Tag Archives: ABC

Frank Gifford’s One Degree of Separation from Baseball Broadcasters

Frank Gifford died at his home yesterday morning in Connecticut at the age of 84.  A bona fide Pro Football Hall of Famer, he was also a Hall of Fame-level football broadcaster as well, receiving the Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award for his broadcast service in 1995.

Frank Gifford never worked any baseball broadcasts, but he worked with a bunch of guys who did. View image | gettyimages.com

 

Gifford never broadcast any baseball games (even though he did work some non-football sporting events such as the Olympics, including the infamous 1972 Gold Medal game, which you can hear him call here), but The Giffer did work with several broadcast partners who did, from long-time baseball play-by-play guys to those who merely dipped their toe in the ballpark booth waters, including:

  • Chris Schenkel: We think of Schenkel as the TV bowling broadcaster today—heck, he’s an actual PBA Hall of Famer because of his work on that— but he anchored a whole bunch of sports for the American Broadcasting Company, including a 24-game slate of baseball games in 1965. That same year, Schekel began a three-year run with Gifford to call New York (football) Giants game for CBS, closing out the days when The Eye  deployed dedicated announcers for each NFL team.
  • Jack Whitaker: This guy is also known for his coverage of non-team sports, chiefly golf and horse racing, but he too was a jack of the trade of pro football broadcasting for CBS, as he paired with Gifford for several games during the 1969 and 1970 football seasons.  Whitaker also did a single baseball broadcast, doing play-by-play for CBS on May 7, 1960 from Yankee Stadium during which the Bombers took on their perennial trading partners, the Kansas City A’s.
  • Chuck Thompson: Thompson was one of the all-time great baseball play-by-play men, serving over 40 seasons in the mid-Atlantic region with the two Philadelphia teams, the old Senators (the iteration that became the Twins), and most famously the Orioles, all from the late 40s into the current millennium.  But like almost all baseball announcers of the time, he filled his off-seasons with football, and worked with Gifford for a single Colts-Packers game on Dec. 7, 1968.
  • Howard Cosell: Howard, of course, worked with Gifford for most of his tenure at ABC’s Monday Night Football, during the first 13 years to be exact (1971 to 1983), and we tend think of Howard today as a football announcer and boxing commentator first and second, the order between the two dependent on the person doing the reminiscing about Humble Howard. After a few seconds, hardcore sports fans of the era will also clearly remember that Cosell was a prolific baseball announcer as well, shoring up 144 airings between 1976 and 1985 (with a stray NBC GotW in 1973 as well), good enough for a tie with Bob Uecker for 21st on the all-time color guy list.
  • Don Meredith: Meredith served mostly as comic relief within the various troikas that manned the MNF booth between 1970 and 1984, excepting a three-year hole in the middle of that run to work football with Curt Gowdy at NBC. During that period, The Peacock hoped to capture some of Don’s third man magic for an NBC Game of the Week broadcast with Gowdy and Tony Kubek during a Pirates-Reds tilt on Aug. 12, 1974.  How did Dandy Don do in the baseball booth? Well, he never did work another baseball broadcast after that, so …

In addition to the five listed above, Gifford had a connection to other long time baseball broadcasters without actually working in the booth with them (a second degree of separation, if you will). In 1969, Gifford filled in as an play-by-play announcer on CBS Football for Jack Buck (96 network baseball broadcasts; St Louis Cardinals radio and TV from 1954 to 2001), the regular broadcaster, who was wrapping up his baseball commitments for the season. (Gifford also filled in for Chuck Thompson, same season/same reason, in addition to teaming up with him for one game.)  As for ABC’s MNF, which Gifford headed up from 1971 through 1985, he replaced Keith Jackson (153 network baseball broadcasts from 1965 to 1986, with an appearance on a 2003 broadcast) who had wrapped up that gig after the 1970 NFL season, and was replaced by Al Michaels (263 network baseball games from 1972 to 1995, plus a game in 2011, as well as six seasons with the Reds and Giants from 1971 to 1976), who succeeded Gifford starting with the 1986 NFL season.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the surviving family members and friends of Frank Gifford.

A Sportswriter’s Response to ABC-TV’s Wacky 60-Game MLB Schedule Idea

On Wednesday we shared the—how to put this diplomatically?—”out of the box idea” that ABC-TV, or at least its president Thomas W. Moore, offered up to Major League Baseball: cut your season to 60 games, play only on the weekends, promote the games as major television events along the lines of college and pro football, and watch the money roll in.

