Thursday, July 2, 2015

Longest gap between games called by an announcer team

Bob Costas and Tim McCarver will almost certainly set a "record" tonight when they call the Padres-Cardinals game on MLB Network. As best as I can tell, this will mark the longest gap between games on national TV networks for the same announcer team at 33 seasons. This duo last worked together in 1982 (see note below).

So which team holds the standard they are about to break? According to my research, that would be the 25 season gap for Jim Nantz and Bill Raftery on college basketball. CBS paired them in 2015 on the #1 crew after they had last called a game together in 1990.

Here are the longest such gaps that I found (while looking at MLB, NFL, NBA, CBB, and CFB on national TV networks):

33: Bob Costas, Tim McCarver  1982 (NBC) - 2015 (MLBN)

Note: A recent MLBN press release claims that Bob and Tim last worked together in 1980 calling two games on NBC that season. However the SABR network TV database (which is based on the historical announcer research at 506sports.com) credits Costas and McCarver with working one game in 1980 and one in 1982. For the purposes of this post, I am trusting the info from SABR/506sports and suspect that the MLBN press release is incorrect.

25: Jim Nantz, Bill Raftery  1989-90 (CBS) - 2014-15 (CBS)

This gap is even more remarkable when you consider that both Nantz and Raftery worked for CBS during the entire time period.

23: Jim Simpson, Bill Raftery  1981-82 (ESPN) - 2004-05 (ESPNCL)

In 2005, ESPN Classic aired a series of Turn Back the Clock games with vintage graphics and brought back Jim Simpson (who had been a mainstay in the early ESPN years) to call the games. As ar as I know, the last time Simpson worked with Raftery was this 1982 Big East matchup (although I don't have complete ESPN announcer listings for the 1980s).

19: Dick Enberg, Billy Packer, Al McGuire  1980-81 (NBC) - 1999-00 (CBS)

This is the longest gap I found for an announcer trio. After working on NBC through the 1981 NCAA Tournament, 19 seasons elapsed before CBS put them in the booth for a reunion game in 2000. Of course, Enberg and McGuire called many games as a duo during this gap.

17: Bob Costas, Bob Uecker  1997 (NBC) - 2014 (MLBN)

MLBN has added intrigue to its telecasts in recent seasons by using some old-school broadcasters. Bob Uecker had last worked with McCarver during the 1997 postseason.

13: Curt Gowdy, Al DeRogatis  1975 (NBC) - 1988 (NBC)
10: Curt Gowdy, Merlin Olsen  1978 (NBC) - 1988 (NBC)

During the 1988 Summer Olympics, NBC brought back some legendary announcers to fill in on September and October NFL games while much of its regular talent roster was at the Seoul games. This reunited Curt Gowdy and Al DeRogatis for a few games 13 seasons after they last worked together which was the longest NFL gap I found.

Note: This is not the easiest topic to research, so if you know of any announcer team gaps spanning at least 10 seasons which are missing from this list, please let me know.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Shot chart from Fox Sunday US Open telecast - 2015

I tracked the shots televised by Fox during the final round of the US Open. With the leaders teeing off at 6pm ET, I chose to start the tracking at 5:30 to provide a similar timeframe to the other events I have monitored.

Fox showed 341 strokes during the tracking period. The final putt dropped at 10:18 so this worked out to 1.18 strokes per minute which was an increase over the 1.12 shown by NBC during the 2014 US Open. The shot rate matched that of the 2015 Masters on CBS, but trailed the 1.33 by NBC for the 2015 Players. (Note: The Masters post contains links to the shot charts from the 2014 majors).

Fox showed all but one shot from Dustin Johnson, skipping only a layup shot on the 8th hole. Fox focused extensively on the final two pairings, devoting 69% of its televised strokes to those four players. Fox showed just 19 golfers playing strokes and only seven players got coverage for at least 10 shots. The highest finisher not shown during the period was Kevin Kisner (T12).

Also notable: Fox went commercial-free for 68 minutes starting at 9:14.

Here is the complete shot chart:

PlayerShots shownFinishPairing
Dustin Johnson69 (of 70)T21
Jason Day59T91
Jordan Spieth5612
Branden Grace52T42
Rory McIlroy27T915
Brandt Snedeker2085
Louis Oosthuizen16T23
Adam Scott9T411
Cameron Smith8T43
JB Holmes5T274
Shane Lowry4T94
Sergio Garcia3T1818
Henrik Stenson3T276
Charl Schwartzel278
Matt Kuchar2T128
John Senden2T1415
Brooks Koepka2T1813
Patrick Reed1T147
Colin Montgomerie1T6423
Kevin Kisner0T129
others0
total341

Note: The Pairing column reflects the tee time groupings in reverse order, so 1 =  final pairing, 2 = next-to-last, etc.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Original ABC footage of TC Chen double hit in 1985 US Open

Tuesday marks the 30th anniversary of one of the most infamous shots in golf history, the double hit by TC Chen during the 1985 US Open. The relatively unknown Chen held a 4-stroke lead playing the 5th hole of the final round, but his disastrous chip shot contributed to a quadruple bogey 8, dropping him into a tie for the lead. Chen would finish tied for 2nd just one stroke back.

Here is the original ABC telecast of that shot. Peter Alliss was on the call with additional commentary from USGA executive Frank Hannigan who ABC used for rules questions.



One surprising aspect from this footage is that Alliss continues to harp on whether Chen may have hit the ball three times instead of two, implying that such a distinction would have been relevant. But Rule 14-4 calls for a single penalty stroke whenever the club hits the ball more than once during a stroke. You would think that Alliss, a former golf pro, would have a better grasp of the rules.

