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Sports Weekend | TV-RADIO LARRY STEWART

Ramsey Quits Fox Over Salary

July 30, 2004|LARRY STEWART

Tom Ramsey, who went to work for Fox Sports Net predecessor Prime Ticket in 1990 and developed into one of the best college football commentators, has said goodbye to the cable network.

The reason for the parting, according to Ramsey, is money.

"They wanted me to accept my 1999 salary," he said. "They essentially wanted to cut my salary in half."

Fox Sports Net West in Los Angeles, now officially FSN West, and the other regional networks that make up Fox Sports Net, took over college football production responsibilities this year.

So Ramsey, who was the lead commentator on FSN's Pacific 10 Conference telecasts, had new bosses.

He said he was initially contacted by FSN West executive producer Mike Connelly, and later had a conversation with the regional network's general manager, Steve Simpson. Ramsey places most of the blame for his departure on Simpson.

"The general manager made no attempt to salvage the situation," Ramsey said. "After all I have done for the network over the years, he's more concerned about saving a few thousand dollars a game on production."

Connelly, who spoke on behalf of FSN West, denied that the regional network was scrimping on production. He said the implementation of high-definition telecasts, which requires two feeds, was extremely expensive, and the planned addition of robotic cameras and super-slow-motion cameras also was very costly.

Ramsey's play-by-play partner, Steve Physioc, also is gone, but for a different reason. With the Angels' expanded television schedule, Physioc was faced with too many conflicting dates.

Barry Tompkins has been elevated to No. 1 play-by-play announcer on the Pac-10 package. Connelly, who also has made some changes among the production staff, said a commentator would be named soon.

Ramsey said another thing that irritated him was that he wasn't told about the proposed salary cut months ago, when he could have sought a football commentating job elsewhere.

"The timing is pathetic," he said.

Ramsey, a former quarterback at UCLA, said he has had encouraging talks with ABC, but it's too late in the year for anything significant to be worked out for this season.

ABC on Thursday announced its college football announcing teams.

Absent from ABC's lineup was another former UCLA quarterback, David Norrie. After four years with the network, his contract was not renewed.

With ABC moving Terry Bowden from the studio to game commentator and adding such people as Dan Reeves and Mike Golic, Norrie was the victim of a numbers game.

But Norrie has landed on his feet, getting a full-time commentator job with ESPN. He'll work a 17-game package that includes every ESPN Friday night game.

A Deserving Honor

While attending North Hollywood High, Burbank High and Glendale College, Lon Simmons never thought about being a baseball broadcaster. His thoughts were of being a professional baseball pitcher. But injuries and World War II eliminated that possibility.

After the war, Simmons was working in construction in Southern California when his wife Ann, whom he married in 1946, thought Simmons had a voice and a talent for broadcasting and researched how to get into the field.

Simmons worked in several smaller markets before landing a job with San Francisco's KSFO in 1957. KSFO became flagship station for the Giants the next year when the team moved to San Francisco from New York.

Simmons was picked to do play-by-play along with Giant announcer Russ Hodges, who came west with the team.

Simmons left the Giants in 1973 when Ann died of cancer at the age of 50. He came back to announce Oakland A's games from 1981 to '95, then spent six more seasons with the Giants before retiring in 2002. He also worked San Francisco 49er radio broadcasts for 26 seasons.

Last weekend, Simmons, 81, was the recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award at the Baseball Hall of Fame induction.

Among the 28 previous winners are Mel Allen and Red Barber, who shared the award in 1978, the first year it was given; Bob Elson, 1979; Hodges, posthumously in 1980; Ernie Harwell, 1981; Vin Scully, 1982, and Jaime Jarrin, 1998.

In recent years, when people would mention to Simmons that he deserved to win the award, the immensely humble Simmons would tell them he wasn't worthy.

"I did not feel I belonged in the same class with the likes of Scully, Russ and Ernie," he said.

What changed his mind was a new format for picking the winner. Fans selected the nominees -- more than 100,000 named about 150 possibilities, with Simmons, Dave Niehaus and Joe Nuxhall finishing as the top three. The list was boiled down to 10 finalists, and a 20-person committee, including 14 former Frick Award winners, selected Simmons as the recipient.

On Sunday, Simmons concluded his acceptance speech by saying, "To paraphrase the words of my high school buddy, Abe Lincoln, the people who voted for me let me know that for once in my life I wasn't just mediocre, that I had pleased some of them some of the time, if not all of the time."

Short Waves

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