Skip Caray feeling like TBS wallflower

The Baltimore Sun

Notes from the world of sports media while hoping the boss doesn't notice how many sports figures show up on Dancing With the Stars and force me to watch it:

The first pitch hasn't even been thrown, and we already have our first baseball playoffs controversy. TBS is carrying the Division Series and the National League Championship Series, and Skip Caray wasn't invited.

Caray has called Atlanta Braves games since 1976, but his television role has been reduced this season - he worked just 10 TBS games, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Still, he expressed his displeasure when TBS announced its additional three play-by-play men for the Division Series - veteran Dick Stockton, who mostly broadcasts football and basketball these days; Ted Robinson, mainly known for his tennis work; and Don Orsillo, TV voice of the Boston Red Sox. Caray's son, Chip, already had been named to the postseason team.

"I feel like I can do a better job than a tennis announcer or a football-basketball announcer," Caray told the Journal-Constitution. "I'm not knocking Ted Robinson and Dick Stockton, but point of fact is they don't do baseball anymore and I'm there every day. ... It hurt my feelings, and I'm mad at myself for thinking there was any loyalty left in this business."

Chip Caray will team with Tony Gwynn to form TBS' No. 1 postseason announcing pair. The other duos: Stockton/Bob Brenly, Robinson/Steve Stone and Orsillo/Joe Simpson. Game telecasts will be preceded and followed by half-hour studio shows featuring host Ernie Johnson with analysts Cal Ripken Jr. and Frank Thomas.

When Ripken spoke earlier this year about his studio assignment, he expressed admiration for the NBA show Johnson hosts with Charles Barkley. Cal as Charles? Wouldn't that be a shocker for Orioles fans?

Somehow, it's hard to believe Ripken would say something like Barkley did when he showed up in the Monday Night Football booth in Philadelphia a couple of weeks ago. When ESPN announcer Mike Tirico said the Eagles would have won their first game if they had someone who could catch punts, Barkley responded: "And if I didn't eat so much, I wouldn't be fat."

Writing for his hometown newspaper in Maine, the Bangor Daily News, Orioles TV voice Gary Thorne made several salient points about sports media coverage, particularly relating to broadcast entities owned by teams or college conferences.

"There seems to be a growing pressure by both sports teams and players at every level to expect the press to be their mouthpiece," Thorne wrote. "That means noncritical. This pressure stems primarily from the advent of the marriage between the teams and the outlets that cover them, especially television. ...

"Since the teams/conferences own and run these operations, they can be and often are viewed by the owners as mouthpieces for the team. Since the announcers are hired by the team or the network, the relationship can become far from independent."

One quibble with his column, something that also has been pointed out elsewhere: Thorne should have mentioned he works for one such outlet, the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, owned by the Orioles. However, that is not at all to say Thorne has been broadcasting this dispiriting season through a rose-colored microphone. In fact, his performance has been one of the Orioles' best.

Saturday Night Live starts its 33rd season (11:30 p.m. tomorrow, WBAL/Channel 11 and WRC/Channel 4) with Cleveland Cavaliers All-Star LeBron James as host. If his commercial featuring the various LeBrons is any indication, James should do at least as well as Peyton Manning.

So let me add my thoughts on the tirade by Oklahoma State football coach Mike Gundy: How soon before that shows up in a beer commercial?

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