Derek Jeter's disputed eighth-inning home run yesterday bailed out not only the Yankees, but also NBC, whose telecast of Game 1 of the American League Championship Series was spotty at best, until Jeter's contested blast.
The network had turned in a competent, but not spectacular telecast up to that point, nailing the big themes, but missing small details. However, the camera work and commentary on Jeter's shot earned NBC a measure of redemption, though some of the holes will have to be corrected before the series ends.
The three-man announcingteam of Bob Costas, Joe Morgan and Bob Uecker immediately suspected that a fan had interfered with Jeter's drive. Under the knowing leadership of director Andy Rosenberg and producer David Neal, the production truck provided replays from four telling angles that proved the booth right, and there was nice hustle from reporter Jim Gray to get out to right to talk to the boy who caught the ball. The hustle was admirable; some might, however, question the propriety of glorifying potentially illegal conduct.
Morgan, baseball's best analyst, was particularly on his game. In the seventh, Morgan pointed out that Bernie Williams' drive to right hit in the center of Bobby Bonilla's glove, where he couldn't squeeze the ball, rather than in the webbing.
A few batters later, with the bases loaded, Morgan was absolutely prescient about reliever Armando Benitez's penchant toward wildness as he faced pinch hitter Darryl Strawberry, who walked, forcing in the Yankees' third run.
Costas' call of Williams' game-winning home run in the 11th off left-hander Randy Myers came just after he noted that Williams, a switch-hitter, was batting from the right side, his power side.
And yet, NBC missed some rather important little things that were a drag on the telecast.
While it's great to have stats on a player's batting average with runners in scoring position, it would be even better to get a constant reminder of the score and the count, and NBC doesn't do that. Fox and ESPN have boxes in the upper left-hand corner to give viewers, whose attention spans often drift, game information; it's way past time for NBC to do the same.
Also, in the seventh, as Benitez was working to Strawberry, Morgan and Uecker kept referring to the reliever's zip on his fastball, but there was no radar gun information to document just how hard Benitez was throwing to Strawberry. During a regular-season telecast, that might be acceptable, but since NBC doesn't do any regular-season games, it's incumbent upon it to bring out all the hardware.
And while Costas is among the best in the business and a spokesman for all that is good and right about baseball, his constant speechifying about the impurity of the wild card, delivered twice during the opening sequence, has gotten very stale. That battle has been fought, Bob, and your side lost. Get over it.
Just a guess here, but we're figuring that when the management at Channel 11 took a look at the ratings the Orioles got last weekend for the Division Series, then realized that it would be getting the American League Championship Series, featuring those same Orioles, well, those folks just started doing the "Cash Jig."
According to Emerson Coleman, Channel 11's programming czar and the sole and official fill-in "Media Watch" ratings provider this week, Saturday's decisive Game 4 of the Orioles-Cleveland series did a 20.2 rating and 45 share of the audience for Channel 54, likely making it the highest rated program in the history of the station.
Since Channel 11 has all of the ALCS, and some guaranteed monster ratings, let's figure that "Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy," is being piped through the station's loudspeakers.
Sunday's Ravens-Patriots game on Channel 11 did a 16.3/39, a marked improvement from the previous week, when the ratings were actually below what the game did in Cleveland.
The big loser last weekend was college football. Of the three games that aired last Saturday -- all against the Orioles -- the highest-rated contest was the Ohio State-Penn State game on Channel 2, which did a 2.7/3. The Maryland-North Carolina State game on Channel 13 did a 1.8/5.
Pub Date: 10/10/96