Prior to the launch of our weekly Sunday media column, we have these notes worth processing heading into the weekend:
== The Kings’ ultimate decision to split up 17 road-game assignments that Bob Miller will pass on this year among four broadcasters seems rather inspired for this 50th anniversary season – if only more games could have been given to original play-by-play man and Hockey Hall of Famer Jiggs McDonald.
McDonald, hired when the expansion Kings started in 1967 and having the late PR man and writer Ed Fitkin and the late great L.A. voice Dan Avey as his partners, left in 1972 to join the expansion Atlanta Flames/Calgary Flames. After McDonald’s departure, the late Roy Storey did a season (1972-73) before Miller was hired in starting in 1973.
McDonald is most known for doing 15 seasons for the New York Islanders when the team won three Stanley Cup titles. He retired after the 2003-04 season after working for the Florida Panthers.
McDonald’s only call for the Kings during this Miller hiatus will be when the Kings travel to him and visit the Panthers on Feb. 9. McDonald will also be present Friday at Staples Center as part of the Kings’ salute to their 1967-68 team, and it will be Miller’s first regular-season broadcast since going in for heart bypass surgery last February that resulted in his missing the final 33 games of the 2015-16 regular season.
We reported in mid-September that the Kings were to allow Miller a reduced schedule considering his continued recovery as well as the stress that goes into making East Coast trips.
However, consider, too, that McDonald will turn 78 this November. He is a month younger than Miller, who turned 78 on the day the Kings opened the season Wednesday with the 2-1 loss in San Jose.
Chris Cuthbert, who has done work for NBC’s NHL package and was the lead play-by-play man for ice hockey during the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver for Canada’s CTV as well as doing Hockey Night in Canada from 1984-2004, was said to be the Kings’ first choice to handle as many as all the games that Miller was to pass on this season. Instead, Cuthbert will do only four – Jan. 21 to Feb. 4, in games at the N.Y. Islanders, N.Y. Rangers, New Jersey and Philadelphia.
The bulk of the games – eight — will be picked by Gary Thorne, more known for his days covering the NHL for ESPN and ABC with Bill Clement as his partner. The 68-year-old Thorne, who works for the MASN doing Baltimore Orioles games, has been given five games on a road trip from Nov. 8-15 that goes to Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Winnipeg and Colorado, and then comes back Dec. 13-18 to handle games in Buffalo, Detroit and Boston.
Thorne may not have been our first, second, third or fourth choice in this sort of arrangement, but …
Finally, Ralph Strangis, who once did play-by-play for the Minnesota North Stars and Dallas Stars from 1993 to 2015, has three Kings road games from Dec. 20-23 (at Columbus, Nashville and Dallas) plus Jan. 26 at Carolina.
Last fall and spring, the Kings adjusted to Miller’s absence by having Hall of Famer Nick Nickson move from radio to TV with Jim Fox and promote “Kings Insider” reporter Jon Rosen to do radio play-by-play with Daryl Evans – a move that displayed Rosen’s adeptness at doing a very nice, clean call. Kings Senior VP of Broadcasting and Communications Mike Altieri said in September that the aim was to have a new play-by-play voice come in for Miller for these road games so it would not disrupt the flow of the Nickson-Evans team and also allow Rosen to concentrate on his team-paid reporting duties.
Meanwhile, if the Kings really wanted to do this 50th anniversary season right, it might also invite back analysts such as Rich Marotta and Pete Weber to call some games with Miller at some point in the season. Weber, who continues to call games for the Nashville Predators, will at least have some chances of dropping in on his longtime friend Miller.
== Our former Daily News colleague Art Avila tweeted out this week:
@tomhoffarth When was the last time there was no Scully, Hearn, or Miller behind the mic on a regular basis at the same time in L.A.?
— Arthur Avila (@art_avila) October 13, 2016
Dodgers director of public relations Joe Jareck provided the best answer:
— Joe Jareck (@JoeyJ33) October 13, 2016
== NBCSN said the Kings-Sharks game on Wednesday night had a 0.39 overnight rating, compared to the Blues-Blackhawks game that had a 0.74 right before it. The network also announced that it will now pick up Saturday’s Boston-Toronto game at 4 p.m., the first home game for 19-year-old and Scottsdale, Ariz., native Austin Matthews who became the first player in modern history to score four goals in his NHL debut on Wednesday night against Ottawa.
== Once the Dodgers-Nationals NLDS is sorted out Thursday night, the Chicago Cubs await Saturday’s and Sunday’s Games 1 and 2 of the National League Championship Series at Wrigley Field with more prime-time-friendly starts of 5 p.m. PDT/8 p.m. EDT again on FS1 (not network Fox). It’s just as they’ve had throughout their NLDS with San Francisco – sometimes at the expense of the Dodgers-Nationals start times.
But this was more than we expected going into this thing. Especially in how it affected the start times of the Dodgers-Nationals Game 4 at Dodger Stadium and Thursday’s Game 5 back in Washington.
Joe Buck comes off NFL duties to call this series, as well as the World Series, with John Smoltz in the booth and Ken Rosenthal in the dugout. And that’s it.
Whether nor not that cleanses the palate after the FS1 crew of Kenny Albert and Tom Verducci have had to endure the inane comments of Harold Reynolds during five games of the Dodgers-Nats series, we can’t be sure.