OK, I’m liberally paraphrasing (probably), but that was the gist of his proposal.  Mark Aubrey, who runs Baseball Nuggets, a really interesting historical baseball site composed mainly of old newspaper articles offered up “as is”, tipped us off to that one.

One might think that the tepid response to this nutty idea by network rivals CBS and NBC (who had actual major league baseball games on their airwaves while ABC did not), as well as by then-Commissioner Ford Frick, would have been pretty much the extent of the response.  I mean, come on: who was going to take this idea seriously?

Francis Stann. That’s who.

A sports columnist for the Washington Evening Star, a major DC daily that published until 1981, Stann took the proposal seriously enough to fashion a response that could best be described as “indignant”. Because when you spell out the word you use to describe the nature of an obviously ridiculous and unworkable proposal as “G-R-E-E-D”, you’re undoubtedly steeped in indignation in a deep way.  If he’d’ve written this article two decades on, he might have been advised thusly: “Lighten up, Francis.” That said, it is an entertaining read, which we present to you below.

For more articles related to this, including a happy ending article in which ABC-TV is awarded the rights to baseball broadcasts for a cool $12 million over two seasons starting in 1965, check out the rest of Mark’s article over at Baseball Nuggets.

Stann Article

ABC-TV Once Suggested that Major League Baseball Reduce Their Regular Season Schedule to 60 Games!

Rob Manfred, the rookie Commissioner of Baseball, stoked increased discussion about MLB reducing its regular season this past February. You yourself have probably had discussions with other fans about this many times over the years, so you likely know that a lot of people who consider themselves big fans of the game nevertheless wouldn’t mind seeing less of it. Proponents of shortening the schedule usually maintain that 162 games is just way too many to play in a season and argue that the season goes too late in the year, topping it off with the horrific vision of a November World Series game getting snowed out.

The weather point starts to frost up a bit when you consider that in cities where playing in cold weather is an issue, early November runs anywhere from one to five degrees warmer on average than early April, as well as drier. No matter: the weather argument has a lot of traction in the debate, and occupies a trump card in proponents’ hand at the moment.  A better, recently proffered argument is that players would benefit from a season of fewer games to help preserve their health and perhaps lengthen their careers.

There is some general merit to the latter point, although the funniest thing to me about this debate is that the number of games most advocates invariably choose to reduce the season to is 154.  The difference between 162 and 154 is not all that great, less than 5% of games, so would a season of 154 games provide all that much more relief to an everyday player than one of 162?  That seems a somewhat dubious proposition.  So why is 154 always the magic number in these debates?  Why not 144, or 140, or 134? Might it be that nostalgia plays a significant role in the advocacy of the 154 solution? I might place a bet on that, if one were available.

Nothing nostalgic about a solution that ABC television came up with over a half century ago to reduce the season, though.  They didn’t suggest 154, or 144, or anything as incremental as that. Their suggestion: play a 60-game season, on weekends only, and promote it the way that football is promoted, as a major television event.

This idea brought chuckles of disbelief from their rivals at CBS and NBC and the kind of dismissals reserved for the crazy political ideas that one uncle of yours evangelizes at every Thanksgiving dinner. Commissioner-at-the-time Ford Frick was reportedly equally unimpressed, the article stating flatly that “the public is satisfied with the way things are now, and he is too.”

Undaunted, ABC did not stop there with the out-of-the-box ideas. They believed other sports could benefit from dramatic changes, too, such as professional golfers competing with each other on a season-long points system administered by the PGA; the USOC holding regional Olympic competitions to better prepare the nation for the actual quadrennial event; and college football doing away with the bowl system and replacing it with a March Madness-style playoff instead.  As you can see, not all their ideas were total clunkers.

The original article, published in the wonderfully alliterative Rockford Register-Republic in April 1964, is reprinted below.  Hat tip to Mark Aubrey, who featured this in a post on his own blog located here.

 

ABC-60games

Network TV Broadcast Database is Updated Through 6/30/14

Tony Miller, our network TV broadcast expert, has updated the Network TV database through this past Monday.

You can download the updated CSV file from here:

NETWORK TV BROADCASTS

Or you can search through the table online, here on this site:

SEARCHABLE NETWORK TV BROADCASTS

The latter option may take up to a few minutes to load, depending on your Internet speed, so please be a little patient.

You can also reach these, and all other databases, from the dropdown menus along the top of every page of the site.

Here is something I learned from a search online: I typed in “Jackie Robinson” and it turns out he did color for ABC TV broadcasts in 1965, appearing on 27 broadcasts.  He worked opposite of three different PxP guys: Merle Harmon, Chris Schenkel, and Keith Jackson.