In the seven years since NBC last telecast a World Series, the game of baseball has changed, and not all for the better. But one thing hasn't changed: NBC is and should always be the broadcast network of record for the national pastime.
The fact that baseball is willing to let NBC walk away after this Fall Classic is over speaks volumes about the intelligence of those who run the game, but the Peacock network is going out with a blaze of glory.
Though NBC and ABC are each televising the Series through the auspices of The Baseball Network and are sharing production equipment and facilities, it is NBC that has clearly shone during the first two nights, performing as well last night for Game 2 as Atlanta's Greg Maddux in Game 1.
If he didn't before, Bob Costas, in his first World Series, last night clearly established himself as the rightful heir to the rich heritage of NBC baseball play-by-play men that stretches back to Curt Gowdy and Vin Scully.
Joe Morgan, baseball's best analyst, was brilliant as usual, giving an exceptional explanation on why the deliveries of Atlanta's Tom Glavine, last night's starter and a left-hander, are so attractive to left-handed hitters, a statistical oddity.
The third member of the NBC Series booth, Bob Uecker, has frankly been the pleasant surprise, keeping his "Mr. Baseball" patter to a blessed minimum. In fact, Uecker -- Costas' usual Baseball Network partner -- has been dead-on with some observations about pitch locations and the rock-hard nature of the Fulton County turf, but has been occasionally wacky when the situation called for it.
On the flip side, ABC's Game 1 effort Saturday left something to be desired, namely the muting of Tim McCarver's microphone.
McCarver, as is his wont, gives a listener paralysis from his overanalysis. There is no observation that the former major-league catcher can't make four or five times and sometimes in the worst situation.
Take the seventh inning, when, while most of the world was focusing on second base umpire Bruce Froemming's missed call of a force play at the bag, McCarver was harping on Cleveland's failure to bring the infield in with the bases loaded and no one out, an esoteric and irrelevant point.
McCarver's booth partners, Al Michaels and Jim Palmer, were exceptional, but, as if following McCarver's lead, the production crew overloaded the viewers with stats and graphics.
It's almost as if ABC, which has been the best of the networks at melding sports and entertainment, has forgotten that the World Series attracts more than just the seamheads.
The overnight Nielsen ratings suggest that viewers may have sensed ABC's overkill. The survey of the nation's top 33 markets showed a 16.0 rating and 28 share for Saturday, down 4 percent from the 16.7 for Game 1 of the 1993 Philadelphia-Toronto Series.
The oddity about that figure is that CBS, the 1993 carrier, got no ratings from Toronto, which is not an American market. ABC, however, presumably got big numbers from Cleveland and Atlanta, and still didn't match the 1993 mark.
Days of Series past
While the Series shifts venues, ESPN tonight offers a look back at two of the great Fall Classics.
At 9 p.m., the network presents a one-hour show on the 1975 World Series, won by Cincinnati in seven games, followed by an hour on the seminal 1955 Series, in which the Brooklyn Dodgers ended years of frustration with a win over the New York Yankees.
Pulling a fast one
As if those "Made in America, played in America" NFL promos that NBC has trotted out, in a thinly veiled swipe at Fox chairman Rupert Murdoch, an Australian native, weren't bad enough, the network is trying a wee bit of chicanery regarding the start time of its football telecasts in an attempt to lure more viewers into its pre-game show, which has lagged behind Fox's in the ratings.
In its promos, NBC will list that coverage of a schedule of contests will begin at 12:30, giving the impression that that's when the games themselves start.
In truth, that's when the pre-game show begins. Kickoff for the listed games is about 1 p.m., and it's surprising that the control freaks at league headquarters haven't come down on NBC for its modest deception.