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 of 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

* 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:

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).

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Inside the Pages: 7/26/80 edition of The Sporting News

Back in the 1970s and 1980s, The Sporting News was an awesome read for serious sports fans, especially those who loved baseball. At that time, the weekly newsprint-style publication contained an enormous amount of information which you couldn't easily get anywhere else.

Here is a look at an issue from July 1980 which had a cover price of $1.50 and contained 56 pages. The cover photo and some ads were in color, but most of the pictures were black & white. Subscribers received the publication wrapped in a paper mailing sleeve.

The cover story examines the unique relationship between Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver and pitcher Jim Palmer. Both later became broadcasters for ABC and would work with Keith Jackson in a 3-man TV booth for the 1982 ALCS.

The Sporting News used an array of writers and columnists from newspapers across North America. The core of the publication was its baseball coverage including a sizable article on each MLB team from a local beat writer. These writeups always ended with a notes section using a creative label such as Wigwam Wisps (Braves) or Bird Seed (Orioles). In addition, the baseball portion had a weekly AL Beat column by Peter Gammons, arguably the best baseball writer of that era and an NL Beat column by the infamous Bill Conlin.

The huge statistics section provided league standings and batting/pitching leaders even though these numbers would be about a week out of date by the time the issue reached readers. The standings even provided the number of games won by each team against each opponent. Each issue contained box scores and brief summaries of every MLB game from the past week along with the schedule for the upcoming week.

The magazine featured weekly columnists such as Dick Young, Joe Falls, and Furman Bisher. Leonard Koppett frequently incorporated statistics into his articles. Hal Lebovitz wrote a regular feature Ask Hal, The Referee where he answered reader questions on rules. This issue featured five such questions, all on baseball.

One of the regular columnists was Jack Craig of the Boston Globe who wrote about sports media. His SporTView column in this edition profiled Orioles broadcaster Bill O'Donnell. Craig labelled O'Donnell and his radio broadcast partner Chuck Thompson as the "longest-running announcing team in the majors". The story said that the Orioles did about 50 local telecasts a season with Brooks Robinson serving as the TV analyst. Craig wrote that up through 1978, O'Donnell was employed by chief sponsor National Brewery rather than flagship station WBAL. Craig chronicled O'Donnell's history of minor league broadcasting assignments before he landed the Orioles job in 1966. The article also mentions his role on the NBC Game of the Week backup telecasts and college basketball work for TVS and the fact that he was doing some work for ESPN which was less than a year old.

The NFL got 3 pages in this issue with college football stealing just a few paragraphs on one of those. The NHL got a single page, while the NBA and college basketball split a page. TSN would increase coverage of these sports when they were in-season, but would cover MLB rather extensively year round. Another page consisted of items on a set of miscellaneous sports including golf, tennis, and boxing.

To illustrate how basetball-centric TSN was during that era, minor league baseball got a whopping 7 pages including stats and standings for AAA, AA, and A leagues and even some coverage of Rookie Leagues and the Mexican League.

The Voice of the Fan page contained 16 letters from readers including many lengthy ones. In the "some things never change" department, there were multiple complaints about All-Star voting, the MLB rain delay policy, and a comment about the over-reliance of MLB managers on relief pitchers. Other articles bemoaned the skyrocketing player salaries and late starting times for night games.

The magazine publicized a one-year TSN subscription for $24.50 - a tremendous value at about 47 cents per issue.

Most of the ads were for alcohol, tobacco, or automotive products. There was also one for Cruex (jock itch relief). There were ads for Pro Football Weekly and various NFL team newsletters such as Ray Nitschke's Packer Report. The classified section featured various baseball camps and umpiring schools. The Hobby Corner section contained many ads for baseball cards.

There was also an ad for the classic APBA dice-simulation strategy game with an offer to receive two free sample player cards and a brochure. The ad conveniently doesn't mention the price of the game (which I recall as being a bit steep for that time).

Some miscellaneous tidbits from the issue:
  • Heading into the All-Star break, the Texas Rangers only had 18 games televised so far that season - a reminder as to how different the TV landscape was at the time.
  • Active Cubs player Dave Kingman had recently resigned as a part-time columnist for the Chicago Tribune.
  • The average length of AL games that season was 2 hours, 47 minutes.
  • The Toronto Blue Jays made a "serious offer" to 19-year old (and reigning NHL MVP) Wayne Gretzky for a tryout and believed that he could have a future in pro baseball. 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Shot chart from ESPN Sunday Open Championship telecast

I tracked the strokes shown on ESPN during the final round of the British Open. With the lead group teeing off at 9:40am ET, I started the tracking at 9:00 to provide a similar time frame to the shot charts of the Masters and US Open from earlier this year.

ESPN showed all but one stroke by winner Rory McIlroy, skipping a tap-in putt on #3. ESPN televised all but 4 shots for each of Rickie Fowler and Sergio Garcia. Partway through the front nine, the network settled into a pattern of focusing almost exclusively on that trio who occupied the top three spots on the leaderboard for most of the day. During the tracking period, ESPN devoted 72.5% of the on-camera strokes to these three and spent a lot of air time showing them walking at the expense of other golf action. The only other player to be covered for more than 9 shots was Dustin Johnson.

ESPN showed a total of 269 strokes during the tracking period which ended at 1:26pm. This worked out to only 1.01 shots per minute which was noticeably less than the Sunday coverage of the other majors. ESPN showed only 18 golfers during this period and covered more than one stroke for just 12 players. The highest finisher not shown was Charl Schwartzel who tied for 7th.