If you listen carefully, at the 10:10 mark on the clip, you can hear a producer tell Alliss to ask Hannigan about whose decision the penalty would be. You can hear other such instructions at the 10:55 and 11:32 marks.

During this segment, ABC showed only two replays of the Chen shot, both from the original camera angle. Obviously, a similar incident on a modern tournament would result in several replays from multiple angles.

The entire Sunday round is on the same YouTube channel in 15 segments. Other ABC announcers on this event included Jim McKay, Dave Marr, Jack Whitaker, Bob Rosburg, Ed Sneed, and Judy Rankin.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Shot chart from NBC Sunday Players Championship telecast - 2015

I tracked the televised strokes by player during the NBC airing of the final round of the Players Championship. NBC showed 382 regulation strokes from the Sunday round. The telecast began at 2pm ET and regulation play ended at 6:48, so this worked out to 1.33 strokes per minute - the highest average of the six events I have tracked.

Note: NBC obviously televised all 39 shots from the playoff, but I did not count these in the table so as to provide a truer comparison to the tracking for other tournaments.

With a crowded leaderboard, NBC spread the wealth as eight golfers received coverage of at least 20 shots (and 10 players were shown for at least 10 strokes). Sergio Garcia who led the event for much of the afternoon was on the air for 54 strokes. NBC devoted 62% of the televised shots to the final three pairings. However, eventual winner Rickie Fowler, who started in the 8th pairing and was well back in the pack until late in his round, was only shown for 12 strokes prior to the playoff. Nine players in the field were featured more frequently.

NBC showed a total of 34 golfers (including a five-stroke taped package of Tiger Woods who had finished before the network took the air). Everyone who finished higher than T17 was shown for at least one shot.

For comparison, see the Sunday shot chart I compiled from the 2015 Masters (note: that post contains links to the charts from the 2014 majors).

Here is the complete shot chart (from regulation play):

PlayerShots shownFinishPairing
Sergio Garcia54T23
Kevin Kisner49T21
Bill Haas38T42
Ben Martin34T42
Justin Thomas34T243
Chris Kirk28T131
Rory McIlroy22T812
Kevin Na21T65
Brian Harmon15T812
Rickie Fowler1218
Bubba Watson9T4210
Rory Sabbatini7T611
Billy Horschel7T137
John Senden5T89
David Toms5T1316
Tiger Woods5T6935
Jamie Donaldson4T821
Adam Scott4T3810
Zach Johnson3T1313
Derek Fathauer3T178
Ian Poulter3T3011
Martin Kaymer3T5118
Pat Perez2T176
Chesson Hadley2T246
Charley Hoffman2T3019
Sangmoon Bae2T3023
Charles Howell III2T5615
Ryo Ishikawa1T87
Jerry Kelly1T175
Scott Brown1T304
Steve Stricker1T3820
Fredrik Jacobson1T4223
Matt Every1T4224
Luke Guthrie1T5116
others0
total382

Note: The Pairing column reflects the tee time groupings in reverse order, so 1 =  final pairing, 2 = next-to-last, etc.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Athlete/analyst from one sport who worked as a TV analyst in a different sport

Traditionally, the role of a sports TV game analyst is a former player or coach from the same sport. Here is a summary of athletes who played professionally (or at the major collegiate level) in one sport and worked as a TV analyst in that sport, but also worked as an analyst on a national TV network in a different sport.

Note: Several ex-athletes have become play-by-play announcers, hosts, or sideline reporters in another sport, but this post focuses on the unusual case of "crossover" game analysts.

Basketball

  • CBS used Frank Gifford (football) as an analyst on the college basketball NIT in the 1960s.
  • Pat Summerall (football) served as the CBS analyst on some ABA games in the early 1970s as well as on the NIT.
  • Sonny Jurgensen (football) was the CBS analyst on some 1976 NBA playoff games.

Football

  • Kyle Rote Jr (soccer) worked as a college football analyst for the USA Network in the 1980s.
  • Steve Grote (college basketball) analyzed some college football games for CBS in 1983.
  • Irv Brown (college basketball player and referee) worked as an analyst on some college football games for ESPN.
  • While this is stretching the definition of "athlete", I will note that NBC used professional "wrestlers" Jesse "The Body" Ventura and Jerry "The King" Lawler as XFL analysts in 2001.

Baseball

  • NBC added Don Meredith (football) as a guest commentator to the TV booth for one Monday Night Baseball game in 1974.
  • Jay Walker (football) worked as an ESPN analyst for some College World Series regionals.

Boxing


Olympics

  • Both ABC (1976) and NBC (1992) used OJ Simpson (football) as a track and field analyst on sprint events. 
  • Phil Simms (football) served as the NBC weightlifting analyst for the 1996 games.  

Soccer

  • TNT utilized Mick Luckhurst (football) as an analyst on the 1990 World Cup.

Golf

Golf is a bit trickier as the line between play-by-play and analyst is less clear-cut. But here are some athlete/analysts from other sports who also worked in the golf TV booth:

  • Tony Trabert (tennis)
  • Don Sutton (baseball)
  • Rick Barry (basketball)
  • Terry Gannon (college basketball)
  • Bob Trumpy (football)
  • Pat Haden (football)
  • John Brodie (football) 
  • the aforementioned Gifford and Summerall

Note: Brodie did compete on the Senior PGA Tour, but since he called golf on TV prior to that stint, I included him on the list.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Shot chart from CBS Sunday Masters telecast - 2015

I tracked the number of strokes CBS showed for each player during the telecast of the final round of the Masters. CBS showed 348 strokes played from the Sunday round. The telecast began at 2pm ET and the final putt was holed at 6:54, resulting in 1.18 strokes per minute - the same average as when I performed similar shot tracking for the 2014 Masters.

