Michaels' Dispute With ABC Goes to Arbitration Monday

On Monday, in the Century City office of labor lawyer Stuart P. Herman, an unusual arbitration hearing between sportscaster Al Michaels and his employer, ABC, will begin.

Michaels is seeking to get out of his ABC contract, supposedly to sign with CBS.

Three sessions are scheduled for next week, then Michaels will head for New York to work the Belmont Stakes. Three more sessions are scheduled the following week.

The Michaels party, which includes attorney Bill Cole, has asked for a decision from the three-member arbitration panel by June 15.

Michaels and Dennis Swanson, president of ABC Sports, at one time were very close. Michaels raved about Swanson even when others didn't.

But the relationship deteriorated to a point where Michaels was suspended for two weeks without pay for an apparent minor offense--his teen-age daughter worked as an ABC runner at a figure skating event in February.

Such things are against a company nepotism policy, but, on the surface, a warning would seem to have sufficed.

One turning point in the Michaels-Swanson relationship occurred after Game 2 of the Bay Area World Series, which took place on a Sunday night. After reading a promo for "Monday Night Football," a game between the Rams and Buffalo Bills, Michaels was asked by partner Tim McCarver if he was going to watch it.

Michaels flippantly said he would tape it. Well, apparently the one thing you don't do is mess with an ABC promo. Reportedly, Michaels and Swanson had heated words.

Add Michaels: After he was suspended, Michaels and his union, the American Federation of Radio and Television Artists, filed a grievance.

Subsequently, Michaels expanded his grievance, claiming that he is entitled to get out of his contract.

At the arbitration hearing, Herman is the neutral person on the three-member panel. The others are Hirsch Adell, a Los Angeles lawyer chosen by AFTRA, and Bernard Gold, a Los Angeles lawyer chosen by ABC.

Laker Coach Pat Riley, after meeting with NBC officials in New York to discuss the possibility of work as an NBA commentator next season, ran into some problems getting back to Los Angeles Thursday.

His American Airlines flight experienced a nose gear problem (it failed to close) after takeoff from Kennedy Airport, and the plane returned to the airport and landed without incident. It took off again after a 2-hour 25-minute delay.

Riley could not be reached for comment Thursday night.

As you might expect, the Lakers' early elimination from the playoffs has affected the ratings.

Last year, Game 4 of the Western Conference finals between the Lakers and Phoenix drew an overnight Nielsen rating of 7.9. This year, Game 4 between Phoenix and Portland, which was close and exciting, drew a 6.7.

CBS has flip-flopped its NBA announcing teams. You might have noticed Thursday night that Dick Stockton and Hubie Brown were on Portland-Phoenix. Verne Lundquist and Len Elmore will work tonight's Eastern game.

Some of the top names in the French Open have been eliminated, among them defending women's champion Arantxa Sanchez Vicario of Spain, who was beaten Thursday.

But NBC, which takes over the weekend coverage from ESPN, still has Jimmy Connors to showcase--as a commentator. Connors, 38, is taking some time off from competition because of a wrist injury and has been hired by NBC, along with Chris Evert, his one-time girlfriend. Connors, promising to be candid and honest, doesn't foresee any problems with players.

"I personally never held a grudge," he said. "I don't think (tennis players) are that touchy, but if they are I guess I'm about to find out."

Baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent, addressing a delegation at an Associated Press Sports Editors meeting in New York, talked about the CBS package in which there are telecasts on only 16 of the 26 baseball Saturdays.

"Indications are games on Saturday are rated where they've been historically rated," he said. "CBS has not heard from its affiliates panting for more baseball on Saturdays. My view is, we got the number to 16. If CBS wanted more, we'd talk. They haven't at the moment. We'll wait and see how the season goes."

Boxing beat: Showtime televises tonight's Evander Holyfield-Seamus McDonagh fight at 7, with HBO handling the June 16 doubleheader at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.

That's the one in which Mike Tyson faces Henry Tillman, and George Foreman, in his stiffest comeback test so far, takes on Adilson Rodrigues.

One of the more interesting aspects about this event is that it is being co-promoted by former enemies Bob Arum and Don King. Only in boxing.

Add boxing: Maybe some network should sign Jerry Quarry and his promoter, John Ellis, a former boxer.

By all accounts, their scrap in Wisconsin this week, which left Quarry with a cut eye, was better than most fights on TV.

Ellis reportedly was knocked out, while one of Ellis' brothers worked over Quarry's trainer, Guy Ditmars, putting him into a hospital.

Regional vertical dunk competition, open to all except professionals and college players with eligibility left, will be held at Loyola Marymount's Gersten Pavilion Sunday at 10:30 a.m., with the winner qualifying for the finals June 25 in Atlantic City, N.J., and a $50,000 first prize.

Those interested should be at Loyola to sign up before 10:30. The basket will be elevated to a new height after each round, with the opening height being 11 feet.

The vertical dunk finals will be part of a two-hour pay-per-view telecast featuring a one-on-one collegiate challenge with Bo Kimble, Lionel Simmons, Gary Payton, Derrick Coleman, Chris Jackson, Travis Mays, Sean Higgins and Bimbo Coles competing.

TV-Radio Notes

ESPN's College World Series coverage begins today. Cal State Fullerton's first game, against Oklahoma State, will be televised Saturday at 5 p.m., with Mike Patrick and Jim Kaat reporting. . . . This is ESPN's 11th year of covering the College World Series. The championship game is scheduled to be televised by CBS Saturday, June 9.

Following tonight's Detroit-Chicago NBA game on CBS will be a special, "Sports Comedy Network." An Ohlmeyer Communications show, it was produced by Linda Jonsson and Richard Crystal, brother of Billy. The star is comedian Jeff Cesario. At the top of the show, Cesario, wearing a white wig, plays off-beat sports anchor Chet Waterhouse. The show has some funny moments. A highlight is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar making fun of himself as a hypocrite, a supposedly concerned do-gooder who is more interested in selling his new book and his new cassette. . . . A new series focusing on baseball's history, "Equitable Old-Timers Series Magazine," makes its debut on FNN Sports Saturday at 1:30 p.m. The first show will pay tribute to the old Negro leagues, and Joe Garagiola will take a look at the Baseball Assistance Team (BAT), created to aid former players and their families.

Channel 4 has promoted Jeff Hoffman, who has been at the station since July, 1989, to senior sports producer. Hoffman replaces Sol Steinberg, who is now at Prime Ticket. Hoffman is a Maryland graduate who for three years was a producer on the "George Michael Sports Machine.". . . Prime Ticket, which has grown to 4.1 million subscribers, has impressive new facilities in Century City. One could live comfortably in network president John Severino's office.

Jim Palmer will fill in for Joe Morgan on the ESPN baseball telecast of Minnesota vs. Chicago Sunday night. Morgan is taking time off to attend his daughter's high school graduation. Coincidentally, Morgan himself will graduate from Cal State Hayward June 16. . . . SportsChannel will televise Saturday night's Southern Section 5-A baseball championship game between Huntington Beach Marina High and Diamond Bar on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. . . . If sportscaster Peter Vent, now heard on the KIEV airwaves Monday through Thursday, 10:30 to 11 p.m., were a high-flying basketball player, he could call himself Air Vent.

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