The complete shot chart:

PlayerShots shownFinishPairing
Rory McIlroy70 (of 71)11
Rickie Fowler63 (of 67)T21
Sergio Garcia62 (of 66)T22
Dustin Johnson19T122
Adam Scott9T54
Victor Dubuisson7T93
Robert Karlsson7T125
Angel Cabrera7T1918
Jim Furyk645
Shane Lowry5T914
Marc Leishman4T58
Phil Mickelson4T2318
Edoardo Molinari1T73
Graeme McDowell1T97
Francesco Molinari1T1515
Matteo Manassero1T194
Jimmy Walker1T268
Thomas Bjorn1T2626
Charl Schwartzel0T76

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

Friday, July 11, 2014

The memorable 1999 MLB All-Star pregame ceremony

Sunday marks the 15th anniversary of an extremely memorable pregame ceremony. Prior to the All-Star game on 7/13/1999 at Fenway Park, several living members on the MLB All-Century Team ballot appeared on the field with actor Kevin Costner performing the introductions. Then the 1999 All-Stars were announced. But the highlight of the evening came after the national anthem when PA announcer Ed Brickley introduced Ted Williams who rode on a cart from the outfield to the pitching mound. This created an unforgettable scene as the current All-Stars surrounded "The Splendid Splinter" on the mound with none of the participants wanting the moment to end. Booth announcers Joe Buck, Tim McCarver, and Bob Brenly sounded rather emotional in describing the events. Eventually MLB officials were able to clear the field so that Williams could deliver the ceremonial first pitch assisted by Tony Gwynn.

The All-Century intros start at the 5:25 mark on this clip, beginning a stretch where Fox stayed on the air for over 38 straight minutes without a commercial break. The Williams segment runs from 36:07 through 43:46.

I still have vivid memories of watching the entire pregame show that night which overshadowed everything else. I didn't even bother watching the exhibition game that followed.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Shot chart from the NBC Sunday US Open telecast

For the Sunday round of the US Open, I tracked the strokes shown on the NBC telecast by each player. In April, I did a similar shot chart from the CBS Sunday Masters telecast. With the final tee time at at 3:35 pm ET, I chose to start the tracking at 3 pm to provide a reasonable comparison to the more limited Sunday TV coverage of the Masters. As I did in the Masters chart, I disregarded any strokes shown from previous rounds and did not double-count any strokes shown multiple times.

Not surprisingly, NBC showed every stroke played by champion Martin Kaymer (and frequently replayed highlights from his tremendous performance). NBC focused most of the other coverage on the handful of players near the top of the leaderboard, but the final round lacked drama with Kaymer dominating the field.

NBC showed a total of 26 golfers during this time period with eight golfers being covered for at least 10 shots. NBC televised 312 strokes during this window. The final putt was holed at 7:38 pm, so this worked out to an average of 1.12 shots per minute during the tracking period. CBS got in 1.18 shots per minute on my Masters tracking but, of course, the Masters telecasts have much less commercial time. The highest finisher not shown during the tracking period was Jimmy Walker who tied for 9th.

Here is the complete shot chart:

PlayerShots shownFinishPairing
Martin Kaymer69 (of 69)11
Rickie Fowler58T21
Erik Compton56T22
Dustin Johnson34T43
Henrik Stenson19T42
Justin Rose14T125
Brandt Snedeker13T93
Matt Kuchar10T124
Keegan Bradley7T415
Adam Scott3T911
Phil Mickelson3T2817
Sergio Garcia3T3518
Ernie Els3T3519
Brooks Koepka2T44
Jason Day2T49
Jim Furyk2T1221
Jordan Spieth2T176
Ian Poulter2T1714
Rory McIlroy2T2311
Ryan Moore2T4815
Kevin Na1T125
Steve Stricker1T2113
Victor Dubuisson1T287
Zach Johnson1T4022
Zac Blair1T4023
Retief Goosen1T4516
Jimmy Walker0T99

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

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The classic brilliance of Get Smart

On a recent trip to Washington, DC, I visited the International Spy Museum. The tremendous collection of artifacts housed there (such as this shoe with a heel transmitter used by the Romanian Secret Service) brought back memories of Get Smart, one of my favorite TV series of all time.

The classic spy spoof lasted for 138 episodes from September 1965 through May 1970. The first four seasons aired on NBC on Saturday night while CBS carried the final season on Friday night. The show then experienced a lengthy run in syndication. The Get Smart pilot was filmed in black & white, but all subsequent episodes were in color.

Mel Brooks and Buck Henry created the TV series which parodied the James Bond movies. The sitcom was set in the nation's capital and featured a trio of lead characters who worked for a secret espionage organization known as CONTROL.

Don Adams starred as Maxwell Smart - CONTROL Agent 86. Adams was brilliant in the role of a clumsy, dimwitted, and seemingly incompetent spy. Despite his numerous flaws, Smart was considered the top agent for CONTROL. Adams had a very distinctive vocal delivery which was ideal for playing Agent 86. He had previously been the voice of penguin Tennessee Tuxedo in a Saturday morning cartoon series. Adams was a former comedian and many of the Maxwell Smart antics and the classic "Would you believe?" sequences actually originated from his old stand-up routines. His mannerisms and wealth of one-liners put a stamp on Get Smart.

Barbara Feldon portrayed CONTROL Agent 99. Her character was never identified on the series by name and simply went by the moniker "99". In stark contrast to the bumbling Max, Agent 99 demonstrated intelligence, poise, and style. Feldon's low-key demeanor was perfectly suited for that role. During scenes involving Max and 99, Feldon would often lean or slouch to avoid drawing attention to the fact that she was taller than Adams. Her character married Max during season 4 and gave birth to twins in season 5. In the 1960s, it was rather rare to see a lead "career woman" on a TV series. According to Feldon, many female fans told her that they viewed Agent 99 as a role model.

Edward Platt played the Chief of CONTROL. No matter how badly Smart would bungle things, the Chief always trusted him with the most important assignments. Whenever Max made an inane remark, the stares and exasperated facial expressions by the Chief were priceless. Both the Chief and 99 were splendid in playing a "straight man" role to Max. The characters played by this trio on Get Smart were clearly the signature marks of their respective acting careers.

The show was memorable for the various spy gadgets used by the agents. On many episodes, Max and 99 would visit the CONTROL lab to obtain special weapons and equipment for their assignment. Max's apartment was also set up with various gizmos such as an invisible wall and a net which drops from the ceiling.

