Tony Kubek is far from finished with baseball. But he's close to being finished with NBC.
Late next week, NBC says, it will have an announcement to make about Vin Scully, the long-sought, much-acclaimed Dodgers' voice who, until this season, also has worked the pro football and golf telecasts for CBS for seven years. Although NBC won't officially say so, Scully has agreed to do baseball for it, specifically to share a booth most Saturdays next season with Joe Garagiola.
Kubek, who has shown up at 21 of the last 26 World Series in either Yankee pin stripes or NBC blue, has been sharing that same booth with Garagiola for some time now; the two wrapped up in October what was probably their most listenable season together yet. And this was despite a summer full of rumors of Scully's imminent departure from baseball-less CBS, which had to make Kubek wonder.
NBC rekindled the wonder this week when it scheduled a press conference for Wednesday -- ostensibly to announce Scully's arrival -- and then abruptly called it off. NBC isn't saying why it delayed the announcement (although insiders say Scully scuttled it as ill-timed hoopla). But CBS Sports President Neal Pilson issued a staff memo Wednesday to wish Scully well in his new network endeavor. Scully himself is saying little.
Both Scully and NBC Sports President Arthur Watson will be in Hawaii next week for major league baseball meetings.
Meanwhile, back in Wisconsin, Kubek says he has taken enough phone calls this week to warrant his own press conference.
"If I have a fear, it's what they are going to do with me," said Kubek, who is awaiting word from the network on the upcoming final year of his current four-year contract, which NBC said it wanted to renegotiate.
"I said to them, 'Look, your starting point's probably going to be money, but I want my starting point to be job description: what am I going to be doing?' " Kubek said. "If Scully and Joe are going to be doing the primary game (as they almost definitely will, though NBC wishes you wouldn't call them "primary" and "backup"), what does that leave me -- especially around World Series time?"
Kubek said he's just going to wait and keep his eyes open.
"I will not let happen to me what they did, under a different regime, to (Curt) Gowdy. Gowdy was with them for a long time, started doing baseball in '66, and the next thing you know they threw him in the stands (to interview fans) for the World Series. It was degrading," said Kubek, whose tendency to dispense opinion freely on the air has earned him the honorary wire-service description of Controversial Announcer. This for denouncing--God help him--the designated hitter, Ray Grebey, George Steinbrenner . . .
"I never worked with a guy who's more honest," said Garagiola, who admitted "knowing as much as anybody knows for sure" about next season. "He doesn't play any games. We disagree on things, sure, but it's like two guys sitting on a bench . . . "
"I can't fight it (Scully's hiring)," Kubek said, "and I really don't have any feelings about that. For me to say I'm disappointed--I'm not. I've been with NBC 17 years, and they've been very good to me."
Upon Scully's arrival, NBC would team Kubek with young Bob Costas, the sports division's rising announcer-star with whom Kubek worked well for one Milwaukee visit to Baltimore late last season.
"They're billing us as the team of the future," Kubek said, in his usual rapid-fire style. "But I don't buy that because you don't have a team of the future in television. Things are too insecure--everybody knows that."
Some say NBC would like to hold onto Kubek to keep him away from ABC (or even from CBS: Pilson and Co. are at this very minute affecting "a highly visible presence" in Hawaii, where discussion topics will include a TV contract with NBC that expires after next season).
"If that's the case, I won't stay," said Kubek, who knows "there's going to be a time, like when I was playing, when you've got to move on. I've always looked at it realistically. I'll inquire at ABC, CBS . . . I want to stay in broadcasting."
The next move belongs to NBC, which would just love to have two personable baseball authorities of the caliber of Kubek and Scully. But the network might find its breakup of Garagiola and Kubek -- kind of a shame, actually -- doesn't put its Controversial Announcer in the most accommodating of moods, come property settlement.
"I'm not indispensible; they know that, I know that," Kubek said. "But I'm also not beholden to them.
"I think I'm at the point now that if I'm going to keep doing it, I'm going to do it my way."