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MLB Network's Peter Gammons gambit

The baseball writer's ability to offer historical perspective made him a must-have for the cable network on major league baseball.

December 11, 2009|By Diane Pucin
  • MLB Network made a splash this week by hiring Peter Gammons, the Boston-based national expert from ESPN.
MLB Network made a splash this week by hiring Peter Gammons, the Boston-based… (John Dunn / Associated Press )

MLB Network President Tony Petitti sounds as excited as a 10-year-old who is opening up a PlayStation on Christmas Day. Somewhere in the MLB film and video archives, a snippet has been found of a 1929 World Series game between the Philadelphia Athletics and Chicago Cubs.

It is a gem, Petitti says of this footage. Somehow, he says, the network dedicated to all things major league baseball will find a way to make a show out of this clip. Petitti just isn't sure what kind of show yet.

The MLB Network debuted last January in 50 million homes. It is in 54 million homes now. Original plans called for 1,400 live hours of programming in 2009. By Dec. 31 the cable network will have aired over 2,300 hours of live baseball-related games and studio shows, of trade deadline news and the player draft.

This week the network made a splash by hiring Peter Gammons, the Boston-based national voice from ESPN.

Gammons' ability to get current players to talk to him as well as his ability to offer historical perspective -- to be able, Petitti said, to watch that 1929 bit of video and figure out what to do with it -- made the veteran baseball reporter a must-have.

"Peter bridges those things, live video shots and historical knowledge," Petitti said.

Two things surprised Petitti in this first year on the air, he said. One was the response MLB Network got for its history shows, the other was the intense interest in trade-deadline coverage.

"I think we did seven or eight hours of trade-day coverage this year," Petitti said. "We'll do more next year. People loved it."

He also said MLB's extensive video library would be used more frequently. For example, Petitti said, "We're thinking about doing a series of shows with highlights of the last innings of every no-hitter ever thrown."

Help Jalen

Do you want to find Jalen Rose, ESPN basketball analyst and tech geek? Facebook him (just search for Jalen Rose). Tweet him (@jalenrose). Ask him questions, give him suggestions. For example, Rose wondered Thursday how it is that most people can get to their morning meetings on time. Coffee, of course.

Rose has a MacBook, a WiFi card and a BlackBerry (no iPhone despite the occasional mocking he gets for carrying only a single cellular device).

He said he operates with one rule in mind. "Before I press the send button I think, 'If this sentence appears on the front page of USA Today, how will it look?' "

Rose also has observed how Tiger Woods has dealt with the ugly revelations of alleged sexual encounters.

"There are two things to do when there's a storm around you," Rose said. "You can be the calm in the storm and address things directly or curl up like a snail and allow the situation to beat you over the back. So far Tiger has chosen to do the latter. He's allowed too much negative buildup to snowball."

Good on Friday

For college football playoff action (yes, there is some, just not from the Bowl Championship Series schools), William & Mary is at Villanova at 5 p.m. on ESPN2. Villanova Coach Andy Talley discovered the Finneran brothers, Brad and Brian, at Santa Margarita High. Brian is still playing in the NFL for Atlanta. And at 7:30 on FS West, the Lakers host the Timberwolves. Hot Rod Hundley is filling in for Stu Lantz, who is taking some games off while his wife recovers from surgery.

Good on Saturday

UCLA football fans will pay close attention to the Army-Navy game at 11:30 a.m. on Channel 2. If Navy wins, the Bruins go to a bowl game! There's a top-notch high school football game on Prime Ticket at 7:30 with the Southern Section Pac-5 championship game between Edison and Servite at Angel Stadium. And the Heisman Trophy winner isn't a foregone conclusion this time. The winner will be announced on ESPN at the end of the hourlong show, which begins at 5 p.m.

Good on Sunday

Nice NFL slate. We mentioned Brian Finneran. His Falcons host undefeated New Orleans at 10 a.m. on Channel 11. Another Orange County prep star, Carson Palmer, quarterbacks the Cincinnati Bengals against Minnesota on Channel 2 at 10 a.m. That Brett Favre guy might get mentioned as well. And Channel 4 is revving up pre-Olympic coverage with an 11 a.m. telecast of the U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix from Copper Mountain, Colo. Former Olympic champions Shaun White, Kelly Clark and Hannah Teter are scheduled to compete.

diane.pucin@latimes.com

twitter.com/mepucin

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