Obviously, the most famous gadget was Max's shoe phone which rings during the first scene of the pilot episode Mr. Big. Max would take off his shoe to make or receive a call with the Chief. Agent 99 used various phone gadgets including a comb and compact mirror. I find it fascinating to see the frequent usage of "mobile" phone devices on the 1960s Get Smart TV series in light of the modern cell phone.

My favorite gadget was the Cone of Silence. If the Chief was about to discuss top secret information, Max would claim that CONTROL regulations required them to use the Cone of Silence. The Cone was a clear plastic contraption which lowered from the ceiling of the Chief's office and covered their heads. As an aside, the name of the device seems curious as it was not in the shape of a cone. Of course the running gag was that the device never worked properly. The Chief and Max would have trouble hearing each other and would start yelling or leaning outside the Cone. Like the shoe phone, the Cone also debuted in the pilot episode. The writers creatively incorporated different failures of the Cone into various episodes. On one show, Max and the Chief resorted to using a set of cards called the CONTROL Secret Word File while still under the Cone. Another episode featured a portable Cone of Silence.

In a typical episode, the Chief would assign Smart and 99 to investigate and thwart a devious plan from KAOS, the so-called international organization of evil. The CONTROL agents would inevitably find themselves in a precarious position in the clutches of KAOS. Fortunately, some quick thinking by 99 or an occasional brilliant (or lucky) maneuver by Max would save the day for CONTROL - often assisted by the ineptitude of the KAOS agents.

The series featured a set of villains who made repeat performances. The most prominent of these was KAOS agent Siegfried who was played by Bernie Kopell using a thick German accent. The interplay between Smart and the recurring villains is classic as they seemed to treat each other as friendly rivals rather than arch enemies.

The plots incorporated other secret agents in minor roles. David Ketchum played CONTROL Agent 13 on several episodes where he would be stationed in a bizarre hiding location such as a vending machine, mailbox, garbage bin, ice machine, or airport locker.

An iconic feature of Get Smart was the show opening sequence and theme music. Max enters a building and walks down a hallway as an elaborate set of doors open and close until he enters a phone booth and then disappears from view. During the closing credits, he walks through the same doors in the opposite direction before the doors start closing in rapid fashion.


The series featured many other legendary Maxwell Smart catchphrases:
  • "Sorry about that Chief"
  • "And loving it"
  • "Missed it by that much"
  • "The old < ... > trick"
  • "I hope I wasn't out of line with that crack about < ... >"
You could spend a few minutes on any random episode and recapture the magic of this series. I'll spotlight a few episodes which had somewhat of a sports theme and point out some examples of the catchphrases and classic scenes:

<UPDATE 12/31/14: I needed to refresh the video clips to embed from a different account, so the "bookmark" time stamps in the text may be off a bit.>

In The Last One In Is A Rotten Spy, Max has a cover assignment as an American swim team trainer. This episode contains an awesome scene from 0:45-4:00 where Smart unsuccessfully attempts to record a phone conversation and then searches for a pencil ("Two drawers and only one shot left"). It also features a memorable "Would You Believe?" sequence at 6:20. The scene starting at 7:40 demonstrates a classic Smart delay tactic which is capped off by the Chief screaming "Get in the pool!". There is a "Sorry about that Chief" at 10:16 and an example of  "And loving it" at 13:11.

I Shot 86 Today uses a golf course story line (and a double entendre title). At 8:20, Smart receives his special equipment from the lab complete with a golf shoe phone. Max predictably spikes himself in the face while using it at 17:30. Max spots "the old <mortar in the rocks on the 14th hole> trick" at 20:03. I get a kick out of the sidebar moment at 21:10 where a golfer patiently waits for the cart chase with gunfire to pass through before playing his stroke from the fairway.

While not a sports-related episode, A Spy for a Spy includes an epic scene at 18:22 where Smart and Siegfried negotiate trades of kidnapped CONTROL and KAOS agents like a pair of professional sports team general managers. Siegfried, who was making his first appearance on the series, utters what would become one of his classic recurring lines "We don't shush here" at 7:30. The banter between Smart and Siegfried highlights this episode, especially the weapon check scene starting at 8:00. This episode also contains an example of the phrase "I hope I wasn't out of line with that crack about <Fathead>" at 15:53.

Get Smart won a total of seven Emmy Awards including two for Outstanding Comedy Series. Adams received the Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series honor three times while Feldon was among the nominees for Outstanding Actress twice.

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

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Longest runs for announcer trios on network TV

In 1970, ABC producer Roone Arledge decided to feature the unique Howard Cosell as part of a 3-man booth on the Monday Night Football telecast team. Later that decade, NBC added colorful personality Al McGuire, to its top college basketball crew, forming a popular trio with Dick Enberg and Billy Packer. The success of these announcer combinations made the 3-man booth a more prominent part of the sports TV landscape.

Which 3-man booths have remained intact the longest? How does the recent 10-season streak by the ESPN team of Sean McDonough, Bill Raftery, and Jay Bilas rank against other network TV announcing trios? How common is it for a team of 3 announcers to stay together for more than a few seasons?

Previous posts in this series compiled consecutive season streaks for individual announcers at the national network TV level and looked at the longest running network TV announcer duos. As in the earlier posts, I am using a guideline that if a trio worked together for at least one regular season or playoff game during a season, then that season counts toward the streak. This post looks at the NFL, MLB, NBA, college football, and college basketball. For each sport, I listed all streaks I found of at least 3 seasons.

The record holders in this category are the trio of Al Michaels, Frank Gifford, and Dan Dierdorf who lasted 11 consecutive seasons in the ABC Monday Night Football booth. One factor that stands out is how rare it is for a 3-man crew to last very long. Across the sports I researched, I found only five cases where a booth trio remained together for more than 5 seasons and identified just two active streaks of at least 3 seasons.