CBS showed all but one stroke of winner Jordan Spieth, skipping only a tap-in on hole 6. CBS bypassed just two tap-ins for Justin Rose and showed all but eight shots by Phil Mickelson. 57% of the televised strokes came from these three players as nobody else was really in contention for the Green Jacket.

The network went a bit overboard on Tiger Woods showing 35 strokes. Overall, CBS focused primarily on the final three pairings (81% of the televised strokes) with only Dustin Johnson getting any significant coverage from the rest of the field.

The highest finishers who were not shown were Kevin Na, Bill Haas, and Ryan Moore who were part of the tie for 12th. CBS showed a total of 23 golfers, but only seven players appeared for more than eight strokes.

For comparison, here are the Sunday shot charts I compiled from the other 2014 majors:
Here is the complete shot chart (including the highest finishers not shown on the telecast):

PlayerShots shownFinishPairing
Jordan Spieth69 (of 70)11
Justin Rose68 (of 70)T21
Phil Mickelson61 (of 69)T22
Tiger Woods35T173
Rory McIlroy3443
Dustin Johnson21T65
Charley Hoffman15T92
Zach Johnson8T97
Bubba Watson5T3814
Hideki Matsuyama455
Ian Poulter4T66
Rickie Fowler4T1213
Keegan Bradley4T2222
Mark O'Meara3T2223
Adam Scott3T3815
Paul Casey2T66
Lee Westwood2T4615
Hunter Mahan1T99
Kevin Streelman1T124
Sergio Garcia1T1710
Ernie Els1T2212
Steve Stricker1T2823
Sangmoon Bae1T3318
Kevin Na0T124
Bill Haas0T129
Ryan Moore0T1210
others0
total348

Note: The Pairing column reflects the tee time groupings in reverse order, so 1 =  final pairing, 2 = next-to-last, etc.

Monday, March 30, 2015

NFLN to debut 5 new episodes on historic NFL drafts

One of the best aspects of NFL Network is its focus on documentaries. Last year, the network launched a fascinating series Caught in the Draft which spotlighted the 1964 draft on the 50th anniversary and followed up with episodes covering the 1974, 1984, 1994, and 2004 drafts. This week marks the return of that concept as NFLN will profile the drafts for each year ending in "5" from 1965-2005.

The new season debuts on Thursday April 2 at 9 pm ET with an episode on the 1965 draft and the intriguing battle between the NFL and AFL for new talent. The series continues with new episodes in that same timeslot for five consecutive weeks with several replays scheduled. Leading into the season premiere, NFLN will re-air the 1964 episode on 4/2 at 8 pm ET and that pattern will continue each week which is great news for anyone who missed any of the showings from last year.

This promises to be another excellent series produced by NFL Films. Check out the trailer for the 1965 episode.


Sunday, March 1, 2015

CBS radio broadcast clip from Super Bowl 1

Here is a portion of the CBS radio broadcast of Super Bowl 1 between the Packers and Chiefs, courtesy of RadioTapes.com. The clip of about 17 minutes was recorded by WCCO-AM in Minneapolis. It mostly covers the pregame, but also contains a few plays of game action along with a postgame recap.

The announcers are Jack Drees and Tom Hedrick. During the clip, Hedrick refers to the game as the "Super Bowl", mentions the pointspread, and tries to rationalize the fact that there were numerous empty seats in the Los Angeles Coliseum that day.


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A look at the innovative Hill Street Blues

In January 1981, Hill Street Blues debuted on NBC and quickly became college dorm appointment viewing among my circle of friends. Set in an unnamed large city, the series focused on the police squad of the Hill Street precinct. Despite poor ratings the first season, the series received positive reviews, won several Emmy Awards and was renewed. It lasted for 146 episodes through May 1987. In 2014, the complete DVD set became available.

The style of Hill Street Blues was vastly different from the police shows of the time. The series used multiple storylines, several of which carried over to subsequent episodes. Many scenes featured background voices and other noises. Sometimes you had to really concentrate to follow the main dialogue though all the commotion. The show filmed action from non-traditional locations such as the men's bathroom at the station. Some scenes were dimly lit. Producers used many closeup shots from handheld cameras and often rapidly switched between camera angles. These techniques provided a more realistic feel, gave a sense of the chaos on inner city streets, and helped depict the dangers faced by the men and women in blue.

In contrast to a typical show of this genre which would focus on one lead detective and a sidekick, Hill Street Blues featured a large array of main characters. This opening credits sequence from 1985 showcases a whopping 16 names:



The innovative series was created by Steven Bochco and Michael Kozoll. In this interview, Bochco discusses various aspects of the show including the parallel storyline concept, casting decisions, and the pilot episode. He also talks about another iconic feature - the awesome piano theme music written by Mike Post.



Hill Street Blues covered topics such as police misconduct, racial tension, office politics, and ethical quandaries. The show also spotlighted the personal lives of the squad members and masterfully developed these characters over time. Many themes focused on personal demons - alcoholism, gambling, infidelity, depression.

Each episode would start in the morning and cover a single day. The show opened with the morning roll call which was conducted in the early seasons by Sergeant Phil Esterhaus (Michael Conrad). Esterhaus would speak in a distinctive slow-paced voice interspersed with eloquent language. He would always conclude with a version of his signature phrase "Let's be careful out there!".

Daniel J. Travanti played Captain Frank Furillo who exhibited a calm demeanor in dealing with each crisis that arose. A primary story line in season 1 was his intimate relationship (secret at the time) with public defender Joyce Davenport (Veronica Hamel). They formed an intriguing couple as their respective jobs sometimes pitted them as adversaries. Another interesting dynamic was how Frank was constantly juggling interruptions from his ex-wife Fay played by Barbara Bosson.

