CBS Up in the Air on Baseball Jobs

Reporters who cover television for many of the nation’s newspapers are holed up at the Registry Hotel in Universal City for a 16-day event called a press tour.

The reporters attend various sessions to listen to and question television executives, producers and stars talk about future programs and pertinent issues.

At one session this week was Neal Pilson, president of CBS Sports.

A Buffalo, N.Y., reporter directed this at Pilson: “The nation is awaiting in fear of the possibility of Brent Musburger on baseball. Is it going to happen?”


Said Pilson, whose network will begin televising baseball in 1990: “We have not discussed what talent we will use on baseball. But I do not agree with you about Brent. Anyone who has heard him do baseball on CBS Radio knows he is very good.

“Dick Stockton is another of our play-by-play announcers who is experienced on baseball.”

Later, Pilson said: “We will have to go after some good commentators, but we do not have to chase any play-by-play announcers. We already have them.”

Clarifying, Pilson said that does not necessarily mean that Musburger and Stockton are shoo-ins.

“I said we wouldn’t have to chase any,” he said. “That doesn’t mean we won’t talk to those who come to us.”

Such as Al Michaels and Vin Scully?

Pilson said he wouldn’t speculate on any possibilities. “I’ll leave that to you newspaper guys,” he said. “We have a two-page list of possible commentators. We would like to have someone who is around baseball on a daily basis.”

Someone such as ABC’s Tim McCarver, a New York Mets announcer?

“He’s currently under contract to ABC, so I can’t talk about him,” Pilson said.

“There are all kinds of possibilities, and I wouldn’t rule out any of them.”

Add Musburger: Obviously, he’s interested in the baseball job, even if it means giving up some other assignments, such as college football.

“I’m aware you can’t do baseball on a part-time basis,” he said. “You can’t just come in and do a baseball game every once in a while and do a competent job. So, yes, I know I would have to give up something.”

Musburger did one or two baseball games a month for CBS Radio last season, plus the National League championship series.

He would surely do more if he were tabbed the No. 1 man on baseball for the television network, which will show only 12 regular-season games.

Said Pilson: “We would have to find a way to keep Brent, or whoever it is, around baseball. We know that is very important.”

ABC used to bring in Howard Cosell to work baseball on a spot basis, and that was a disaster.

Musburger’s announcing partner at CBS Radio last season was new Hall of Fame member Johnny Bench, who figures to be a candidate for one of the CBS-TV commentating jobs. Another is New York Yankees announcer Bill White, who also works for CBS Radio.

Some of the others candidates: Joe Morgan, Reggie Jackson, Joe Garagiola, Joe Torre, Don Sutton, Tom Seaver and Jim Palmer.

A big hit: “Home Run Derby,” a series taped in the late 1950s at old Wrigley Field in Los Angeles, popped up on ESPN last month, usually running at 12:30 a.m.

The shows had a 2-week run, and because of popular demand, they will be back in April.

ESPN got the shows from MGM-United Artists and used them as late-night fillers. They were on at 3:30 a.m. in the East.

Still, the shows got considerable response, particularly from West Coast viewers.

The format has two home run hitters square off for a nine-inning contest. Sluggers such as Mickey Mantle, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Harmon Killebrew face a pitcher who is rewarded for serving up home run balls. Anything less than an over-the-fence home run is an out.

The winner gets $2,000, the loser $1,000. Also, there are bonuses for 3 or more consecutive home runs.

In the series of shows last month, Aaron won $12,000. But he lost to Wally Post, who in turn lost a thriller to Dick Stuart, who hit 2 homers in the bottom of the ninth to win, 11-9.

While one batter is hitting, the host, former Hollywood Stars announcer Mark Scott, interviews the other. It’s high camp and entertaining.

Scott, the Vin Scully of his time in Los Angeles, died of a heart attack at 45 in 1960. His widow, Dorothy, lives in Woodland Hills. A daughter, Mary Sherman, 37, lives in Studio City and a son, Douglas, 35, lives in Santa Barbara.

“My mother was watching ESPN late one night and saw the show and called me immediately,” Sherman said. “It was wonderful to see Dad back on television.”

Oops Dept.: In the second quarter of last Sunday’s American Football Conference championship game, NBC showed a man in the stands and identified him as Cincinnati quarterback Boomer Esiason’s father.

One problem. The man was not Norman Esiason. NBC got his seat assignment wrong.

“That’s the wrong guy,” yelled John Filippelli, producer of the pregame show, as he ran into the production truck.

NBC later showed the real Norman Esiason in a seat not far from the other man, who after the game was identified by reporters as Bob Reynolds of Hamilton, Ohio.

Reynolds said he was unaware of the error until later. “When I got home, my brother called and asked to speak to Mr. Esiason,” he said.

Add AFC game: Paul Maguire, who was working the game for NBC, chose not to report details of a scuffle between two Buffalo players, veteran lineman Joe Devlin and cornerback Erroll Tucker, in the locker room after the Bills’ loss.

Maguire, a former player for the Bills, said he didn’t think it was news. Funny, CBS and most newspapers treated it as fairly major news.

TV-Radio Notes

Two Southern California college basketball teams, Loyola Marymount and UCLA, will make network appearances Saturday. The Lions’ game at DePaul will be on CBS at 11 a.m., PST, and the Bruins’ home game with Notre Dame will be on NBC at 11:30. . . . The announcers for the Loyola game will be Greg Gumbel, brother of Bryant, and Quinn Buckner, a former Indiana and Milwaukee Bucks player. Both will be making debuts for CBS. . . . The announcers for the UCLA-Notre Dame game will be Dick Enberg and Al McGuire. Since Enberg will be working the Super Bowl next weekend, NBC offered to give him the day off. But because of his affection for the two schools, Enberg asked to work the game.

Michael Weisman, the executive producer for NBC Sports, attending this week’s press tour in Universal City to talk about next weekend’s Super Bowl pregame show, said: “Some people say 2 hours is too long for a pregame show. And ratings indicate they may be right. We got a 21 rating for our pregame show 3 years ago, then CBS got an 18, and it dipped to 14 last year when ABC had the game. I think what we have to do is come up with more imaginative programming.”

One new feature in this year’s pregame show will be the Diet Pepsi Talent Challenge. Each NFL team was invited to nominate a player or group of players with a particular talent. Twenty nominated contestants, and five finalists who will appear on the show, are expected to be announced today. The Rams nominated wide receiver Michael Young, an accomplished country and western singer. The Chicago Bears also nominated a country and western performer, defensive end Dan Hampton. The Raiders’ entry is a group of players doing a rap video.

Bubba Paris, San Francisco’s 300-pound offensive tackle, entered as a poet but is not eligible because the 49ers are in the Super Bowl. “He’ll be busy elsewhere,” Weisman said, “so he’ll have to forgo reading poetry.”