By the time last weekend's rain in Boston caused a long pause in the action, it had become clear that the heroes of NBC-TV's coverage of the World Series were Producer Roy Hammerman, whose replays were unmatched in quality and variety, and statistician Allan Roth, who put together an array of visuals that were fascinating to hardcore fans. In fact, NBC's coverage fell short of excellence only behind the microphones, where even Joe Garagiola used a maximum of words that resulted in a minimum of insights and humor.
Replays, sometimes from as many as five angles, were shown on almost every play worth reviewing. Three different shots were used to reexamine the Series' most controversial moment, the Game Three mixup involving Red Sox Catcher Carlton Fisk, Reds bunter Ed Armbrister and Umpire Larry Barnett.
Roth's statistics provided just the kind of information the announcers seemed loth to impart. Among the things he told us were that Joe Morgan has averaged 111 walks during the last seven seasons and that Carl Yastrzemski had scored a run in all six of the Sox' postseason games to that date. Those are the sort of arcane tidbits that true enthusiasts love, but rarely see or hear.
•The Series should not be the last big item of baseball news this year. An announcement is expected shortly that a team of major-leaguers will travel to Havana in March to play a Cuban all-star team. Baseball, not Ping-Pong, will be the basis for sporting diplomacy with Castro. In fact, the sport already has begun playing that role. Cuba's decision last summer to allow the parents of Red Sox Pitcher Luis Tiant to come to the U.S. to see their son perform was viewed by some foreign policy analysts as an early step toward bettering relations between the countries. The big-leaguers' visit could be an important prelude to reopening trade and diplomatic relations. How the trip will be covered by television is as yet undetermined, but the games are sure to be aired. That is good news indeed for U.S. fans, who will be receiving their first glimpses of the eight Cuban players, especially Catcher Evelio Hernandez, who are considered by scouts to be ready for the major leagues. As anyone who watched Tiant and Tony Perez in the Series knows, the best Cuban players are truly outstanding, but the youngest among the 14 current major-leaguers from that country is 31-year-old Cub Pitcher Oscar Zamora. Politics have prevented a generation of Cubans from performing in the big leagues. The March visit could lead to a welcome end to that prohibition.
•CBS, Santa Anita and the Oak Tree Racing Association agreed in September to co-promote a $350,000 horse race on Nov. 1 called, of all things, The National Thoroughbred Championship. Because of CBS' heavy promotional commitment to the Santa Anita race, Maryland's Laurel Race Course felt that the network was giving short shrift to Laurel's Washington, D.C. International on Nov. 8 and broke a contract with CBS to televise the event. It now turns out that Santa Anita has attracted few decent horses for its race, while Laurel has put together the best field in years, including Forego, Dahlia and the last two Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winners, Allez France and Star Appeal. As of last week U.S. television rights to the International had not been sold.
•The reason you don't hear the national anthem on ABC's Monday Night NFL games is quite simple. The network sells the time during which The Star-Spangled Banner is played to sponsors at $50,000 per 30 seconds or uses it to run promotional spots. Last week during the anthem ABC gave its viewers two commercials and an NFL promo. The latter was for an essay contest: "The NFL's Role in American History."
•The best comment about the battle among the networks to see which of them can put on the most big money sports events—and phony made-for-television non-events—comes from TVS President Eddie Einhorn. "The focus is out of focus," Einhorn says. "Network competition is so high that all of them have just about all they can handle. Now they are more interested in stealing a property or an announcer than in the product. It is time everyone in the sports-television business sat down and assessed things before it is too late."
•Despite strong warnings from Einhorn and others, CBS continues to spend lavishly on so-called "Heavyweight Tennis." On Feb. 28 it will show Jimmy Connors in another $250,000 match. His opponent will be Manuel Orantes or Guillermo Vilas, depending on who finishes higher in the Australian Open. The network is persisting in its hefty investment in tennis, even though the best television buy this fall has been CBS Vice-President for Sports Bob Wussler's "steal" (for $5,000) of the four-heat Hambletonian. It outdrew the early-round telecast from Forest Hills that day and also introduced the best expert commentator seen on TV this year. He is Stan Bergstein, who broadcasts harness racing on a local New York TV station. Bergstein knew everything worth knowing about the Hambletonian and calmly explained the complexities of the race, even though he had never appeared on national television before.