The breakdown by sport (with * denoting an active streak):


11: Al Michaels, Frank Gifford, Dan Dierdorf (1987-97)
 8: Mike Patrick, Joe Theismann, Paul Maguire (1998-05)
 7: Frank Gifford, Don Meredith, Howard Cosell (1977-83)
 3: Dick Enberg, Paul Maguire, Phil Simms (1995-97)
 3: Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Cris Collinsworth (2002-04)
 3: Mike Tirico, Ron Jaworski, Jon Gruden (2009-11)

The NFL has three of the top four overall streaks led by the Michaels/Gifford/Dierdorf team whose record run of 11 stands to last for quite some time. The Patrick/Theismann/Maguire combination called Sunday Night Football on ESPN for 8 straight seasons. The Gifford/Meredith/Cosell crew checks in at 3rd on the NFL list with a streak of 7 seasons. That trio had a separate 3-year run from 1971-73. Gifford actually made two of the five longest streaks across all these sports and is the only announcer to appear here in both the play-by-play and analyst roles.

Note: Since I am only considering booth announcers, the team of Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston, and sideline analyst Tony Siragusa didn't qualify for the list. Otherwise, this team would have an active streak of 11 seasons (2003-13). They were not a permanent team in the early years, but did work some games as a trio each season when Fox shuffled its NFL announcer crews during the weeks of the MLB postseason.

college basketball

10: Sean McDonough, Bill Raftery, Jay Bilas (2003-04 to 2012-13)
 4: Dick Enberg, Billy Packer, Al McGuire (1977-78 to 1980-81)
 3: Jim Nantz, Clark Kellogg, Steve Kerr (2010-11 to 2012-13)
 3: Kevin Harlan, Len Elmore, Reggie Miller (2011-12 to 2013-14) *

The ESPN Big Monday team of McDonough/Raftery/Bilas holds the largest lead in any of these sports. The legendary Enberg/Packer/McGuire team lasted only 4 seasons, but that is good enough for 2nd place on this list. That trio also worked a "reunion" game in 2000. The Nantz and Harlan crews were primarily NCAA Tournament combinations. Enberg also appears on the NFL list.

college football

 6: Mike Tirico, Kirk Herbstreit, Lee Corso (1999-04)
 4: Rece Davis, Lou Holtz, Mark May (2006-09)
 3: Dave Barnett, Bill Curry, Mike Golic (2000-02)
 3: Dave Pasch, Rod Gilmore, Trevor Matich (2004-06)
 3: Brad Nessler, Bob Griese, Paul Maguire (2006-08)

The Tirico/Herbstreit/Corso team manned the ESPN Thursday night booth for 6 consecutive seasons and holds the record for college football. Tirico also appears on the NFL list. All of the streaks on this list are relatively recent with none starting prior to 1999.


 5: Keith Jackson, Don Drysdale, Howard Cosell (1978-82)
 5: Al Michaels, Jim Palmer, Tim McCarver (1985-89)
 4: Bob Costas, Joe Morgan, Bob Uecker (1994-97)
 4: Joe Buck, Tim McCarver, Bob Brenly (1996-99)
 3: Dan Shulman, Orel Hershiser, Steve Phillips (2007-09)

A pair of ABC Monday Night Baseball crews are tied for the longest MLB streak at 5 seasons. The Michaels/Palmer/McCarver trio had a separate 2-season stint in 1994-95. With the exception of 1995, the NBC team of Costas/Morgan/Uecker worked only All-Star and postseason games. The Fox team of Buck/McCarver/Brenly was primarily a postseason arrangement. Cosell (who always seemed to be part of a 3-man booth on team sports), Michaels, and Buck also appear on the NFL list.


 5: Mike Breen, Jeff Van Gundy, Mark Jackson (2006-07 to 2010-11)
 4: Greg Gumbel, Steve Jones, Bill Walton (1994-95 to 1997-98)
 4: Kevin Harlan, Danny Ainge, John Thompson (1999-00 to 2002-03)
 4: Marv Albert, Steve Kerr, Reggie Miller (2010-11 to 2013-14) *
 3: Marv Albert, Matt Guokas, Bill Walton (1994-95 to 1996-97)
 3: Marv Albert, Steve Kerr, Doug Collins (2004-05 to 2006-07)

As we have seen with the previous editions in this series, the longest NBA streak in this category trails that of the other sports. The team of Breen, Van Gundy, and Jackson lasted 5 seasons on ESPN/ABC before Jackson left to take a coaching job. All three of the teams involving Albert were used primarily in late playoff rounds rather than remaining intact for those entire seasons. Harlan also appears on the college basketball list. The Albert/Kerr/Miller team has the longest active streak across all the sports I researched. However, if Kerr leaves TV for a coaching position as rumored, that run will end at 4 seasons.

As before, the historical sports TV listings at 506sports proved helpful in researching this post.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Tracking the shots CBS showed during Sunday Masters telecast

For the Sunday round of the Masters, I tracked the number of times CBS showed each player making a stroke. I only tracked strokes from the Sunday round, so I disregarded the highlight shots CBS aired from earlier rounds or previous years. And for the shots CBS aired multiple times, I only counted these once.

CBS showed a total of 344 strokes played during the telecast. CBS came on the air at 2pm ET and the final putt was at 6:52, so this worked out to 1.18 strokes per minute. CBS showed all but one shot from each golfer in the final group, skipping only a Bubba Watson tap-in on #2 and a Jordan Spieth tap-in on #17. Spieth scored 72, so the other "missing" stroke was the penalty drop on #12.

Early in the telecast, CBS seemed to be rooting hard for Fred Couples and cut to him frequently at the expense of other contenders until a double bogey on #11. After that, CBS focused almost exclusively on the final two groups and wound up showing a high percentage of shots from Matt Kuchar and Jonas Blixt. Overall, 74% of the on-camera strokes came from these two pairings.

The highest finisher who was not shown was Lee Westwood who came in 7th place. CBS showed a total of 20 golfers, but only seven players appeared for more than five strokes.

Best use of non-stroke air time: Jim Nantz paying tribute to the late Pat Summerall and Ken Venturi.

Worst use of stroke air time: CBS showing the out-of-contention Couples putting out for the double bogey on #11.

Here is the complete shot chart (including the three top-10 finishers not shown on the telecast):

PlayerShots shownFinishPairing
Jordan Spieth70 (of 71*)T21
Bubba Watson68 (of 69)11
Matt Kuchar58T52
Jonas Blixt57T22
Fred Couples29T206
Miguel Angel Jimenez1543
Rickie Fowler14T53
Jim Furyk5T144
Thomas Bjorn4T85
John Senden4T87
Rory McIlroy4T812
Jose Maria Olazabal4T3417
Kevin Stadler3T86
Adam Scott2T149
Joost Luiten2T2625
Justin Rose1T145
Ian Poulter1T208
Hunter Mahan1T2616
Sandy Lyle1T4423
Oliver Goss14921
Lee Westwood074
Jimmy Walker0T812
Bernhard Langer0T813

* Spieth took 71 "shots" plus one penalty stroke for a score of 72.

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

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Twitter campaign to honor Ralph Kiner at Citi Field

2014 marks the first opening day in Mets history without Ralph Kiner who passed away in February. Kiner was part of the original Mets broadcast team starting in 1962 with Lindsey Nelson and Bob Murphy. Up through last season, Ralph still worked occasional games in the TV booth.

The Mets will honor Kiner during pregame ceremonies at the home opener. But one fan has been using Twitter to spearhead an effort to name sections 132-134 of Citi Field as "Kiner's Korner" to pay a more special tribute to the legendary broadcaster. For more details on this effort and to join the campaign, follow @MetKinersKorner which has over 5200 supporters as of this writing.

The left field corner of Forbes Field in Pittsburgh was dubbed Kiner's Korner when the Hall of Famer played for the Pirates. Later, Kiner's Korner became the name of the postgame show that Ralph hosted after home telecasts on WOR-TV Channel 9.

I think naming an area in left field at Citi Field in honor of Ralph Kiner would be a tremendous way for the Mets to pay tribute to one of the legendary figures in franchise history.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Tribute to a pioneer in sports broadcast history research

As one who researches sports TV history, I was deeply saddened to learn of the recent death of John Moynahan - a true pioneer in this field. I only "knew" John electronically through message boards, but consider it an honor to have crossed paths and shared research notes with him. He was a huge contributor to the ongoing historical sports TV/radio research which is posted on the forums at (a.k.a. the506). And some of my blog posts build upon research information which John originally provided.

For a deeper understanding of John's impact, here is a tribute from Tim Brulia, contributor to the506 and lead historian of the Gridiron Uniform Database.

Those of us who are interested in the history of sports broadcasting lost a huge contributor to the cause. I learned about the passing of John Moynahan when I received a Facebook post from his daughter on his page that stated she "would miss him very much". Since words to this effect can be deliberately vague, I decided to contact her directly via Facebook, and she confirmed the news that John indeed did pass away in his sleep "Sunday night." John was 72.

To me, John was the "Godfather of Sports Broadcasting History". To say John had done his "homework" on the subject is indeed an understatement. I first connected with John in June 2006 via the defunct DBS Forums when I and fellow forum member "Godhorn" began compiling listings of NFL commentator crews assigned to specific telecasts. I think the listings were for 1970. John went by the handle "jtgrace1". He posted that we had done nice work, and then listed a whole bunch of crew assignments that we didn't have and said he'd be willing to help out for other seasons. With this potential lead, I contacted him in a hurry. He said we could compare lists. I sent him my spreadsheets first. He said "not bad, but let me show you what I have". He emailed me a slew of documents on old "Symphony" spreadsheets. Once I was able to open them up, my mind was blown. He had telecast information going back to the advent of television with announcer crews as far back as 1939. It was incredible. There were some gaps and a few errors, but about 90% of it was documented and confirmed.

In addition to this goldmine, John had equally exhaustive information for MLB, the NHL (including the fabled Hockey Night in Canada broadcasts) and the NBA. He also had loads of information on college football and to a lesser extent college basketball. Not just network telecasts, but in the case of the professional sports, he had amazing information on each team's radio and local television commentator crews back to the inception of the respective mediums. I daresay no one alive had amassed this much information.

How did he acquire all of this goodness? In our many email exchanges, he told me that he had visited countless libraries across North America. Major city libraries, college libraries, smaller libraries, the libraries at each of the "Big 4" Halls of Fame in Canton, Cooperstown, Springfield (MA), and Toronto. Not to mention contacts with team publicity directors. He told me that he supplied several teams in various sports with his lists of their radio/TV commentators for use in their media guides.

He also shared with me that he attended hundreds of games in all of these sports across North America, and had season tickets to many teams at once. At one point at his home in suburban Minneapolis-St. Paul, he had 10 satellite dishes of varying shapes and sizes in his yard. He would log every game televised with their announcer crews, so that if one took the night off for whatever reason, he would note it along with the substitute, if one was needed. He also amassed a massive sports collection, mainly of publications, like yearbooks, programs and media guides. These he later sold off on Ebay.

Eventually he had his satellite dishes dismantled, but was still able to keep track of updates via the forums at the506.

When he made posts on the506, it made all of us like Jeff, me, and others who have an interest in this subject, take notice. Many were astonished at all the knowledge and information he passed on to us. But John was just as eager to learn from those of us who had some gems that he didn't unearth himself. He was willing to acknowledge that he made a few errors in his research, but was more than willing to correct his documents as soon as he found the right info.

I said in a comment on my Facebook page that he taught me more about a field I thought I knew a lot about in the nearly eight years that I knew him than in my whole life combined up to that point. And it's true. John also gave me the impetus to expand my thirst for research. He said that his favorite place for research was the Library of Congress (LOC) in Washington, DC. I took him up on that tip and sure enough, I have been fortunate enough to be able to supplement his research with a few nuggets of my own, thanks to the services of the LOC. And I owe it all to John Moynahan. I consider myself very fortunate to have known him. I am very sure many of my peers would agree.

