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: