Last summer, when Joe McConell's two teen-age sons came to Chicago from Scottsdale, Ariz., where they live with their mother, McConnell had no trouble keeping them entertained. All he had to do was take them along when he went to work.
McConnell is one of the White Sox radio and television announcers, so going to work with him meant going to a baseball game.
This summer, when McConnell takes Michael, 16 and Kent, 14, somewhere, it's usually for a walk. "Today we waked about 3 1/2 miles from my downtown high-rise apartment to the Chicago Art Institute," McConnell said the other day.
For a teen-ager, visiting an art museum usually doesn't quite rank up there with going to a baseball game.
Entertaining his sons, who arrived for this summer's visit on June 18, six days after the baseball strike began, is only one of McConnell's problems these days. He also is losing about $2,000 a week in wages.
McConnell, also the voice of the Chicago Bears, is a free-lance baseball announcer. He's paid per game worked -- one third by the White Sox and the other two-thirds by radio station WBBM.
Television station WGN gets the services of all four White Sox announcers by paying a talent fee ($750 per telecast) to the club.
Normally, two-thirds of White Sox play-by-play announcer Harry Caray's $225,000-a-year salary is paid by the club, one-third by WBBM. WBBM still is paying Caray, but only because he's hosting a 1 1/2 hour weekday sports talk show for the station. His income has been cut drastically.
"I don't think it would be possible for me to get in a welfare line," Caray said. "I haven't even missed an alimony payment, and I pay alimony to two ex-wives."
McConnell and Caray are among only a few of the country's baseball announcers who are being affected financially by the strike. Most, whether employed by a club or a broadcasting company, have contracts that are paying them in full.
Many of those still being paid are doing something -- announcing minor league games, recreating past games or creating made-up ones, hosting talk shows or going to stadium or station to help with paperwork and answer the phone.
Still others are just staying at home, such as the Dogers' Vin Scully.
"It's not a vacation," Scully said. "A vacation is planned long in advance, it's time off you feel you have earned. This is an enforced vacation and it is difficult to accept.
"I enjoy spending time at home with my family but I find I'm restless. I need to be doing something, going somewhere besides to the store to get the vacuum cleaner fixed."
Scully is sort of the Johnny Carson of baseball. He works only when he wants to, an arrangement he has had since signing to announce golf and football for CBS four years ago. Now he wants to work and he can't.
"It's ironic. I worked out my summer schedule with CBS so I would be free to do baseball," he said. "I worked the Westchester golf tournament two weeks ago (June 13-14) and my next network assignment isn't until late August."
So Scully is stuck at home, running errands for wife Sandi and transporting his three daughters to such things as piano, ballet and creative reading lessons. For Father's Day, Sandi gave Vin a card on which she had written: "I love you even though you're unemployed and underfoot."
Colleague Ross Porter's activities haven't been quite as mundane as Scully's. He's been going to basketball and football summer league games to watch his 17-year-old son play. Porter also spends about an hour a day putting together a radio commentary for KABC.
ESPN, the cable network that is televising some minor league baseball, asked Porter to announce an Albuquerque game, but his contract with the Dodgers allows him to announce only Dodger games.
NBC's Tony Kubek, spending the time off with his family at his summer cottage in northern Wisconsin, said, "There's nothing worse than getting paid for doing nothing."
Kubek said he has gone fishing seven or eight times, is pitching batting practice for a daughter's softball team in nearby Phelps, Wis., is helping coach a son's Pony League team and even has umpired a game.
"I can't remember having a summer Saturday off since I signed with the Yankees when I was 17," said Kubek, who besides working Saturday games for NBC also works a midweek Toronto game for a Canadian television network.
NBC's Joe Garagiola said, "So far, I've been as busy as ever." He came to Los Angeles to visit daughter Gina, who has just finished her schooling at Pepperdine; was in Amana, Iowa, for a celebrity golf tournament; was in Cleveland to tape two different All-Star Game pregame shows (one to air if the strike is settled, one to air if not); was in Detroit for a banquet honoring Al Kaline and was in Vail, Colo., for former president Ford's golf tournament.
Garagiola said he did plan to take advantage of the time off and go to San Diego for a week or so. "It's too hot to stay in Arizona," said Garagiola, who lives in Paradise Valley, Ariz.
Big league announcers for the Angels, New York Yankees and Mets, Baltimore Orioles, Cleveland Indians, Cincinnati Reds, Detroit Tigers and St. Louis Cardinals have been sent on assignment to such places as Salt Lake City; Columbus, Ohio; Tidewater, Va.; Rochester, N.Y.; Charleston, W.Va.; Indianapolis; Evansville, Ind., and Springfield, Ill., where minor league baseball has been getting major league treatment.
"After three nights in Springfield I was reminded what a racket this business is," the Cardinals' Jack Buck said. "Normally, you golf, swim or shoot pool during the day, go to the park and b.s. with the manager and players a little before the game, do the game and go home. You work from 5:30 to 10:30. You know the players and you know what's going on because you just naturally pay attention.
"Then you're assigned to do a minor league game -- 22 guys on each team you've never heard of. You walk in the clubhouse to get to know some of the players and there's a fan on the floor to keep the temperature close to 100.
"They're taking a collection to send a kid out to buy hamburgers. They tell you about a recent trip by bus to Omaha, where they ended up staying at a Baptist school because the hotel messed up their reservations. They say they stayed in a dormitory with no pillows and no air conditioning and, worst of all, no electrical outlets to plug in their radios.
"It's easy to forget how easy it is doing the bigs. I hadn't worked a minor league game since 1953 when I was in Rochester. Baseball is such a racket -- for both announcers and players. It's such a shame they're screwing it up."
Don Drysdale hadn't been in the minors since he played for Montreal, then an International League team, in 1955. Now he's back, announcing Salt Lake City games for the Angel network, along with Bob Starr.
But Drysdale isn't complaining. "It beats sitting around doing nothing or working in a studio," he said.
Before the Salt Lake City broadcasts began, Drysdale, a Golden West Broadcasting employe, spent two days a week in a KMPC studio as a guest on Angel Talk. The rest of the time he mostly played golf with Angel Manager Gene Mauch in Palm Springs.
"I'm glad to be working again," Drysdale said. "You know you have to keep your voice in shape, too. And the people here in Salt Lake are treating us great. The ballpark isn't Anaheim Stadium, but it's okay. The broadcasting booth is located right behind home plate."
In some major league cities, announcers have been kept busy recreating old games or creating new ones, or both.
In San Diego, Jerry Coleman and Dave Campbell announced a fantasy game from San Diego Stadium. "A friend told me, 'I see you're making a fool of yourself again,'" Coleman said. "I said, 'Thank you.'"
"I've been working from 10 a.m. until 6 or 7 at night preparing and doing our recreations," Houston's Gene Elston said.
Detroit's Ernie Harwell, who is announcing Evansville games only on the weekends, recently bought a new home in Farmington Hills, Mich.
"There are 10 million things to do around the house," Harwell said. "The problem is I don't have the talent to do any of them. I'm sure my wife would rather have me doing the ballgames. And so would I."