The show illuminated the bonds between regular police partners. I liked the chemistry of the Bobby Hill pairing with Andy Renko. Similarly, I was fond of the tandem of Joe Coffey and the strong female character Lucy Bates. Ironically, the initial pilot script called for Hill and Renko to die during a shooting, and the original intent was to kill off Coffey after a few episodes. Fortunately, plans changed allowing these excellent on-screen partnerships to flourish during the run. (Coffey was killed off during a shooting in season 6 and the impact on Bates was a key plot element).

Two of its actors had a major sports background. Mike Warren (who portrayed Hill) played basketball at UCLA and was a starting guard on the 1967 and 1968 national championship squads. Ed Marinaro (who played Coffey) was a running back at Cornell and finished second in the 1971 Heisman Trophy voting before playing parts of six seasons in the NFL.

Several episodes spotlighted the rather friendly working relationship between police officers and gangs. One aspect I found fascinating was the negotiations between police and gang leaders over terms such as turf boundaries. One gang leader was played by David Caruso who later served in the lead role in the Bochco series NYPD Blue. One episode featured a benefit basketball game between police and gang members which gave Warren a chance to show off his talent on the court.

The series used a lot of slang and pushed some boundaries with language - for example, many subtle sexual references and allusions to other bodily functions. The show also featured some quirky characters - most notably detective Mick Belker (who often referred to suspects as "Hairball" or "Dogbreath") and aggressive SWAT team leader Howard Hunter.

I'll timestamp a few things of note from this episode from the initial season:


  • 0:00 - morning roll call
  • 2:35 - scene in the station house men's room (involving Hunter of course)
  • 3:16 - a "Judas Priest!" exclamation from Hunter (and another at 4:25)
  • 6:30 - start of an action scene with dim lighting involving JD LaRue and Neal Washington
  • 10:00 - LaRue accepts a bribe
  • 12:14 - Henry Goldblume and Furillo negotiate with gang leaders (Caruso's character appears at 12:25)
  • 15:07 -  during a booking, Belker growls twice, types with one finger, and fields a phone call from his mother
  • 20:37 - Hill and Renko investigate a disturbance  
  • 26:34 - Furillo gets advice from Davenport
  • 30:10 - action scene with Hill and Renko
  • 35:05 - a demonstration of Furillo's leadership style
  • 38:40 - LaRue gets framed
  • 39:34 - Furillo/Davenport bubble bath scene
  • 42:40 - Frank deals with the latest situation involving Fay

Hill Street Blues was cleverly written and brilliantly casted. It was entertaining, educational, intense, and downright hilarious at times. Above all, it was riveting and drew me to subsequent Bochco series such as LA Law and NYPD Blue (and even the short-lived Bay City Blues).

This post is part of a Classic TV Detectives Blogathon hosted by the Classic TV Blog Association. Please check out the complete schedule of blog posts for this event.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The misleading reports about Dick Vitale and Duke-UNC assignments

There has been a lot of media attention on the fact that ESPN did not assign Dick Vitale to this week's UNC-Duke game. Several reports have claimed that Vitale has called every UNC-Duke game that has ever aired on the network, giving the impression that he has never failed to receive that assignment. At best, these reports are very misleading.

First of all, the implication that Vitale's employer has assigned him to every available UNC-Duke game since 1979 is simply wrong. In 1993, ABC (which used some ESPN announcers including Vitale) televised Duke-UNC on March 7 and assigned Brent Musburger and Jim Valvano to the game.



That same afternoon, ABC assigned Vitale to the Kentucky-Florida matchup with Roger Twibell.



The same thing happened on 3/8/1992 when ABC used Musburger and Valvano on UNC-Duke and sent Twibell and Vitale to Missouri-Kansas. So for two consecutive years, Vitale was assigned to another game while his network was televising the famed ACC rivalry on the same day.

For completeness, the January 18, 1986 Duke-UNC game was on ESPN but did not include Vitale as ESPN picked up the ACC Raycom production and delivered it nationally (announcers were Marty Brennaman and Billy Cunningham).

Also, Vitale did not call the quarterfinal game between these schools in the 2002 ACC Tournament. Brad Daugherty was the analyst that evening on ESPN2 while Vitale called the afternoon session that day.

Monday, February 9, 2015

The bizarre story behind the 1982 CBS debut of Verne Lundquist

Can you imagine a broadcaster under contract to one network appearing on the air for another network without permission and thinking that nobody would find out? Believe it or not, this scenario actually played out in 1982.

First some background ... In 1981-82, CBS, after acquiring the rights to the NCAA Tournament, added a schedule of regular season college basketball games. Leading up to March, the network had used only two broadcast crews. With the NCAA Tournament upcoming, CBS needed some additional announcers to handle the first weekend of the event across eight sites.

On Selection Sunday 3/7/1982, CBS televised two regional games, but rather than using its main announcer team of Gary Bender and Billy Packer on a game, CBS sent them to Kansas City for the Selection Show. The network assigned its #2 crew of Frank Glieber and Steve Grote to Memphis for the Metro Conference title game which went to most of the country. So CBS needed another broadcast team for its other regional game that day, UNLV at South Carolina.

CBS approached Verne Lundquist about doing play-by-play for that game and possibly the NCAA Tournament. Lundquist who was still under contract to ABC and was working for the ABC affiliate in Dallas agreed to call the game for CBS. But Verne never told anyone at his currently employer or requested permission. He felt confident that nobody of importance would even find out because CBS was only sending that game to six small markets.

As it turned out, the game in Memphis game ended early and CBS decided to send the entire network to the conclusion of the game Verne was calling, thus exposing his presence on CBS to a national audience.

While the idea that Verne could keep such a secret from his boss sounds preposterous, keep in mind that this game took place before the launch of USA Today and the national sports media column by Rudy Martzke. And if the primary game hadn't ended early, perhaps Verne would have successfully pulled it off.

Several years ago, I saw this story posted on a message board by someone who claimed to hear it on the Denver radio show of Irv Brown who was the analyst with Verne on that 1982 afternoon. At the time, I was somewhat skeptical of this tale because I was unable to find any mention of it elsewhere. But Verne told the same story to the Sports Business Journal where he also mentioned getting a call the next morning from a newspaper media critic about his appearance on CBS.

CBS wound up using Verne on the first weekend of the 1982 NCAA Tournament as well. But that created another twist as the ABC affiliate in Dallas which employed Lundquist granted him permission to work that event for CBS on the condition that his games would not be slated for regional coverage in Dallas. So this complicated the assignments of announcers to sites until CBS was able to identify what site of games it wanted to televise in Dallas before it could slot Verne.

Soon afterwards, Lundquist moved full-time to CBS.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Error in ESPN documentary on Max McGee TD in Super Bowl 1

ESPN aired an impressive documentary last night which spotlighted the four photographers who have worked each Super Bowl to date. The program Keepers of the Streak provided great stories from photographers John Biever, Walter Iooss, Mickey Palmer, and Tony Tomsic on their experiences in covering this event and the massive changes they have seen in media coverage, access, and logistics since the early years and how technology has changed their profession.

Surprisingly, this otherwise excellent episode contained a blunder regarding the first Super Bowl. Around the 9 minute mark, the show covers the halftime scene from Super Bowl 1. After that, the discussion turns to how the Packers began to pull away from the Chiefs in the second half on a 37 yard touchdown pass to Max McGee. This segment which is accompanied by NFL Films footage of that TD leads into the story of how an end zone photo taken by Iooss from that play become the cover image for the next edition of Sports Illustrated.

One problem: The McGee 37 yard TD which was the subject of the SI cover photo occurred in the first quarter of that game putting Green Bay up 7-0, not in the second half. McGee did score another TD of 13 yards late in the third, but the video footage on the documentary during the narration of this alleged third quarter sequence was definitely from the first quarter TD pass.

I highly recommend this documentary for the great storytelling and iconic photos. If you missed the show, ABC will replay it at noon ET on Sat 1/24 while ESPN2 has a scheduled re-airing at 7 pm ET on Thu 1/29.


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Review of the recent Al Michaels book

I highly recommend the recent Al Michaels book You Can't Make This Up written with L. Jon Wortheim.

Michaels covers it all from his days calling minor league baseball in Hawaii (where he also did remote re-creations of road games) to his work on national networks. He discusses the impact of listening to Red Barber and Vin Scully calling Dodgers games when Al was a youth in Brooklyn. He provides fascinating insight on Howard Cosell and takes you behind the scenes on his Olympic hockey telecasts. Michaels also lends great perspective on his role in covering the 1989 Bay Area earthquake and his relationship with OJ Simpson.

A few nuggets about Michaels from the book:
  • he attended Super Bowl 1 as a fan
  • one of his first jobs was working for Chuck Barris lining up potential contestants for The Dating Game
  • Curt Gowdy offered to listen to a tape of a 19-year old Michaels and gave him broadcasting advice
  • during filming for his guest appearance on Hawaii Five-O, he was "big timed" by lead actor Jack Lord
  • as a college student he successfully pranked a Phoenix newspaper into publishing phony stories about a fictitious high school baseball player
  • Al's father played a key role in the original 1960 AFL TV contract with ABC

I like the way Michaels provides honest (i.e. negative) opinions about some of his former colleagues in the TV industry. He also supplies background on his "Rascal" tendencies such as alluding to pointspreads during telecasts.

I'll also point out a few errors I spotted:
  • On page 74, while discussing his stint calling UCLA basketball, Michaels talks about the 1974 UCLA-Notre Dame game. He claims that it was nationally televised by NBC and was one of the first first NBC assignments for Dick Enberg. However, Enberg called it for TVS which nationally syndicated the game. The NBC regular season national TV package with Enberg didn't begin until two seasons later.
  • On page 125, he mentions calling a mid-October 1978 Washington at Stanford college football game for ABC and how much his analyst Frank Broyles raved about then-Stanford coach Bill Walsh. But, the 10/14/1978 game between those schools wasn't televised by ABC. Michaels must have meant the 9/16/1978 San Jose St at Stanford game which he and Broyles called on ABC.
  • On page 111, he talks about the 1980 USA Olympic hockey team clinching a berth in the medal round with a comeback win over West Germany. In reality, a loss by Czechoslovakia earlier that day rendered the USA game against West Germany meaningless in the Olympic standings. By the time the players took the ice, Team USA was already locked into second place in their division.

Overall, the book (on one of my all-time favorite broadcasters) is quite an entertaining and informative read.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 highlights - Classic TV Sports blog

The blog is celebrating its third birthday. For the benefit of newer readers, here is a summary of blog highlights from 2014 (in chronological order):

  1. Kevin Burkhardt joined a rare list of announcers who called an NFL playoff game in their debut season
  2. a look at the longest lasting announcer duos on national TV networks
  3. rememberances of the 1974 ACC Tournament title game on its 40th anniversary
  4. a chart of how many strokes CBS showed by player for the final round of the 2014 Masters (along with similar shot track summaries for the US Open, the British Open, and the PGA Championship)
  5. a summary of consecutive season streaks for 3-man TV announcer booths
  6. a retrospective on the classic TV sitcom Get Smart spotlighting some of the sports-themed episodes
  7. a peek inside the pages of a 1980 edition of The Sporting News
  8. a look at the single season NFL TV record that Jim Nantz and Phil Simms each wound up breaking in 2014
  9. the 1974 debut of the football sideline reporter role (with video of entire ABC telecast)
  10. video of Pat Summerall and Tom Brookshier calling a Muhammad Ali heavyweight title bout on CBS in 1976
  11. original NBC telecast of the first game of the 1973 NLCS called by Curt Gowdy and Tony Kubek (video)
  12. the story behind the last time an NFL game went untelevised

If you want more, check out the best posts from 2013 and highlights from the debut year of 2012.

