT's announcing lineup is set, it could not offer him a prominent role.

Rivers played 59 games for the Clippers during the 1991-92 season and did some talk radio in L.A. at the time. We recall having a golf date with Rivers back then because he wanted to talk about broadcasting. But the day we were scheduled to play, the Clippers' Joe Safety called to say, "Golf is off; Doc has been traded to the Knicks."

Keyshawn to Visit Fox

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers may not want Keyshawn Johnson, but Fox does. Johnson was invited to be a guest analyst on Sunday's NFL pregame show, and coordinating producer Scott Ackerson didn't rule out using him more.

"We've used him in the past, we're using him in the present, and we'll use him in the future," Ackerson said.

Johnson will be asked to comment on his situation as well other topics. In one of the features planned for Sunday, Jimmy Johnson interviews Bob Knight about Bill Parcells. In another, Terry Bradshaw interviews Brett Favre, whose team beat the Buccaneers last weekend.

College Football

Because it is the 100th meeting between Ohio State and Michigan on Saturday, ABC asked Keith Jackson to venture east to announce that game.

So he and partner Dan Fouts are, as Jackson says, "going over the mountain" to work the 9 a.m. ABC national telecast.

Meanwhile, Brad Nessler and Bob Griese will be at the Coliseum for the ABC regional telecast of UCLA-USC at 12:30 p.m. Saturday.

Oklahoma-Texas Tech is one of the three other ABC regional telecasts at 12:30. But don't expect ABC to switch off UCLA-USC, no matter what the score.

Loren Matthews, the ABC executive who makes such decisions, said, "I may be the most hated man in Kansas."

On Saturday, he decided to switch from Kansas State-Nebraska with 1:37 left and the score 38-7 to go to Ohio State-Purdue.

He said Kansas was a protected area for the Kansas State game, as is Los Angeles for UCLA-USC.

"In my nine years at ABC, I've only taken protected markets out of a game twice -- last weekend being the second time," Matthews said. "And both times people wanted to hang me."

It's Called Plagiarism

Part-time sports radio talk show host Dave Smith was fired by XTRA in March 2002 because of an obscenity-laced column that ran on a Web site he controls.

That Web site has gotten Smith in trouble again. It recently contained a column with no byline except "The Mole" that read, in part, word for word like a column by Steve Zipay of New York Newsday. Neither Zipay nor his newspaper was given any attribution.

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