Morgan Is a Genuine Man of the People


Before slipping on his headset and going to work on an ESPN2 telecast that was shown outside the Los Angeles market Wednesday, commentator Joe Morgan headed down from the press box to the field at Dodger Stadium.

He explained that he was going to tape an interview with Washington Manager Frank Robinson.

As Morgan walked around the stadium, he offered a smile to all who greeted him, stranger or friend. And everyone -- whether it was Tom Lasorda, a star player, batting practice pitcher Pete Bonfils, or a fan -- was treated the same.


A gray-haired man stopped Morgan on his way back to the press box and told him: “You’re a genius. A genius! I love your work.”

Apparently, some Dodger fans have forgiven Morgan for the home run he hit at Candlestick Park as a San Francisco Giant on the final day of the 1982 regular season that eliminated the Dodgers from the playoffs.

On Sunday night, Morgan, along with play-by-play partner Jon Miller, will be at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati to work ESPN’s telecast of the Reds and Dodgers. If Morgan gets a lot of affection at Dodger Stadium, imagine what it is like for him in Cincinnati, where he was a key member of Sparky Anderson’s Big Red Machine.

“Yeah, I have to kind of watch it,” he said. “But to be honest with you, I’m a people person. I like people. And 99% of the people you meet are good people.”

And people like him. He comes across as just a regular Joe.

And that’s probably why his popularity as a baseball commentator, which he has been since 1985, nearly matches his popularity as a Hall of Fame baseball player.

“I got some great advice when I first got into broadcasting,” he said. “It came from three people in the business I have a lot of respect for.


“One was Al Michaels, who was an announcer for the Reds when I was there. Another was Joe Garagiola. And the third was John Madden, who I got to know because I live in Oakland.

“All three, independent of each other, told me the same thing: ‘Just be yourself.’ I couldn’t be a Vin Scully, so I don’t try to be. I’m just me.”

That approach seems to be working. He has won a number of awards, and on Monday night in New York, Morgan picked up his second national Emmy Award as the best event commentator in sports broadcasting. His first came in 1997, when he was working for NBC and ESPN.

“I think this one means more,” he said, “This one tells me people must really like my work.”

Decisions, Decisions

Sources say the Laker television play-by-play job is radio announcer Joel Meyers’ if he wants it. If he decides to stay on radio, the pluses are that he gets to work every game, including playoffs, and is well-compensated for the morning radio show he does. And if he chooses TV? Well, it’s TV. A call to Meyers on Thursday was not returned.

The Lakers would like Meyers to make a decision soon, preferably before executive vice president Frank Mariani leaves with Jerry Buss on a six-week European vacation on May 15.


If Meyers decides to switch media, Keith Harris, Laker broadcast and marketing executive, and Don Martin, general manager of Laker flagship station XTRA Sports (570), will start poring over the dozens of audition tapes they have received to find a new radio play-by-play announcer.

John Ireland, who has done Clipper radio play-by-play in the past, has applied. But the job probably would go to someone with extensive NBA play-by-play experience.

Paul Sunderland, told this week that his contract would not be renewed, was put in the difficult position of following a legend, Chick Hearn. He did simulcasts for one full season before Meyers and Mychal Thompson took over on radio.

But what probably hurt Sunderland more than anything was a big dip in the ratings this season, which pressured the Lakers’ TV broadcast partners to do something to appease sponsors.

TV ratings this season were 37% below last season on Channel 9 and FSN West. Of course, ratings for Laker TNT telecasts in Los Angeles were also off 37%, and Sunderland had nothing to do with that.

Contributing to the decline was that Nielsen in July changed the way it collects information for ratings, switching from diaries to people meters. That has caused a general drop-off in all ratings.


Short Waves

FSN West has hired former Laker Derek Fisher to appear occasionally on “Southern California Sports Report” as an analyst through the end of the NBA playoffs. ... Baron Davis will be a guest studio analyst on ABC’s NBA playoff coverage Sunday. ... The NBA’s most valuable player will be announced during ABC’s halftime show.

Roger Nadel, former general manager at Dodger flagship station KFWB (980) and most recently an executive editor at Radio & Records, has been hired as general manager of KMPC (1540). He replaces John Ryan, who was promoted to vice president of sales for the Sporting News radio network.

Stu Nahan’s recovery from knee-replacement surgery is reportedly going well. The knee was originally injured in the late 1940s, when Nahan played goalie for the Los Angeles Monarchs of the Pacific Coast Hockey League. ... Recommended viewing: “The Good Life of Golf Superstars” on the USA Network tonight at 7 provides an inside look at the lifestyles of several golfers, including Greg Norman.