Well put, Tim.... And, RIP, John.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Upcoming MLB postseason replays on ESPN Classic

With a new baseball season on the horizon, ESPN Classic will replay many classic World Series and LCS games over the next few weeks (primarily from the 1980s and some from the late 1970s). The menu features a number of telecasts which have never before appeared on ESPN Classic.

Here is a sampling of the upcoming lineup:
  • 1976 ALCS (Yankees-Royals) game 5
  • 1979 World Series (Pirates-Orioles) games 5 and 7
  • 1980 NLCS (Phillies-Astros) game 5
  • 1981 World Series (Dodgers-Yankees) games 3, 4, 5, and 6
  • 1984 NLCS (Padres-Cubs) games 1, 4 and 5
  • 1985 World Series (Royals-Cardinals) games 2, 4, 6, and 7
  • 1986 ALCS (Red Sox-Angels) games 4, 5, and 7
  • 1986 NLCS (Mets-Astros) games 3 and 6
  • 1988 NLCS (Dodgers-Mets) game 4
And here is a link to the complete schedule.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Remembering the 1974 ACC Tournament championship game

Sunday marks the 40th anniversary of one of the most memorable and significant games in college basketball history. The 1974 ACC tournament final in Greensboro pitted NC State against Maryland with the eventual national champion Wolfpack prevailing in overtime 103-100.

The telecast started at 8:30 pm ET on Saturday 3/9/74 and was produced by the Chesley network which held the ACC TV rights. The legendary duo of Jim Thacker and Billy Packer were the announcers. Chesley had featured a matchup of the same two schools for his 1973 and 1974 nationally syndicated Super Bowl Sunday ACC telecasts. For the 1974 ACC title game, Chesley again provided syndication to other parts of the country. I remember watching it in the NYC market.

ESPN Classic will replay this historic telecast on Monday 3/10 at 7:30 am ET. (The quality of the footage is quite good. Unfortunately, the last few minutes of the game and the OT session did not survive.)

This game had it all:
  • Star power: Five future top-13 NBA 1st-round draft picks (David Thompson, Tom Burleson, Tom McMillen, Len Elmore, and John Lucas) were on the court that night. 
  • Drama: In 1974, only conference winners could play in the NCAA Tournament and the ACC used a conference tournament to decide its champion, so this was a winner-take-all matchup of teams ranked #1 and #4 in the nation. 
  • Excitement: The contest featured high-level end-to-end action. Many historians consider it the greatest ACC game of all-time.
After the heartbreaking defeat, the Terps chose to decline an NIT bid. This game prompted the NCAA to relax the one-team-per-conference limit and expand the tournament in 1975.

One scheduling aspect which may sound strange to modern fans is that the NCAA Tournament started that same afternoon. It was only a 25-team event at the time with certain conferences getting pre-determined byes into the Sweet 16. During the telecast the broadcasters discussed the NCAA Tournament bracket and the fact that the ACC champion was slated to play the winner of the Providence-Penn opening round game which was being played the same night. Similarly, UCLA and USC played a regular season game that night for the Pac-8 title with the winner slotted into the Sweet 16.

College basketball was essentially a regional game and would not get a regular network TV package until two seasons later. 1974 was the first time that Chesley televised the entire ACC Tournament. Packer was in his third season on the ACC TV games. One week later, Packer worked his first NCAA Tournament serving as the NBC analyst for the East Regional.

Here is a brief clip about this historic game:

Monday, February 24, 2014

A look back at the 1964 Clay-Liston closed-circuit telecast

Tuesday marks the 50th anniversary of the 2/25/1964 heavyweight boxing match in Miami between challenger Cassius Clay (now known as Muhammad Ali) and defending champion Sonny Liston.

Theater Network Television, Inc (TNT). produced the closed-circuit telecast of this fight and carried it live at 10 pm ET on a Tuesday night. The announcers on that telecast were Steve Ellis and former heavyweight champion Joe Louis. The production was shown in over 350 theaters and arenas throughout North America. TNT also made the telecast available via satellite to Europe on a tape delay of a few hours.

ESPN Classic will replay this telecast on Tuesday 2/25 at 7 pm ET (with three repeat showings at two-hour intervals).

Per newspaper reports from 1964, tickets for that theater telecast ranged from $4 to $10 (compared to $20-$250 for those who attended the fight in Miami). More than 1.1 million theater seats were available across the USA. Many of the locations were movie theaters including some drive-ins. The telecast was also offered in some large capacity stadiums such as the Los Angeles Sports Arena and Cobo Hall in Detroit. And some community pay-TV networks provided an in-home feed for $3.

Theaters had to agree to provide non-racially segregated seating in order to stage the telecast. Some theaters in the south refused to agree with that contract provision and therefore could not show the event.

The match was also broadcast live by ABC Radio with Les Keiter handling the play-by-play and Howard Cosell contributing commentary between rounds and conducting interviews. Ex-boxer Rocky Marciano and active pro football star Jim Brown were also part of the radio broadcast crew.

This clip begins with the weigh-in and then contains the original TNT telecast of the fight starting around the 2:22 mark.

The telecast seems rather primitive even by 1970s standards, but it is great that such original boxing TV footage exists from a time period where relatively little survived from the major team sports. The production contained multiple awkward sequences. In round 3 after a flurry from Clay (around the 20:25 mark), you can hear a few bizarre incomplete statements from Ellis and then about 20 seconds of "dead air" before he resumes the blow-by-blow. As round 7 is about to begin around the 36:10 mark, Ellis exclaims "They might be stopping it!" and tells Louis to go up to the ring. But then the telecast leaves viewers hanging with almost 90 seconds of images with no announcer audio before we finally see Ellis and Louis together in the ring. Ironically, during this period of silence, you can see Cosell getting a radio interview with Clay before the TV crew is able to do so. During the chaotic post-flight scene, Ellis and Louis often spoke simultaneously. Whenever Louis appeared on-screen, he seemed to go out of his way to avoid looking at the camera.

Here are some clips which include portions of the original radio broadcast. This one covers the first round with Keiter calling the action.

