It's been at least 14 years, since Jon Miller arrived in the radio booth, that Orioles Opening Day broadcasts seemed as significant as the actual game did. But starting with carriage of today's game with Kansas City on both radio (WBAL, 1090 AM) and television (Channel 13), the team will never sound the same.
For one thing, Miller is gone, headed to San Francisco with his replacement, Jim Hunter, settling in. Hunter, who had 10 years of CBS Radio experience under his belt, has had a few weeks of spring training to get established. But the real challenge of supplanting Miller in the hearts and minds of Baltimoreans begins today, and it will be interesting to see how the city's fans, among the most rabid anywhere, respond.
On the television side, Michael Reghi, who did his first game Saturday, takes over for Mel Proctor, who left for San Diego after 13 years. Because baseball seems to have a much more emotional impact on radio than television, Proctor's absence doesn't appear to have touched the community the way Miller's has, but Reghi's work won't be that much easier. Proctor did carve out a niche for himself here.
Channel 13 will air a pair of 30-minute pre-game shows, starting at 2 p.m., before the first pitch, expected shortly after 3 p.m. WBAL will serve up Mark Viviano for a 9 a.m. talk show, followed by Greg Sher at noon.
ESPN's first pitch
You've been seeing a lot less of ESPN's Chris Berman lately, but that's about to change.
Berman, the signature voice of the network, has been felled in recent months by the lasting effects of a knee injury that he suffered last year. The injury has him back in a cast that allows him to move his leg only about 35 or 40 degrees.
"I'm going through it again. It's tough hanging with Greg Norman. Oh, I'm sorry," said Berman, referring to a similar injury suffered by President Clinton, while golfing with Norman. "We'll be a little smarter."
Berman returns to work with the eighth season premiere of baseball coverage on ESPN, which will carry a tripleheader today, opening with the White Sox taking on Toronto at 1, followed by the Cubs visiting Florida.
In the nightcap, Berman and Buck Martinez will work the Yankees-Seattle game from the Kingdome, a contest that figures to be of some interest to Orioles fans.
Speaking of the Orioles, Berman likes the changes they've made, especially the pickups of outfielder Eric Davis and pitcher Jimmy Key, and he says the move of Cal Ripken to third base can be a good one, "if he bought into it."
Ultimately, though, Berman says it won't be enough for the Orioles to catch New York, because, he says, they don't seem to be as driven to win as the Yankees.
"There's an intangible that I don't see there [with the Orioles] yet," said Berman. "Every now and then, it's OK to have a food spreader in the clubhouse. There's a fire missing. Maybe they find it this year. Right now, I don't see it with them and I do with the Yankees. Maybe a bad taste of losing to the Yankees will get that fire going."
On the technical side, the network plans to add more innovations to its coverage, including an up-to-date box score of the game it's carrying that will run three times per telecast, as well as a revamped score box that will feature a Fox-like diamond that will show where any runners are and the speed of each pitch.
For its Sunday night telecasts, ESPN plans to attach a Fletcher camera, which it unveiled during its playoff coverage last fall. The robotic camera will be attached to the home plate screen to provide infield replay action.
Tim Scanlan, the network's coordinating baseball producer, said ESPN is in discussions with baseball officials and representatives of the player and umpire unions for permission to place cameras on the catcher and umpire, as well as miking umpires. He hopes to be able to pull that off by season's end.
If you were smart enough to avoid the recent Sugar Ray Leonard-Hector Camacho pay-per-view nonsense, figuring it would turn up on cable, well, you were right.
USA will carry the fight tonight at 9, and seeing as how Tuesday night fights usually beat Turner's NBA coverage, a healthy, but not so gullible, audience should be in the works.
Pub Date: 4/01/97