Say this for WBAL Radio: When it does change, it does it big.
Having shaken up local listeners with the addition of Republican Ellen Sauerbrey to its talk show lineup, WBAL (1090 AM) took another bold step yesterday, announcing the addition of Pam Ward to its morning show as sports anchor, beginning March 13.
Ward, who has been host of an overnight talk show at Washington's all-sports WTEM (570 AM), trades in the night-owl audience for the morning commuters.
"I'll get more sleep now," said Ward. "It's a chance for me to work in morning drive, which is prime time for radio in a city that has major-league baseball, which I love. I'm really looking forward to the opportunity."
Jim West, the current morning sports anchor and former morning show co-host, will go into semiretirement, but still will report on Orioles and Maryland games and continue to have a significant presence at the station, said Jeff Beauchamp, WBAL's station manager.
"This is the best of both worlds for us," said Beauchamp. "Jim will continue to be a part of our sports operation and we've made a terrific addition in the morning."
Beauchamp envisions a number of different roles for Ward, a University of Maryland graduate who worked for Cleveland's all-sports WKNR-AM before going to foundering WTEM more than a year ago.
Ward, the first woman on local radio or TV sports airwaves since lTC Gayle Gardner left Channel 13 for ESPN 11 years ago, will fill in when Josh Lewin is absent on the evening "SportsLine" talk show. She also will do a three-hour talk show after Lewin on nights when the Orioles are off or have played in the afternoon.
In addition, Beauchamp said Ward's morning sports reports won't just regurgitate scores from the night before, but will include some of her personal touches, including occasional commentary.
"She has a special affinity for the University of Maryland, which our listeners will appreciate. We see her doing a lot of different things for us and we think the audience will enjoy Pam immensely," said Beauchamp.
The Maryland Terrapins continue to do extremely well in local ratings, which augurs well for the overnight numbers of last night's Terps-North Carolina fracas.
Last Saturday's Maryland-Georgia Tech game got an 8.0 rating and 15 share of the audience, according to Chris Mecchi, ratings researcher for channels 45 and 54, and the newest member of the "On the Air" family.
In the final 15 minutes of the telecast, the numbers shot up to an 11.2/21, which may be a precursor of the ratings for last night's game.
Only two events, Sunday's Houston-at-Phoenix NBA contest (8.4/14) on Channel 11 and the Pro Bowl (10.5/14) on Channel 2, beat the Maryland game among the weekend offerings. The other NBA game, New York at Orlando, got a 6.7/13, also on Channel 11.
College basketball generally did poorly, even with the heavy snow, which in theory should have kept viewers in a vegetative state in front of their sets.
For instance, the Iowa-Penn State game Saturday did a 1.4/3 on Channel 13 and was the lowest rated sports program of the weekend. The Virginia-North Carolina women's game Sunday got a 1.8/4 on Channel 2, and the UCLA-Notre Dame game that followed did a 3.2/5, placing just behind Syracuse-Kentucky, which did a 3.3/7 for Channel 13.
Back to his roots
HBO has called a news conference for today to announce details of a new sports magazine show with Bryant Gumbel, the co-host of NBC's "Today" morning show.
Those with long memories will recall that Bryant, the brother of NBC's "NFL Live" host Greg Gumbel, broke into network television as one of the co-hosts of "Grandstand," the precursor of "NFL Live."
Don't you love it when things come full circle?