And here is the finale with the radio audio starting at 0:48 on the clip. Once the match ended, the radio broadcast seemed to upstage the TV production as Cosell definitively told listeners about the match result, and then landed interviews with both fighters while TNT never aired any words from Liston. You can also see how quickly Cosell was able to get into position to talk to the new champion while TNT fumbled around.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Longest lasting network TV announcer duos

Joe Buck and Tim McCarver worked together from 1996-2013 in the Fox baseball TV booth. How does their on-air partnership of 18 years stack up historically against other network TV announcer duos? Which national broadcast pairings have remained intact the longest in various sports? Which tandems hold the longest active streaks? To follow up on my look last year at consecutive season streaks by network TV broadcasters, here is a summary of my research on similar streaks by pairs of announcers.

A few groundrules:
  • As in the earlier post, I am using a guideline that if a duo worked together for at least one regular season or playoff game during a season, then that season counts toward the streak.
  • I am only considering cases where exactly two announcers worked together in the TV booth. So I am not counting a pair of announcers who were part of a 3-man crew unless I found evidence that the pair worked as a duo for at least one qualifying game that season. (For completeness, I am planning a future post to cover such streaks by announcer trios.)
  • This post covers the NFL, MLB, NBA, college football, and college basketball on national TV networks. For each sport, I listed the longest 10 or so streaks.
Among the sports I researched, the record holders are Mike Patrick and Dick Vitale with a run of 23 consecutive seasons on college basketball. The legendary team of Pat Summerall and John Madden come in second with a streak of 21 years on the NFL. Overall, I found only six streaks longer than 15 seasons.

Here is the breakdown by sport:

* denotes active streak
# denotes active streak but which is not expected to continue


21:  Pat Summerall, John Madden  (1981-2001)
12:  Dick Enberg, Merlin Olsen  (1977-1988)
11:  Mike Patrick, Joe Theismann  (1988-1998)
11:  Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston  (2003-2013) *
10:  Jim Nantz, Phil Simms  (2004-2013) *
 9:  Charlie Jones, George Ratterman  (1964-1972)
 9:  Joe Buck, Troy Aikman  (2005-2013) *
 8:  Ian Eagle, Solomon Wilcots  (2001-2008)
 8:  Greg Gumbel, Dan Dierdorf  (2006-2013) #
 7:  Dick Stockton, Matt Millen  (1994-2000)

Summerall and Madden have the longest NFL streak (a run that spanned a move from CBS to Fox). The tandem of Dick Enberg and Merlin Olsen holds second place for now. Kenny Albert and Daryl Johnston have the longest active streak. (Note: Since I am only counting only booth announcers, I am treating this team as a duo rather than a trio because Tony Siragusa serves as a sideline analyst.) Charlie Jones and George Ratterman started their streak on the AFL.

college basketball

23:  Mike Patrick, Dick Vitale  (1986-87 to 2008-09)
18:  Jim Nantz, Billy Packer  (1990-91 to 2007-08)
16:  Ian Eagle, Jim Spanarkel  (1997-98 to 2012-13) *
15:  Verne Lundquist, Bill Raftery  (1998-99 to 2012-13) *
13:  Dan Shulman, Dick Vitale  (2001-02 to 2013-14) *
11:  Brad Nessler, Dick Vitale  (1991-92 to 2001-02)
11:  Brent Musburger, Dick Vitale  (1993-94 to 2003-04)                    
11:  Brad Nessler, Jimmy Dykes  (2004-05 to 2013-14) *
10:  Verne Lundquist, Billy Packer  (1998-99 to 2007-08)  
 9:  Marv Albert, Bucky Waters  (1980-81 to 1988-89)
 9:  Dick Enberg, Al McGuire  (1981-82 to 1989-90)    
 9:  Tim Brando, Mike Gminski  (2004-05 to 2012-13) #

College basketball tends to have the longest streaks. Patrick and Vitale teamed up for many ACC games on ESPN over their 23-season run. Jim Nantz and Billy Packer check in at 18 seasons, all of which concluded with the Final Four. Longtime NCAA Tournament partners Ian Eagle and Jim Spanarkel have the longest active streak with the team of Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery right behind. Vitale has worked regularly with several play-by-play announcers over the years and appears four times on this list. With Nantz working a limited regular season schedule for many years, CBS often paired Lundquist with Packer and that duo cracks this list with 10 straight seasons.  

college football

14:  Ron Franklin, Mike Gottfried  (1991-04)
13:  Keith Jackson, Bob Griese  (1987-99)
10:  Bob Neal, Tim Foley (1982-1991)
10:  Tom Hammond, Pat Haden  (2000-09)
 9:  Keith Jackson, Frank Broyles  (1977-85)
 8:  Keith Jackson, Ara Parseghian  (1974-81)  
 8:  Verne Lundquist, Gary Danielson  (2006-13) *
 8:  Brent Musburger, Kirk Herbstreit  (2006-13) #
 7:  Chris Schenkel, Bud Wilkinson  (1966-72)
 7:  Brent Musburger, Dick Vermeil  (1990-96)
 7:  Brad Nessler, Bob Griese  (1999-05)
 6:  Brent Musburger, Gary Danielson  (1999-05)

Ron Franklin and Mike Gottfried were fixtures in the ESPN Saturday night TV booth for 14 straight seasons. They top the tandem of Keith Jackson and Bob Griese by a single season. If we have indeed seen the last of the Brent Musburger pairing with Kirk Herbstreit, then the team of Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson should take sole possession of the longest active streak when the upcoming season starts. Jackson and Musburger each appear three times on this list.