Thanks for reading and following. Stay tuned for more classic TV sports content in 2015.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The last untelevised NFL regular season game (1975)

Today, it would be unthinkable for an NFL game to not be televised. So when was the last time an NFL regular season game did not appear on TV at all? According to the historical NFL TV research at 506sports, the answer is 1975 (when it happened twice).

The last untelevised NFL game was on Saturday 11/1/1975 when the Giants hosted the Chargers at 1 pm. Why was there an NFL game on a mid-season Saturday? The Giants shared Shea Stadium with the Jets that year as their new stadium in the Meadowlands was under construction. Shea was unavailable to the NFL until the MLB season ended as the Mets were the primary tenant. This forced the Giants and Jets to play on the road the first two weeks of the season. To squeeze in 14 home games at Shea over 12 weeks, the NFL scheduled the Giants for a few Saturday home dates. For games like this played outside of the normal network TV windows, the NFL allowed the road team to sell the TV rights to a local station (same thing for the home team if the game was a sellout). But no local station opted to pick up this game so it was not on TV.

So when was the last Sunday afternoon NFL game which went untelevised? That occurred just a few weeks earlier when the Patriots played at Cincinnati on Sunday 10/12/1975 at 1 pm. Why did TV shun that game? Well, NBC aired game 2 of the Cincinnati-Boston World Series that day at 1 pm. The same option for teams to sell the local TV rights applied in cases like this when NBC carried a Sunday baseball postseason game, All of the early afternoon NFL games bumped from NBC that day were televised by a local station except for NE-Cin. With the World Series featuring teams from the same TV markets, no local station wanted to televise it and compete with baseball. The idea that baseball would render an NFL game to not be televised seems hard to believe now, but it happened in 1975.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Four pro football telecasts on Thanksgiving Day (1967-1969)

Thanksgiving Day football on TV has been a longstanding tradition. Since the 1970 merger, the NFL has always presented an early afternoon telecast from Detroit followed by a late afternoon game (from Dallas most years, but from St, Louis twice in 1970s). The Turkey Day telecast schedule expanded to a tripleheader in 2006 when the NFL added a prime time game on NFLN. The Thanksgiving night telecast moved to NBC starting in 2012.

But did you know that there used to be a total of four pro football telecasts on Thanksgiving Day? This was indeed the case from 1967 to 1969. During those seasons, CBS presented a pair of Turkey Day telecasts with staggered start times sandwiched around an AFL doubleheader on NBC. The four games represented a whopping 31% of the pro football schedule. During these threee seasons CBS would begin with a noon time game from Detroit. Then NBC provided a pair of AFL games starting in the early afternoon. Finally, CBS came back with a 6 pm game from Dallas. And on top of all that, ABC aired a mid-afternoon college game.

For example, here was the Thanksgiving Day TV menu on Thursday 11/27/1969 (all times ET):

  Vikings @ Lions, 12:15 pm, CBS
  Broncos @ Chiefs, 1:30 pm, NBC
  Texas Tech vs Arkansas, 2:30 pm, ABC
  Chargers @ Oilers, 4 pm, NBC
  49ers @ Cowboys, 6 pm, CBS

In a notable sign of the times, NBC used a 2.5 hour window for its early game.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Original NBC telecast of 1973 NLCS game 1

One unfortunate aspect of baseball TV history is that most NBC telecasts from the 1969-1975 era of the League Championship Series apparently no longer exist. However, I recently discovered one such NBC telecast which has mostly survived - game 1 of the 1973 NLCS between the Mets and Reds.



At that time, a station in each participating market could televise the LCS games using its own announcers giving viewers an alternative to the network telecast on the NBC affiliate. That fact is illustrated by this clip which contains the opening from the local telecast on WOR-TV in New York. After the classic Meet the Mets theme music, announcers Lindsey Nelson, Bob Murphy, and Ralph Kiner set the scene. The WOR telecast continues through the top of the 1st inning and you can see that it used the NBC video feed.

At the 13:26 mark, the video shifts to the NBC network telecast with Curt Gowdy and Tony Kubek calling the action. Tom Seaver pitched for the Mets and contributed an RBI double at 24:08. At 1:14:19, Gowdy promotes the "football/baseball doubleheader" on NBC the next day. At the 1:18:00 mark, Gowdy mentions that the game was airing on two different channels in Cincinnati. The game-tying home run by Pete Rose is at 1:45:10. During the bottom of the 8th around the 1:48:30 mark, the video footage ends and radio commentary fills out the rest of the game.

This game from Saturday October 6 started at 4 pm ET. It was much faster paced than a modern game. Commercial breaks were only 60 seconds. The official time of this game was just 2 hours. At the 58:10 mark, Gowdy actually refers to a regular season matchup between these teams which took only an hour and 37 minutes.

While the video quality is less than ideal, the TV audio is rather impressive. Fans of historic sports telecasts should appreciate the chance to see this rare network TV footage from the early LCS days.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Pat Summerall and Tom Brookshier calling boxing in 1976

Pat Summerall and Tom Brookshier, best known for their time in the NFL TV booth, also called some boxing matches for CBS. The most prominent of these was a heavyweight title fight between Muhammad Ali and Jean Pierre Coopman which CBS aired live in prime time on Friday 2/20/1976.



