Hi, Earl. I see you made it to the American League divisional playoffs after all. Nice blazer.
You can't help thinking Earl Weaver might have been far happier in Oriole orange and white, particularly after Tuesday night's mostly dull meeting of the Brewers and Angels in Anaheim, brought to us by ABC. Weaver managed his first game from the booth rather stiffly, anxiously and uncharacteristically quietly.
Sure, he'll get better. But you have to wonder whether television executives, their moods hardened lately by football strikes and cable incursions and NCAA confusion, will be as patient with Weaver as Baltimore was.
Weaver's aware of this.
"Some of us (former jocks and managers) must not have been too good," he told a reporter Tuesday afternoon. "Because they keep switching . . . bringing in new ones."
It's a big series for the retired Baltimore Orioles manager, who is sharing the ABC booth with his frequent foil and pitcher, Jim Palmer (a post-season TV veteran), and play-by-play announcer Keith Jackson. Weaver has had his own radio show for the last three years; it's fairly well known that he wants to fill at least some of the space between his postretirement golf outings with television and/or radio work.
"I showed 'em (the network people) a little hustle and desire," Weaver said. "Right after breakfast, I said, 'Wanna leave for the park right now?' "
Weaver didn't say anything so spontaneously jocular on the air, however. He seemed, if nothing else, overly cautious.
Also, Weaver and Palmer, possibly each other's most piercing critics during the regular season, appeared to leave much of that behind. And Jackson helped little in this area. He is always everybody's good buddy, and as such, stands little chance of bringing out the kind of charming, lucid, slightly caustic byplay for which Weaver and Palmer are known.
"I didn't bring my striped shirt," Jackson chortled during the pregame show, turning up and to his right to introduce Palmer, after talking briefly with Weaver, who was down and left. "But I ain't gonna need it, right?"
The pair's best exchange perhaps came in the top of the fifth inning, after the Angels rallied in the fourth and the Brewers looked forward to bedtime.
Weaver: "This'll be an exciting series."
Palmer: "But only if you're a hitter -- or a fan."
Weaver: "But . . . Jim, a pitcher can come up with a good game and turn the momentum of the series in his team's direction."
Palmer: "I wish I'd had it Sunday (when the Brewers beat him for the AL East title). I didn't know it until somebody pointed it out, but if I had beaten the Brewers on Sunday, I'd have been the first pitcher to beat them three times this year."
Weaver: "See? The odds were against you."
Palmer: "Then you should have started someone else."
Weaver, laughing: "See? Here we go again."
The somewhat uncomfortable silences that defined, rather than punctuated, Tuesday night's game could have many explanations besides obvious first-night jitters. Weaver and Palmer could not be too rough on the Brewers, lest they be accused of being poor sports, nor could they be too rough on the Angels, lest they be described as parochial.
But why, for example, didn't anybody say anything about the Brewers' near-somnambulant Ted Simmons, who let a first-inning pitch go by that advanced a runner to third, and made possible Don Baylor's run-scoring sacrifice fly?
And why didn't Jackson ask Palmer how it felt to lose possibly one of the biggest games of his career, as he did Sunday?
If this arrangement is meant to be a calm counterpoint to ABC's National League booth, where expert commentators Howard Cosell and Dodgers Manager Tom Lasorda overpopulate the booth with ABC baseball's saving grace, announcer Al Michaels, it certainly succeeds. No need to turn down the TV sound and turn up the radio, as more than a few people did to Cosell last Sunday in Baltimore.
If anything, I was tempted to turn the volume up, but I was afraid I might wake somebody.
Someone should thank WRC-TV-4, incidently, for trying Saturday to stave off a Washington-area blackout by offering to buy the remaining tickets to the Orioles-Brewers game. The game turned out to be a peerless advertisement for baseball as entertainment, making the Orioles' decision to turn down WRC and black out the game all the more inexcusable.