19: Jon Miller, Joe Morgan  (1990-08)
18: Joe Buck, Tim McCarver  (1996-13) #  
 9:  Joe Garagiola, Tony Kubek  (1974-82)
 9:  Dave O'Brien, Rick Sutcliffe  (2002-10)
 8:  Bob Costas, Tony Kubek  (1982-89)
 7:  Curt Gowdy, Tony Kubek  (1969-75)
 7:  Chris Berman, Buck Martinez  (1993-99)
 7:  Chris Berman, Rick Sutcliffe  (1999-05)
 7:  Kenny Albert, Eric Karros  (2007-13) *
 6:  Dizzy Dean, Buddy Blattner  (1953-58)
 6:  Vin Scully, Joe Garagiola  (1983-88)

I only found two MLB streaks of at least 10 years, but they were among the longest overall. The ESPN Sunday night duo of Jon Miller and Joe Morgan holds the top spot, nosing out Buck and McCarver by one season. With McCarver retiring from Fox, the team of Kenny Albert and Eric Karros will inherit the longest active streak. Tony Kubek appears three times on this list. Joe Garagiola appears on the list in both the play-by-play and analyst roles.


 8:  Mike Tirico, Hubie Brown  (2006-07 to 2013-14) *
 7:  Dick Stockton, Hubie Brown  (1995-96 to 2001-02)                      
 7:  Kevin Harlan, Doug Collins  (2003-04 to 2009-10)
 6:  Bob Neal, Hubie Brown  (1990-91 to 1995-96) 
 6:  Bob Neal, Doug Collins  (1990-91 to 1995-96)
 6:  Ron Thulin, Doug Collins  (1990-91 to 1995-96) 
 6:  Pete Van Wieren, Doug Collins  (1990-91 to 1995-96)
 5:  Chris Schenkel, Jack Twyman  (1966-67 to 1970-71)
 5:  Marv Albert, Mike Fratello  (1999-00 to 2003-04)

The NBA produces much shorter streaks than the other sports as many analysts bounce back and forth between the TV booth and coaching jobs. Despite never being the #1 team on ABC/ESPN, Mike Tirico and Hubie Brown hold the NBA record at 8 seasons which is also the longest active mark. Turner Sports mixed and matched Brown and Doug Collins with several play-by-play announcers in the early 1990s which explains the overlapping streaks featuring those analysts. Overall, Collins appears four times on this list and Brown shows up three times. 

A few final notes:

  • This is not the easiest topic to research, but I did my best to identify the longest such streaks. If I missed any announcer team that belongs on one of these lists, please let me know.
  • The historical sports TV research at 506sports served as a key resource for this post.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

CBS TV audio from 1965 NFL Championship game

Have you ever wondered how an NFL Championship game sounded on TV in the pre-Super Bowl era? Check out these clips which feature original audio from the CBS telecast of the 1965 Browns-Packers NFL title game. (Note: All video footage appearing on these clips is from NFL Films.)

The TV announcers for this telecast were Ray Scott, Ken Coleman, and Frank Gifford. Scott handled the play-by-play duties for the first half of the telecast while Coleman described the action in the second half. Gifford served as the analyst throughout. These videos only cover the TV audio for the second half, so on these clips, Coleman and Gifford call the game. You can hear Scott during the postgame interview segment. During the 1965 season, CBS used designated play-by-play announcers for each team, so Scott (Packers) and Coleman (Browns) got the championship game assignment.

The CBS audio presents a fascinating (if incomplete) glimpse into the TV coverage of the time. The broadcasting style is much more subdued that what we experience today. CBS used a limited amount of the relatively new instant replay technology which Gifford refers to as "stop action" (and sometimes coming from the "end zone isolated camera")

The first video covers the 3rd quarter and starts out accompanied by the radio call of the game. The CBS-TV audio begins at the 10:35 mark of that clip and continues through the entire second video. Notice how you can hear the public address announcer and pep band in the background intermingled with the booth announcer voices - quite a contrast to a modern telecast.

Here is the 4th quarter and postgame. This was the first NFL title game to be televised in color, but at the 26:15 mark, Coleman states that the locker room interview portion of the telecast would be in black & white. The clip also contains a rhyming Viceroy cigarette commercial during the 2-minute warning. And in a move typical of that era, Gifford left the booth early to join Scott in preparing for the postgame show, so Coleman finished the game solo.

A few other notes:
  • Considering that this was a championship game, I found it odd that the announcers spent time during the 3Q discussing various draft choice signings by other NFL teams, thereby taking some of the focus away from the game at hand. (Note: The draft was held in November.)
  • I spotted a number of times when Gifford didn't offer any commentary between plays and Coleman simply carried the call into the next play.
  • Network shilling is nothing new. At the 11:15 mark of the 4Q video, Coleman does a promo for the CBS telecast of the meaningless Playoff Bowl (a consolation game between 2nd place teams) and hypes it as a "big one".

Friday, January 10, 2014

Kevin Burkhardt joins rare list with NFL playoff assignment in debut season

Tomorrow, Kevin Burkhardt will cap off his debut season in the NFL TV booth for Fox when he calls the Saints-Seahawks divisional playoff game with John Lynch. In a rare move, Fox gave Burkhardt an NFL playoff assignment during his first season of network TV play-by-play. How rare is this? Such a distinction last occurred 36 years ago. Prior to Burkhardt, the last play-by-play announcer to call an NFL playoff telecast in his first season at the network level was Dick Enberg on NBC during the 1977 postseason.

Since the 1970 merger, I only found 5 cases where a play-by-play announcer was assigned a playoff game in his first season calling the NFL on network TV. Here is the unique list that Burkhardt joins (note: the year refers to the NFL season even when the playoff game was in the following January).

  • Kevin Burkhardt (Fox) - 2013
  • Dick Enberg (NBC) - 1977
  • Vin Scully (CBS) - 1975
  • Gary Bender (CBS) - 1975
  • Brent Musburger (CBS) - 1974

Back in the 1970s, the networks were more likely to spread playoff assignments around to more announcers even with fewer postseason games. CBS actually used two first-year play-by-play announcers during the 1975 playoffs. Another interesting aspect is that the first playoff assignments for Enberg and Scully were conference championships. The others on the list were divisional playoff games.

Even in the years when ABC and NBC have carried a wild-card playoff doubleheader while only using one regular season broadcast crew, the second play-by-play announcer always had NFL network TV experience from a prior season.