The match was very one-sided but Pat and Tom provided entertaining commentary with Brookshier often dominating the microphone. It is interesting to hear them team up in a non-football environment. Their voices always sound great together. I like how at the 5:48 mark, Brookshier refers to the trunks of Coopman as "trousers" with Summerall remarking that they almost come down to his knees. This exchange is rather humorous in retrospect considering the typical length of "shorts" today.

CBS used minimal graphics - primarily just a 30-second countdown clock at the end of each round. Although they do not appear on this video clip, Brent Musburger and Phyllis George co-hosted the telecast that night. At the 7:07 mark, you can see legendary boxing announcer Don Dunphy who supplied some commentary between rounds.

A month earlier, CBS had assigned Summerall and Brookshier to announce a Ken Norton bout against Pedro Lovell, a mere eight days before they called Super Bowl 10. CBS later paired Brookshier with analyst Jerry Quarry on a series of boxing matches including a George Foreman win over John "Dino" Denis on a Friday night in October 1976.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The 1974 debut of the football sideline reporter role

This weekend marks the 40th anniversary of sideline reporters on football telecasts. On Saturday 9/7/1974, ABC introduced the college-aged duo of Don Tollefson and Jim Lampley in this role on the nationally televised UCLA at Tennessee game which started at 4 pm ET. Tollefson was beginning his senior year at Stanford while Lampley was a graduate student at North Carolina.

Here is the entire telecast:



Tollefson was the first of the two to appear on air with a pregame report at the 4:24 mark. Lampley provided a pregame feature at 10:05. Once the game started, Tollefson handled the UCLA sidelines with Lampley on the Tennessee side. ABC attempted to jazz up its telecasts by cutting to one of them periodically for brief reports and interviews.

The first in-game sideline report came at the 41:58 mark when play-by-play announcer Keith Jackson sent it down to Tollefson who interviewed a cheerleader. The moment comes off very awkwardly as Tollefson doesn't identify the interview subject in any way, but rather dives right in with a question. He would do the same thing when interviewing a police officer at 1:08:18.

In a 2009 interview, Lampley recalled this telecast, but completely botched the details of his on-air debut.

"I can tell you exactly the first time they threw to me during action. It was early in the game." The day before, he'd had a lengthy interview with Tennessee quarterback Condredge Holloway. Afterward, Holloway pulled Lampley aside and guaranteed that, the following day, he would throw for a touchdown on the Volunteers' first play from scrimmage. Says Lampley: "I'm like, 'Pardon me?' He said, 'Trust me. We spent all summer studying film. We know exactly how they bit. This is play-action to Stanley Morgan, and we'll score on the first play from scrimmage.'" On Saturday, Tennessee won the coin toss. Got the ball on the 20. Play-action to Stanley Morgan. Eighty yards. Touchdown.

"I had told the producer about it," Lampley says, "and he remembered, and amid all the hoopla, Keith [Jackson] threw to me on the sideline. I said, 'Keith, at our sitdown interview, Condredge told me he'd throw a touchdown pass on the first play of the game, etc., etc.' That was the first thing I did on camera. 

Tennessee actually scored on its second play from scrimmage (not first play) on a 74 yard TD pass (not 80). You can forgive Lampley for these relatively minor mistakes. But I found a major error with the rest of his description of his first sideline report - it never happened! As you can see from the video (the sequence starts at the 28:15 mark), Jackson does not send things down to Lampley after this play or upon return from the next commercial break. In fact, Lampley would not appear on camera during game action until the 47:43 mark when he provided an injury report with no mention at all of this scoring play.

Here is a sampling of some other sideline reports from this game:

  • 49:37 - injury report (Tollefson)
  • 53:55 - injury update (Lampley)
  • 59:44 - mascot interview (Tollefson)
  • 1:02:19 - injury update (Lampley)
  • 1:10:54 - parent interview (Lampley)
  • 1:15:19 - cheerleader interview (Tollefson)
  • 1:27:22 - injury update (Lampley)
  • 1:37:05 - halftime coach interview (Tollefson)
  • 1:57:18 - halftime coach interview (Lampley)
  • 2:22:06 - injury report (Lampley)
  • 2:27:25 - parent interview (Tollefson)

I thought Tollefson appeared nervous on camera. I thought Lampley was more poised and sounded much better. Most of the interview questions from both men seemed quite lame. And many of the sideline reports seemed rushed.

A few other notable items from this video clip:

  • Most commercial breaks were just 60 seconds.
  • At 2:19:58, ABC promoted the upcoming Monday night telecast with an on-screen graphic which botched the spelling ("Darryl") of guest commentator Darrell Royal.
  • You can hear a classic Jackson "FUMBLE!" call at the 2:23:10 mark.
  • This footage also includes the Prudential College Scoreboard show with Dave Diles starting at 3:15:14.

Tollefson lasted just one season in the ABC sideline role and went on to have a lengthy career, primarily as a local sportscaster in Philadelphia. Lampley worked the sidelines for three seasons and then shifted into a play-by-play role on regional NCAA games in 1977. He made his mark mostly at the national level on ABC, and later on CBS, NBC, and HBO.

Ironically, in later years, both of the original sideline reporters encountered trouble with the law. In 2007, Lampley was arrested for a domestic violence incident and pled no-contest to a charge of violating a restraining order. In 2014, Tollefson was arrested for his involvement in a charity fraud scheme and spent time in jail.

This 1974 telecast was significant for other reasons. It was the first for Jackson as the lead voice on the ABC NCAA football package. He took over for Chris Schenkel who was moved to the studio. This was also the first example a season long experiment where ABC used a variety of current and former coaches as guest commentators in the booth. The analyst on this game was former Nebraska coach Bob Devaney.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Shot chart from CBS Sunday telecast of PGA Championship

I tracked the strokes shown per player during the CBS telecast of the Sunday round of the PGA Championship.

