Friday, June 29, 2012

The 25th anniversary of Sports Radio WFAN

Sports Radio 66 WFAN in New York celebrates its 25th anniversary this weekend. On 7/1/1987 radio station WHN 1050 AM transformed from a country music station which held the rights to the reigning World Series champion New York Mets into a 24x7 sports format. WFAN later moved to 660 on the AM dial and remains the radio flagship of the Mets.

Over its 25 years, WFAN has held rights to other sports teams in the NYC market and featured many unique radio personalities including Mike Francesa and Christopher Russo who teamed up for 19 years as Mike and the Mad Dog in the afternoon drive slot. The success of WFAN led to a plethora of all-sports formats in markets across the country.

I was one of the listeners on that inaugural day and remember Jim Lampley hosting the first show.

Here is the original WFAN 1987 weekday schedule of hosts:

    6 am - 10 am: Greg Gumbel
    10 am - 1 pm: Jim Lampley
    1 pm - 3 pm: Art Shamsky
    3 pm - 7 pm: Pete Franklin
    7 pm - midnight: Howie Rose
    midnight - 6 am: Steve Somers

Note: Franklin was recovering from a heart attack when WFAN launched so the station rotated a number of fill-in hosts in the afternoon drive slot until Franklin was healthy enough to take over.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

MSG Network to air footage from 1967 NIT title game featuring Walt Frazier

The MSG Vault series on MSG Network will feature color video from the original CBS telecast of the 1967 NIT championship game. In that contest, Southern Illinois led by Walt Frazier defeated a Marquette team coached by Al McGuire. MSG Network (DIRECTV 634) will premiere this episode titled Before He Was Clyde on Saturday 6/23 at 9 pm ET and will re-air it multiple times. Al Trautwig is the host of MSG Vault.

A PBS station in Illinois recently discovered a videotape of the game and this will be the first time this footage has been shown on TV since the live telecast in 1967. The CBS broadcast team was Tom Kelly on play-by-play with Frank Gifford as the analyst.

ESPN Classic to show 1973 King-Riggs Battle of the Sexes

On Saturday 6/23 at 9 pm ET, ESPN Classic is re-airing the Battle of the Sexes tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs during the ESPN commemoration of the 40th anniversary of Title IX. ABC televised this event in prime time from the Houston Astrodome on Thursday 9/20/1973 with Howard Cosell calling the action. The co-analysts were tennis pros Rosemary Casals and Gene Scott.  Both Casals and Scott received quite negative reviews for their on-air commentary. Frank Gifford was also part of the telecast doing interviews.

An interesting sidebar to this telecast: ABC had originally planned to use former tennis pro Jack Kramer as a co-analyst along with Casals. However, King was displeased with Kramer's treatment of women's tennis and threatened to withdraw from the match on short notice if Kramer remained involved. ABC executive producer Roone Arledge agreed to take Kramer off the commentary team and named Scott as a replacement. Kramer appeared during the opening of the ABC telecast and announced that he was stepping down. I believe that Kramer's statement will air during the ESPN Classic replay.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Classic Wimbledon on ESPN Classic

ESPN Classic is replaying many past Wimbledon championship matches over the next week. The broadcast team of Dick Enberg and Bud Collins called many of these on NBC starting in the early 1980s. Here is a subset of the schedule:

  • 1975 Ashe-Connors: Tue 6/19 at 1:30 am
  • 1977 Borg-Connors: Tue 6/19 at 4 am
  • 1982 Navratilova-Evert: Wed 6/20 at 2 am
  • 1984 Navratilova-Evert: Wed 6/20 at 4 am
  • 1980 Borg-McEnroe: Wed 6/20 at 1 pm
  • 1981 McEnroe-Borg: Wed 6/20 at 3 pm
  • 1982 Connors-McEnroe: Thu 6/21 at 4 am
  • 1984 McEnroe-Connors: Thu 6/21 at 10 am
  • 1985 Navratilova-Evert: Fri 6/22 at 2 am
  • 1988 Graf-Navratilova: Fri 6/22 at 4 am

Here is a clip from the famous 4th set tiebreaker of the 1980 match called by Bud Collins and Donald Dell:

Monday, June 11, 2012

NBC documentary on 1962 US Open win by Jack Nicklaus

NBC will air a documentary titled The 1962 US Open: Jack's First Major on Sunday 6/17 at 2 pm ET. This USGA special co-produced by Ross Greenburg will cover the victory by Jack Nicklaus 50 years ago at Oakmont capped by his 18-hole playoff with Arnold Palmer. The film contains unique archival footage from the USGA Museum. It also includes recent interviews with Nicklaus, Palmer, and various golf media members in this retrospective on the first of the 18 professional majors won by the Golden Bear.

Friday, June 8, 2012

NBA TV documentary on 1992 Dream Team

NBA TV is premiering a documentary on the 1992 USA Olympic basketball team on Wed 6/13 at 9 pm ET titled The Dream Team. This special contains recent interviews with all 12 players and includes rare footage from 20 years ago.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Remembering the classic 1976 NBA Finals game 5

Tomorrow marks the 36th anniversary of the most memorable NBA game I have ever viewed. The Boston Celtics defeated the Phoenix Suns in triple overtime in game 5 of the NBA Finals on 6/4/1976 in a contest best known for the riveting events during the end of the second OT.

The CBS announcers that night were Brent Musburger, Rick Barry, and Mendy Rudolph. The young Musburger was in his second season as lead play-by-play voice for the NBA. Brent brought a lot of enthusiasm to the telecasts, but could be rather loud and tended to dominate the microphone. Rudolph was a former referee who CBS installed as its top analyst for the 1975-76 season after a forgettable year with Oscar Roberston in that role. Most analysts tend to be former players or coaches, but Mendy brought a unique perspective especially on officiating calls or rules issues.

Barry was still an active player who CBS added to the TV crew for the championship series after his Golden State Warriors lost in the conference finals. During the 1970s, CBS seemed to use a different #1 analyst almost every regular season. But during the playoffs, CBS added Barry to its broadcast crew every year from 1974 through 1980 once his team was eliminated (with the exception of 1975 when Barry played in the NBA Finals). Despite being a late addition to the 1976 TV crew, Barry clearly served as the #1 analyst on that series with Rudolph taking an ancillary role. While not a polished broadcaster, Barry was quick to offer opinions and added more insight than the other CBS NBA analysts of this era.

The first clip covers the dramatic ending to the second OT: The John Havlicek running bank shot....the fan attacking referee Richie Powers....the intentional timeout called by Paul Westphal knowing the Suns were out of timeouts thereby essentially trading a technical foul for the opportunity to advance the ball to halfcourt.....the turnaround shot at the buzzer by Garfield Heard.

After the Havlicek shot, notice how quickly Barry states that time should be put back on the clock after Musburger incorrectly declared the game over. And note how Rudolph suggests that the Suns might take advantage of the obscure aspect of the illegal timeout rule to maximize their chance of winning the game. The NBA later eliminated that quirk in the rule. I also found it odd that on both of the inbounds plays in this sequence, Musburger felt the need to point out that the clock wouldn't start until the ball is touched.

The second video covers highlights including the opening to the telecast, the end of regulation and the end of each OT. This package provides some greater context showing the Phoenix comeback capped by the Westphal steal which set up the final seconds of the 2nd OT. The intro segment illustrates the way that Musburger would set the scene for the game.