NBC announcers may have just performed the most significant roles ever in a televised World Series.
In the 9th inning of Game 1, with the camera spanning the Dodger dugout, Vin Scully noted that Kirk Gibson wasn't to be found and thus he wouldn't be available.
Gibson was watching in the trainer's room and said, "Bull." And out he came to hit a game-winning home run that will forever be a part of Dodger lore.
Then after Oakland won Game 3 on Mark McGwire's 9th-inning home run to pull within a game of the Dodgers, Bob Costas the next night unwittingly did his part during the pregame show by calling the Dodgers' lineup one of the weakest ever in a World Series.
Costas didn't realize the Dodgers were in the clubhouse watching until Tom Lasorda came out and yelled at him, "Thanks for psyching us up." Even Orel Hershiser got on Costas, who in turn told Hershiser, "This lineup is so weak, you should be in it as a hitter."
After the Dodgers scored an improbable 4-3 victory, Lasorda played Costas' comment to the hilt, as did Costas, who appeared on camera during Lasorda's postgame interviews with Marv Albert and Fred Roggin.
Roggin asked Lasorda what his players said about Costas' comment. "Kill Costas, or something like that," Lasorda said, smiling. Then Costas appeared and said: "All I was trying to do was set it up for everyone to see what a genius this man (Lasorda) is."
Interestingly, game announcers Scully and Joe Garagiola almost totally ignored the Costas angle. The Lasorda-Costas confrontation, if that's what it can be called, was being talked about around the NBC trailers but not in the booth. You wonder why not.
There's no argument which was the best team during postseason play, but what can be argued is which announcing team was better, ABC's Al Michaels, Tim McCarver and Jim Palmer or NBC's Scully and Garagiola?
Michaels and Scully--not necessarily in that order--may be the two best baseball play-by-play men ever. This is no accident.
Both are perfectionists who work extremely hard at their craft.
a But they are also quite different. Scully, although usually cordial, is a little on the shy side. He often says he wishes he could perform his job in anonymity, that he doesn't like the attention it brings him.
Michaels, outgoing and personable, doesn't mind attention, but he has had some trouble handling criticism from the print media. He's working on that, though, telling himself it comes with the territory.
Personalities, aside, who is the better announcer? It's like choosing between a Rolls-Royce and a Ferrari. One may be a little classier, but the other has more pizazz. It's a personal preference.
Scully gets the nod here because of his seniority. He has been doing this since 1950, or since Michaels was about 5 years old.
The best commentator? McCarver has the edge, but Palmer and Garagiola were both very good during the postseason.
McCarver, who, like Michaels and Scully, is meticulous in his preparation, has a knack for offering the right information at the right time. And he also has a pleasing personality.
The knock on the 3-man ABC team is that there is too much chatter, and it's a valid complaint. But if Palmer were eliminated, his banter with McCarver would be more of a loss than a gain.
There had been rumors that Garagiola's job hinged on his performance during the World Series, since his contract is up. If the rumors are true, NBC should re-sign him since he had a very good World Series.
His speculations, for the most part, were right on target. For example, in Game 5, he said Mike Davis might be getting the go-ahead to swing away on a 3-and-0 count right before Davis hit a 2-run homer. And he said Dave Parker will chase curveballs low and inside right before Hershiser threw two of them to record the biggest out of Game 5.
Add Garagiola: One complaint. For some reason, during Game 1 he decided to provide Oakland designated hitter Don Baylor with an out for the critical remarks he made about the Dodgers and relief pitcher Jay Howell.
Baylor, quoted by the San Jose Mercury News, said of Howell: "What's he ever done? He couldn't save games over here (in Oakland), so they got rid of him. We want him in the game all right."
Earlier, Baylor had said he preferred playing the New York Mets in the World Series because they were the best team in the National League.
Garagiola said he asked Baylor if the comments were calculated to take some of the attention away from Oakland's young stars, Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire. And wouldn't you know it. Baylor said, yes, that was his plan.
Yeah, sure it was.
Ratings game: After winning back-to-back championships, it appeared as if the Lakers were on the verge of becoming the most popular team in Los Angeles. Their title-clinching Game 7 against the Detroit Pistons in June drew a record 40.9 rating, shattering the previous mark of 29.2 for Game 6 of the Laker-Boston series the previous year.
But the Dodgers, for the 5-game World Series, averaged a 41.3 rating. Game 3 drew a 44.4. Imagine what a Game 7 would have drawn.
Nationally, the Series averaged a 23.7 rating. ABC, through the first 5 games of the Minnesota-St. Louis Series last season, averaged a 22.8.
The Godfather: This was director Harry Coyle 36th--and probably last--World Series. He suffered a heart attack in June and has since said he may retire.
A polite, unassuming man, Coyle is a television legend. He has directed sporting events almost as long as there has been television--41 years.
He's often called the Godfather of baseball television, and he sets the standard for how the game is covered. But Coyle is a modest man who always gives the credit to his crew. He'll tell you it's his cameramen that make him look good, and in a way he's right. He's modest enough to admit it.
Coyle was having second thoughts after retiring after working Game 1. He said Gibson's homer got the ol' juices going, and he wanted to come back. But indications are if he does come back next season, it will be in a limited capacity.