Monday, October 5, 2015

TV coverage for the early years of the LCS (1969-1975)

Can you imagine a baseball playoff game with no national TV coverage? This actually happened multiple times during the early years of the League Championship Series.

MLB created divisions in 1969 and added the LCS playoff round. NBC held the national TV rights to these games, but its LCS coverage in those first years left much to be desired.

At the time, the best-of-5 LCS began on a Saturday for both leagues and NBC would kick things off with an afternoon doubleheader. Then things would get interesting. On Sunday, NBC typically selected one of the baseball games for a national telecast and presented a "football/baseball" doubleheader with regional NFL action at 1 pm and an LCS game at 4. The other LCS game was relegated to a local telecast. Neither MLB nor the NFL scheduled any games for Sunday night at the time.

When both leagues played on the same weekday, the starting times overlapped by 1.5 hours. NBC would televise one game in full in the early afternoon and then join the late game in progress.

The standard practice for NBC was to send its top announcer team of Curt Gowdy and Tony Kubek to the weekend games of one LCS and then shift them to the opposite league for the weekday games. Jim Simpson handled play-by-play duties for the other series from 1969-1974 with Joe Garagiola filling that role in 1975. The "B" team analysts were Sandy Koufax (1969-1972) and Maury Wills (1973-1975).

During this era, MLB typically scheduled these playoff series with no off day for travel unless one of the teams was from the west coast. And the game times were fixed in advance with no provisions for moving a start later in the day if the other series ended early.

For example, check out the NBC TV schedule for the 1972 LCS round (all times ET):

Sat 10/7, Reds @ Pirates, NLCS game 1, 1 pm, Simpson, Koufax
Sat 10/7, Tigers @ Athletics, ALCS game 1, 4 pm, Gowdy, Kubek

Sun 10/8, Tigers @ Athletics, ALCS g2, 4 pm, Gowdy, Kubek
(Note: NBC did not carry NLCS g2 which started at 1 pm and was only televised locally.)

Mon 10/9, Pirates @ Reds, NLCS game 3, 3 pm, Gowdy, Kubek

Tue 10/10, Athletics @ Tigers, ALCS game 3, 1:30 pm, Simpson, Koufax
Tue 10/10, Pirates @ Reds, NLCS game 4, (joined in progress - 3 pm first pitch), Gowdy, Kubek

Wed 10/11, Athletics @ Tigers, ALCS game 4, 1:30 pm, Simpson, Koufax
Wed 10/11, Pirates @ Reds, NLCS game 5, (joined in progress - 3 pm first pitch), Gowdy, Kubek

Thu 10/12, Athletics @ Tigers, ALCS game 5, 1:30 pm, Simpson, Koufax 

After the successful 1971 experiment to move one World Series game to prime time, MLB began scheduling all weekday World Series games at night. But for some reason, MLB continued to keep all the weekday LCS games in the afternoon. It wasn't until 1975 that MLB moved any LCS game to prime time (when it provided regional coverage of game 3 of each series on a Tuesday night).

Because of the incomplete national TV coverage, NBC allowed the participating markets to carry the LCS telecasts using local announcers. So fans in those markets would have access to each game in its entirety (and had a choice of which telecast to watch when NBC also aired the game).

In 1976, for the first time, MLB placed each LCS game into a unique national TV window and scheduled one game for prime time each day including Sunday. The practice allowing for separate LCS telecasts with local announcers continued through 1983.

Sadly, very little NBC footage survived from these early LCS years. Much of 1973 NLCS game 1 exists as well as portions of the 1972 ALCS game 2 telecast.

Here is the earliest LCS footage I have found - a few clips of Gowdy calls from the 1969 NLCS:

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Shot chart from CBS Sunday PGA Championship telecast - 2015

I tracked the shots televised by CBS during the final round of the PGA Championship. On the telecast, CBS showed a total of 327 strokes from the Sunday round. CBS came on the air at 2pm ET and the final putt was holed at 7:11 resulting in an average of 1.05 strokes per minute - a decrease over the 1.16 rate from the 2014 PGA.

CBS showed every shot from winner Jason Day and all but one from runner-up Jordan Spieth (skipping only a tap-in par putt on hole 9). CBS focused most of the attention on the final two pairings. Those groupings (which produced the top four finishers) received 68% of the televised strokes. CBS showed 23 golfers playing strokes, but only six got coverage for more than 9 shots. The highest finisher not shown by CBS was Robert Streb (T10).

