I walked into the bar, sat near the beer tap and flashed a $100 bill. "Let's see that this TV stays on ABC till the end of the World Series," I told the bartender, pressing the money into his right hand.
"Fine, Norm," he said, holding the bill up to the light. "This takes care of your bar tab for the past week. Whacha gonna give me to make sure this is a baseball bar for the next week?"
I slipped him a couple of sawbucks, ordered a Rolling Rock Light draught and set my sights on the Series.
There's something about ABC televising the World Series that always is troubling. These guys cover only a handful of Monday night games and do a couple of Sunday afternoons. Do they deserve the Series? I hate to sound like a front man for the Network of Bill Cosby, but at least NBC's out there every Saturday of the season playing ball.
I ordered another beer. I liked ABC's occasional use of the split screen when fast runners were on first base, a device NBC largely abandoned during its playoff coverage in favor of a new camera down the right field line that detailed pitchers' pickoff moves.
I ordered another beer and marveled at the technical capabilities. It's reached the point where ABC and NBC do everything else so well in covering a baseball game that the announcers perhaps are almost the only thing left to criticize.
NBC's teams of Vin Scully/Joe Garagiola and Bob Costas/Tony Kubek generally enjoyed success during the league championship series. When a network can use Dick Enberg for pregame work only, that's deep depth among its baseball broadcasters. The biggest complaint with the telecasts was a familiar one -- too much talk.
ABC's World Series team of Al Michaels, Jim Palmer and Tim McCarver also has enlightened rather than enraged most of the time, but the too-much-talk problem is even greater. That's because when you have a three-man booth instead of a two-man booth, the chance is 50 percent greater that someone's going to be talking at any given moment.
On both NBC and ABC, the play-by-play men detail every movement and the analysts analyze every movement. There's no reason to tell us that a ball is hit in the air to the outfield; we can see that. There's no reason to tell us there's a foul ball out of play; we can see that. There's no reason to tell us the pitcher steps off the rubber; we can see that. It's amazing what 10 or 12 cameras will show you.
ABC's trio was up and down through the first four games of the Series.
Michaels, a.k.a. Scully the Younger, generally is solid, but he insists on repeating almost every bizarre graphic ABC puts on the screen, forgetting that most of us can read for ourselves. Michaels should let the graphic speak for itself or enhance it with some related information.
Palmer, fully clothed, remains one of the best jock analysts on network television, but he often talks through several pitches, making the viewer choose between concentrating on his words or ABC's pictures. Still, Palmer's humor and insight make him a valuable asset.
McCarver talks just to talk. He likes to argue with himself on obvious baseball strategy and makes too many superfluous comments ("Look at McGee turn on the back burners here"). He demonstrates conclusively that a two-man booth -- Michaels and Palmer -- would have been preferable.
Then there's ABC's pregame analyst, Reggie Jackson. He distinguished himself by predicting that Kansas City's Frank White would hit well in the Series. However, Jackson strikes out in the booth as often as not, especially with his irritating habit of referring to players as "Mr." George Brett or "Mr." Tito Landrum. If Jackson were a rock-and-roll deejay, he'd probably introduce top 40 artists as Mr. Boy George or Mr. Meat Loaf.
As Game 4 drew to a close, I ordered another beer and wondered if I, indeed, would watch "MacGyver," as ABC's promos had implored me to do several dozen times. Just before St. Louis' John Tudor came out in the ninth inning to retire the Royals one final time, a punkish woman with shades of blue, pink and yellow hair -- it looked as if she had accidentally gone through the hot-water cycle in the laundry -- sat at the bar and blocked my view.
"You're in my way," I told her as I ordered another beer.
She stood on top of the bar, reached up and turned the station to "St. Elsewhere" on NBC.
"Hey, my man," I called out to the bartender, flashing a $50 bill. "How 'bout we take care of this brassy babe and make sure she ain't around when Pat Ewing makes his NBA debut on Saturday?"
"Fine, Norm," he said, cross-checking the serial number on my bill with a list of stolen currency he kept under the cash register. "This takes care of your bar tab for the past week. Whatcha gonna give me to deep-six this dame?"
I ordered another beer and watched the rest of "St. Elsewhere."