They Are Clearing the Airwaves

It was a wacky baseball season in Southern California, and not only because the Dodgers had an atypically bad season or because the Angels had a typically bad season.

It was also things like Dodger flagship station KABC, in mid-August, unceremoniously dropping its "Sportstalk" program, which had been around for nearly 20 years.

And Angel flagship station KMPC giving the boot to announcers Al Conin and Bob Jamison. The oddest thing was that the announcers were told they were out before the season was over.

Then came word that Bob Starr will be coming back to the Angels.

However, on Thursday KMPC General Manager Bill Ward said there are some hitches and it is not yet a done deal.

Certainly Starr would like to see it happen, since he has continued to live in Anaheim during the off-season while doing the Boston Red Sox on radio. His Boston home was a hotel.

Ward said he is undecided on Starr's partner.

"We may have a surprise there," he said. "It may be someone no one suspects."

In other words, KMPC is looking for a diamond-in-the-rough. And with the state of baseball's economy, and the economy in general, the station is no doubt looking for someone who will work cheap.

The San Diego Padres this week dumped announcer Rick Monday. The reason, according to broadcast partner Bob Chandler--not the former Raider--was economics.

The Padres will go from a four-man to a three-man broadcast rotation.

It's becoming clear that the announcers, among others, will feel the pinch before the players.

Conin, finishing his 10th and final season, showed class in his farewell Angel broadcast last Sunday, which was carried by KLITE-FM because the Rams were on KMPC. Conin thanked the fans and Angel employees and wished his successor, without naming Starr, good luck.

But he did take a detour during the bottom of ninth inning. He said that Anaheim Stadium, although beautiful and well maintained, lacks character and needs soul. He complained that after it was enclosed to accommodate the Rams, it just didn't seem like a baseball stadium any longer.

Nothing wrong with that, but Conin should have quit there. Instead, he went on with a suggestion that he admitted was different and will never happen.

Conin suggested that a large removable tarp be used to cover the outfield seats, similar to the one used to cover a portion of the seats in center field. Only this huge tarp would have a mosaic painted by a Hollywood artist.

"You could have a mountain or beach scene," Conin said. "Or even pretend there are people in the seats."

The Angels might not be quite that desperate.

Maybe it was the timing, but KABC's dumping of "Sportstalk" barely caused a ripple in the sports community.

The problem with "Sportstalk" was that it always had a more limited audience than the station's general talk shows.

The Dodgers liked "Sportstalk" because they viewed it as promotional programming, but there is speculation that KABC's new five-year contract with the team, which came with a higher rights fee, possibly as much as $8 million per year, gave the station the option of carrying it or not.

Thus, the show was dropped.

The list of those who worked on "Sportstalk" is a long one.

It includes basketball's Bill Russell, Maury Wills, Ed (Superfan) Bieler; Geoff Witcher, now at KMPC; Rick Talley, who works for a Las Vegas sports radio network; Bud Furillo, now at KSAC in Sacramento; Bud Tucker, now living in Barstow; Dodger executive Tommy Hawkins, Merrie Rich, working in England when last heard from; Lisa Bowman, a full-time mom; Lee Marshall, who was doing a syndicated Notre Dame pregame radio show when last heard from; Fred Wallin, now working the graveyard shift at KMPC, and Stu Nahan and Steve Edwards, still at KABC but in different roles.

And let's not forget Eric Tracy, the survivor. He has outlasted them all, and after 10 years at KABC is close to signing a five-year contract extension.

Utility man Tracy, 41, never was a full-time host. But he has filled many roles and says he deserves more respect.

"I'd like to think people will stop saying, 'Oh yeah, and Eric Tracy,' " he said.

TV-Radio Notes

The summer Arbitron rating book doesn't come out until next week, but preliminary figures are not good news for KMPC. According to Arbitron's copyrighted ratings, KMPC, in the major 12-and-over category, is down to a 1.0, with XTRA closing in with a .6 in Los Angeles. In the spring book, KMPC had a 1.3, XTRA a .4. And last summer, it was a 2.6 for KMPC, a .3 for XTRA. Also, according to XTRA, it has passed KMPC in the important men-25-to-54 category, 1.2 to .9.

Bill Walton has been hired by NBC to replace Bob Ferry on its NBA pregame show. The NBC job probably eliminates the possibility of Walton continuing to work for CBS, according to agent Art Kaminsky. It also means that Walton will be taking a lot of red-eye flights to New York so he won't miss many Clipper telecasts for Channel 13 and SportsChannel.

Two-sport broadcaster: Bo Jackson will be in CBS' football studio for most of Sunday, beginning with "NFL Today," and then as part of the network's "Baseball '92" pregame show preceding Game 4 of the American League championship series Sunday night. Channel 11 broke into regularly scheduled programming Wednesday at 3:31 p.m. for a report from Rick Garcia that Manager Tom Lasorda is coming back. . . . For the record: Channel 7 was among the stations that broke away from scheduled programming to cover Magic Johnson's news conference last week.

Ed Markey, director of information for NBC sports, responding to an item in this space last week, vehemently denied that his network intentionally misleads viewers about the starting times for Notre Dame telecasts. "We always say Notre Dame coverage begins at 10 a.m. with 'Notre Dame Saturday,' " he said. . . . Cal State Fullerton's game at San Jose State Saturday at 6 p.m. will be televised by SportsChannel, with Geoff Witcher and former Nevada Las Vegas coach Harvey Hyde reporting. It is the first of three Big West Conference games SportsChannel will televise this season.

It's not much of a day for NFL viewing Sunday. For one thing, with the NFC Central teams having a bye week and with the Chicago Bears off, there will be no Mike Ditka tirades to liven things up. For another, the CBS game at 10 a.m. is San Francisco at New England, which figures to be a blowout. The most significant thing about this game, for L.A. viewers anyway, may be that it marks new commentator John Robinson's first CBS appearance here. His partner is James Brown. . . . The NBC game at 1 p.m. will be Houston at Cincinnati, with Charlie Jones and Todd Christensen. . . . The Rams' game at New Orleans will be on TNT at 4:30 p.m., half an hour earlier than usual.

Because KNX is carrying postseason baseball, KMPC will broadcast Saturday's Oregon-USC game. On Oct. 17, California-USC will be on KLAC. . . . The CBS radio announcers for the playoffs are Jerry Coleman and John Rooney on the National League and Jim Hunter and Johnny Bench on the American. Someone needs to tell Coleman that it's John Smoltz, not John Shmultz. When Rooney asked Coleman if he expected a fastball on a particular 2-and-0 pitch, Coleman responded: "How would I know?" You've got to like Jerry.

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