The best managerial move of the '85 Series was not made by Whitey Herzog or Dick Howser but by Roone Arledge. It was Arledge, ABC's president of news and sports, who effectively locked Howard Cosell out of the Series broadcast booth, which Howard had traditionally used as a pulpit from which to discuss his views on urban renewal, his previous evening's dinner companions, the Hamptons and sundry other subjects having nothing to do with baseball. Good riddance. It was a pleasure to listen to the games for a change.
The reason for Cosell's fall was not his commentary, which on baseball grew more and more deplorable, but his bitter, backstabbing recent book, I Never Played The Game, and his cold-war relationship with Al Michaels, the play-by-play announcer for the Series.
In the book, Cosell snipes at almost everyone who has worked with him on and off the air at ABC, including Arledge. ABC was afraid of an on-the-air scene between Cosell and Michaels. Cosell baited Michaels during their telecast of Game 3 of the AL playoffs last year, and the two had a bad argument after the game. "Howard has become a cruel, evil, vicious man," says Michaels. "He always had some of these traits, but they've now manifested themselves in spades. As far as his booth colleagues are concerned, Howard loves you if you kiss his rear end. But the minute you take your lips off his buttocks, you go on his demolition list."
Of the three announcing crews who worked in the postseason, Vin Scully and Joe Garagiola, who did the NL playoffs for NBC, were the best. Their baseball intuition was uncanny, and they found a way to be critical of players without sounding shrill. Scully's lipreading of Tommy Lasorda just before Jack Clark's pennant-winning homer—"Am I going to walk Clark and pitch to that so-and-so [Andy Van Slyke]?"—was a broadcasting classic.
ABC's entry of Michaels, Jim Palmer and Tim McCarver came in a close second. Individually, each announcer is superb. Michaels is enjoyable partly because of his biting wit ("Howser is to Billy Martin what the Salvation Army is to a SWAT team"). Nobody explicates the game with as much patience and with such good humor as McCarver. Palmer demonstrates the value of having a pitcher in the booth; in Game 4, he noticed as early as the second inning that John Tudor was invariably hitting his catcher's target, and Tudor went on to pitch a shutout. The one problem with their work, though, is that three voices can make the booth sound like the Tower of Babel.
Something strange but wonderful was going on in the graphics departments for both networks.
It was Game 5 of the NLCS, bottom of the ninth, no score, Ozzie Smith at the plate with an 0 and 2 count. NBC associate producer Rick Diamond put up the following: OZZIE SMITH HAS NOT HOMERED BATTING LEFTY IN 2,967 CAREER AT BATS. Two pitches later...going, going, gone.
It was Game 2 of the World Series, top of the ninth, Royals leading 2-0. ABC's statistician, Steve Hirdt, came up with this: NO TEAM SINCE 1939 YANKEES HAS WON A WORLD SERIES GAME WHEN TRAILING BY 2+ RUNS GOING INTO 9TH INNING. A few minutes later the Cardinals made history.
As good as Scully is, he might want to stop thinking of himself as Kenneth Clark. He set some kind of record for the most cultural names dropped, league championship series. In six games, Scully tipped his hat to, among others, Mark Twain, Rembrandt, Tolstoy, RT. Barnum, Stephen Potter (author of the book Gamesmanship), Toulouse-Lautrec, Shakespeare, Representative Willard Vandiver (originator of Missouri's Show Me slogan), Bernard Darwin (the golf writer) and Benjamin Disraeli.
Here were some of the more memorable shots of the postseason:
1) George Brett, bug-eyed with excitement, putting the game ball before Frank White's face after AL Game 3 (NBC director Andy Rosenberg).
2) Dane Iorg's dance between first and second base as Jim Sundberg was scoring the winning run in Game 6 of the Series (ABC's Chet Forte).
3) The eyes of Bobby Cox, forlorn and hurting in Game 7 of the ALCS (Rosenberg again).
And some sort of dubious achievement award should go to Forte for showing members of the Tommy Herr Fan Club spelling T-O-M-M-Y on their backsides in World Series Game 4.