For comparison, here are the shot charts from the other 2015 events I tracked:
Note: The Masters post contains links to the shot charts from the 2014 majors.

Here is the complete shot chart:

PlayerShots shownFinishPairing
Jason Day67 (of 67)11
Jordan Spieth67 (of 68)21
Branden Grace4532
Justin Rose4242
Anirban Lahiri17T55
Dustin Johnson15T74
Martin Kaymer9T123
Rory McIlroy91710
Brendan Steele8T1215
Steve Stricker8T3026
Phil Mickelson7T1812
Bubba Watson7T2121
George Coetzee5T78
Brooks Koepka4T57
Matt Kuchar4T75
Rickie Fowler3T3020
Vijay Singh3T3728
Tony Finau2T103
Brandt Snedeker1T127
David Lingmerth1T1218
Justin Thomas1T1811
Matt Jones1T214
Jim Furyk1T3015
Robert Streb0T109

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

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Mets broadcaster Bob Murphy calling ABC college football in 1982

Bob Murphy is best known for his local TV and radio work for the New York Mets. Murphy was part of the original Mets broadcast crew starting in 1962 along with Lindsey Nelson and Ralph Kiner.

During the 1970s and early 1980s, Murphy also called some regional college football telecasts for ABC with a variety of analysts. Here is a 1982 matchup between Missouri and Nebraska with analyst Tom Gatewood joining Murphy in the booth.

I don't recall ever having the chance to see Murphy announce a football game as my area always seemed to get the primary ABC telecast on regional weeks. So it was a treat to stumble onto this video and hear that great voice once again.

Murphy did have some prior football broadcast experience as he was the radio play-by-play voice for the AFL New York Titans in 1962 and 1963 (the franchise was renamed to the Jets between those seasons). And on a few of those games from the west coast, his booth partner was Kiner.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Jim Nantz working as an NBA analyst in the 1980s

Before getting his shot at the network level, Jim Nantz worked as the analyst on Utah Jazz local telecasts for a few seasons. His play-by-play partner on those games was Hot Rod Hundley.

Here is a Jazz game from March 1985 called by this tandem. The game against the Chicago Bulls was televised by KSL-TV in Salt Lake City as part of a radio simulcast. Considering that he has been one of the preeminent play-by-play voices for the past few decades, I found it intriguing to hear a young Nantz as an analyst (essentially filling the old-fashioned color commentator role).

A season later, Nantz was serving as a play-by-play announcer on some regional NBA playoff telecasts on CBS.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Shot chart from ESPN final round of Open Championship telecast - 2015

I tracked the shots shown by ESPN during the Monday round of the Open Championship. I started tracking at 9am ET and ended when the final putt was holed in regulation play at 1:50. ESPN showed 358 shots during this period which worked out to 1.23 strokes per minute - a sizable increase over the ESPN shot rate of 1.01 from the 2014 Open Championship.

This was also a higher shot rate than I tracked for CBS from the 2015 Masters and Fox from the 2015 US Open, but trailed the rate that NBC showed during the 2015 Players. The Masters post contains links to the shot charts I did for the 2014 majors.

ESPN showed only 16 golfers during the tracking period, focusing primarily on 8 players who were shown for at least 23 shots. With Jordan Spieth in contention for a third consecutive major, ESPN covered all but four strokes from his round. The highest finishers not shown during the tracking period were Justin Rose and Danny Willett who were both part of the tie for 6th place.

Note: ESPN obviously showed all 49 strokes from the playoff, but I didn't count those in the tracking in order to provide a truer comparison to other tournaments.

Here is the complete shot chart:

PlayerShots shownFinishPairing
Jordan Spieth65 (of 69)T42
Louis Oosthuizen51T21
Jason Day50T42
Marc Leishman43T23
Zach Johnson40 (*)17
Adam Scott26T106
Sergio Garcia24T64
Paul Dunne23 (#)T301
Padraig Harrington15T203
Jordan Niebrugge8T64
Ashley Chesters4T1014
Luke Donald3T1222
Anthony Wall2T1211
Hideki Matsuyama2T1812
Matt Jones1T3015
Ollie Schniederjans1T1225

* includes a shot from hole 2 (before the tracking period) which ESPN showed on a highlight package during the tracking period
# includes two provisional strokes televised by ESPN on hole 2

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

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 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

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

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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.



  • 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.  


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


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

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 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.