ALL-STAR GAME : Television / Larry Stewart : Reagan Can’t Handle Easy Pitch for NBC
Dutch Reagan, the oldtime Iowa sportscaster, made a comeback Tuesday night at the All-Star game.
Well, sort of.
Working the first inning with play-by-play announcer Vin Scully for NBC, Reagan showed he’s a little rusty.
He had said before the game that he was worried he might say the obvious.
When the game’s first hitter, Ozzie Smith, was tagged out trying steal second, Scully dully noted, “They’ve got him.”
Reagan added: “And he’s out.”
Then Reagan seemed to get a little lost when he asked: “That’s Tony Gwynn?”
“Yeah, at the plate,” Scully said.
After Scully noted that Kevin Mitchell knocked in the game’s first run, Reagan added, “It’s a run batted in.”
Well, at least you have to appreciate that Reagan agreed to make the guest appearance in the first place.
Surely, he had to realize what he was getting into.
TV sports critics generally are only slightly less vicious than political columnists.
A week and a half ago, Reagan was bucked off a horse in Mexico. “I didn’t fall off, I got thrown off,” he told viewers Tuesday night. “I’m all black and blue under these clothes.”
The going was pretty rough Tuesday night as well.
To his credit, Reagan seemed to realize it. Before giving way to Tom Seaver in the second inning, he said he was self-conscious and apologized for being “uptight.”
Apparently, this assignment was tougher than a presidential press conference with Sam Donaldson sitting in the front row.
However, Dick Ebersol, the new NBC Sports president, seemed pleased.
“He’ll be back for the opening game in 1994 after baseball returns to NBC where it belongs,” quipped Ebersol.
CBS’ three-year contract with major league baseball begins next season.
It was Ebersol’s idea to invite Reagan to work an inning. “I called his main spokesman, Mark Weinburg, my second day on the job,” Ebersol said.
“At first, Weinburg said, ‘No way,’ but eventually we talked him into it.”
Reagan came prepared. He had read the press guides and drawn up diagrams and notecards for himself, Eberbol said.
He informed viewers that Gwynn was the only player in the National League to play in every game last season.
Not a bad stat.
He told of how Mitchell was a former gang member in San Diego and that his brother was killed, a well-known story but worth repeating.
Yes, Reagan made the effort. But he was obviously nervous, which is interesting. We’re not talking about someone who has never had to face a camera and microphone before.
Making matters worse was that there were four runs scored and back-to-back home runs during the 25-minute inning Reagan was on stage.
The hitters weren’t having problems with the shadows. It was the former president who struck out.
Otherwise, it was a fine night for NBC.