CBS showed all but 5 strokes by winner Rory McIlroy, skipping some tap-in putts. CBS televised all 66 shots by runner-up Phil Mickelson. Playing partner Rickie Fowler got air time for all but 2 swings. With several players in contention early in the round, CBS spread its coverage out. But once the eventual top 4 finishers created separation from the field, CBS focused almost exclusively on that quartet including Henrik Stenson who was seen for 52 strokes. Ernie Els made an early birdie run and appeared on screen for 28 strokes. The highest finisher not shown was Hunter Mahan who tied for 7th.

From when play resumed at 2:45pm until the final putt dropped in near darkness, CBS showed a total of 416 shots for an average of 1.16 strokes per minute. CBS showed 32 strokes from different players, but that total was due in part to the delayed tee times.

Below is the complete shot chart for the PGA (and, for comparison, see the Sunday TV shot charts from the other 2014 majors):

PlayerShots shownFinishPairing
Phil Mickelson66 (of 66)22
Rickie Fowler65 (of 67*)T32
Rory McIlroy63 (of 68)11
Henrik Stenson52T34
Bernd Wiesberger33T151
Ernie Els28T714
Jason Day16T153
Louis Oosthuizen13T153
Thorbjorn Oleson11T3026
Mikko Ilonen9T74
Ryan Palmer7T55
Jimmy Walker7T714
Kenny Perry7T2720
Jim Furyk4T59
Lee Westwood4T158
Charl Schwartzel4T1518
Alexander Levy4T3015
Sergio Garcia3T3613
Steve Stricker2T76
Marc Warren2T1512
Jerry Kelly2T2722
Vijay Singh2T3628
Chris Wood2T4719
Graeme McDowell2T4732
Victor Dubuisson1T711
Brandt Snedeker1T1310
Graham DeLaet1T156
Brooks Koepka1T1512
Joost Luiten1269
Ian Poulter1T5926
Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano1T5931
JB Holmes1T6518
Hunter Mahan0T77
others0
total416

* Fowler took 67 "shots" plus one penalty stroke for a score of 68.

Note: The Pairing column reflects the tee time groupings in reverse order, so 1 =  final pairing, 2 = next-to-last, etc.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Jim Nantz and Phil Simms poised to break an NFL TV record

<UPDATE 12/15/2014: Nantz and Simms each broke this record and reached 22 games when they called the Thursday 12/11 Cardinals-Rams game. Both are on track to set the new mark at 26 regular season games.>

Jim Nantz and Phil Simms are likely to shatter an NFL TV broadcasting record in 2014. Earlier this year, CBS acquired the rights to the new Thursday night NFL package. The network has already announced that Nantz and Simms will call the 7 Thursday night games on CBS, the 7 Thursday night games on NFL Network, and one of the Saturday games in week 16. That will put them at 15 games, but CBS also plans to use Nantz and Simms on "select" Sunday telecasts - presumably on many of the doubleheader weeks.

The expected workload for the CBS #1 crew leads into the question as to who holds the "record" in the category of most games worked in a single regular season by an NFL TV announcer. Using the historical pro football TV announcer listings at 506sports, the current record is 21 games. Frank Gifford reached this mark 4 times while OJ Simpson and Joe Namath did so once each - all for ABC.

So, if we conservatively assume that CBS assigns Nantz and Simms to a Sunday contest on 6 of the 9 CBS doubleheader weeks, then if they also work on opening Sunday and Thanksgiving Day, that would make 23 games which would easily set a new single season record. If CBS were to use them on all 8 of the "practical" doubleheader weeks (excluding week 16 due to the Saturday games), then the mark would reach 25. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

<UPDATE 12/15/2014: Nantz and Simms will not call a week 16 Saturday game, but will work that Sunday instead, They also called a week 15 game during a CBS singleheader which, along with a week 17 game, will bring their season total to 26.>

Here is the complete list of announcers I found who called 19 or more games in a single regular season:

announcernetworkseasongames
Frank GiffordABC198321
Frank GiffordABC198421
Frank GiffordABC198521
OJ SimpsonABC198521
Joe NamathABC198521
Frank GiffordABC198621
Frank GiffordABC197820
Howard CosellABC197820
Frank GiffordABC197920
Frank GiffordABC198020
Frank GiffordABC198120
OJ SimpsonABC198420
Don MeredithABC198419
Al MichaelsABC198619
Paul MaguireNBC199619
Paul MaguireNBC199719
Al MichaelsNBC201319
Cris CollinsworthNBC201319

With the exception of Paul Maguire, all of these announcers on the 19+ list did so while working for a network which had one of the prime time packages and which carried multiple games in select weeks. NBC twice used Maguire for 2 games on Thanksgiving weekend plus a Saturday/Sunday back-to-back late in the season.

Nantz and Simms are among a group of announcers who have called 18 games in a season. In the era of the 17-week schedule, many of the announcers on the CBS and Fox #1 crews have called 18 (typically when receiving double-duty on Thanksgiving weekend). In 1993, the NFL had an 18-week schedule, but even though the #1 announcers doubled up on Turkey Day weekend, they got a week off elsewhere. Others who have maxed out at 18 include Pat Summerall, John Madden, Dick StocktonMatt MillenTroy Aikman, and Greg Gumbel.

Most of these marks were set when ABC had a 20-game package starting in 1978 and a 21-game package from 1983-86. Gifford called all of those games. Al Michaels missed 2 in 1986 while covering the baseball playoffs. Cris Collinsworth joined the club in 2013 when the NBC prime time package expanded to a 19-game schedule. Some other notable #1 announcers who have never reached 18 are Joe Buck (who annually misses games to cover the MLB playoffs) and Dick Enberg (who often had golf conflicts).