Fox reported this week that the Cubs’ Game 4 series win over the Giants on Tuesday attracted an average audience of 6.368 million viewers, the largest telecast in the history of FS1 (more than the 5.9 million who saw the Houston-Kansas City ALDS Game 5 last season. FS1 had Matt Vasgersian and Smoltz calling that series, which still had plenty of critics, but more for how the camerawork was carried out.
Fox says it won’t do that super-high center field camera shot any longer at Wrigley Field.
== TBS, as your exclusive home for the American League playoffs, sends Ernie Johnson Jr., Ron Darling and Cal Ripken Jr. back out for the Cleveland-Toronto AL Championships Series starting Friday at 5 p.m. with Game 1 and Saturday at 1 p.m. with Game 2 in Cleveland.
Perhaps you caught wind of how TBS studio analyst Pedro Martinez celebrated the Indians’ three-game sweep of his former team, the Boston Red Sox, by “tapping his hand against his mouth and screaming, acting out a Native American stereotype of a war cry,” as the New York Daily News put it.
It led to an apology, posted on Twitter:
I send my apologies if I was misunderstood when I was trying to pay tribute to the Cleveland Indians on the TBS post season show.
— Pedro Martinez (@45PedroMartinez) October 11, 2016
I was referring to my pitching years facing Cleveland. Nothing else. Again, my apologies.
— Pedro Martinez (@45PedroMartinez) October 11, 2016
More Twitter reaction to Martinez’s reaction:
Pedro Martinez Takes Heat For ‘Offensive’ Reaction To Indians Winning ALDS https://t.co/QOTratJEgb
— 98.5 The Sports Hub (@985TheSportsHub) October 11, 2016
Martinez is, of course, back in the TBS studio for the playoff with Gary Sheffield, Jimmy Rollins and someone named Casey Stern, once a contestant on ESPN’s reality series “Dream Job” in 2004 who learned a lesson last year about having a “hot mike.”
== More Clevelanders have been complaining about TBS making fun of its city after the Indians’ ALDS win.
== Another sidebar to this Cleveland participation in the post-season: Toronto broadcaster Jerry Howarth says he will continue not to refer to the team by their nickname, a practice he says goes back to 1992 when the Blue Jays faced the Atlanta Braves in the World Series.
== We still have been collecting Vin Scully related stories:
= In the spirit of the Scully testimonies from media members near and far that we have collected, we include this one from the Texas Rangers’ radio voice Eric Nadel that appeared in the Dallas Morning News.
= We also did not want to overlook this tribute as well by Ken Levine, the former Dodger Talk co-host and a play-by-play man in his time with Baltimore, San Diego and Seattle. He’s also the playwright of a current theatrical production of “Going … Going … GONE!” that we intend to see soon and review (Levine dedicated the play to Scully as well).
(Our SCNG reporter Sandra Barrera did this very nice piece on it as well).
From Levine’s blog, Part 1: When I was nine I organized a Vin Scully fan club. Me and several friends would meet in our garage at 7:30 on nights the Dodgers were playing. Back then home games began at 8:00. We listened to the warm-up show (brought to you by Draft Brewed Blatz Beer), stood up during the National Anthem, and listened to the first inning. After that the meeting broke up and we all had to go to bed. (Of course I listened to the rest of the game on a transistor radio under my pillow.)
And Part 2: Every announcer has a somewhat different method of scoring. And usually over time you modify it to suit your needs. No one has to know what you mean except you. I’ve always been fascinated by how people score. And usually I can quickly figure out the gist of their system. Except Vin’s.
(In his scorebooks), he has lines going in different directions and dots. His scorecard looks like a player piano roll. I have no idea what anything means. He also does his scorecard in ink, which is braver than doing the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle in ink.
Here’s something that will make you groan. I asked if he kept all of his scorebooks down through the years and he said no. At the end of each season he just chucked them. To me that’s like throwing away the Ten Commandments. (Happily, other longtime announcers have kept their scorebooks. Ernie Harwell had every one, God bless him.)
= How MLB.com produced a 30-second “Thank You” commercial for Scully that has run during the MLB playoffs.
= And thank you to Bobby Ross Jr. at GetReligion.org for this follow-up piece.
== From Alan Tyers from the Telegraph in the UK: “Across the Pond we have loved our Richie Benaud, Ted Lowe, Murray Walker and Peter O’Sullevan, but for longevity of career, Scully has even those four wise men of the broadcast booth beat.”
== The Times of the UK had a story as well by its LA correspondent, Ben Hoyle.
== Baseball broadcast historian Curt Smith did this one for the Daily Messenger of Canandaigua, N.Y. and then for the University of Rochester, explaining how he had Scully ranked No. 1 in his book about all-time baseball broadcasters.
= How the Dodgers’ Rich Hill said he tried everything to head a blister on his left hand – including a remedy suggested by Sandi Scully, Vin’s wife.
= The L.A. Times’ Hector Becerra writes about how Scully helped him learn English, along with a great ending about an interview he did with Scully in recent years.
= Does Vin Scully have a connection to surfing? He does with this piece on TheIntertia.com.
= One more quick Scully story: During a recent conversation, he remarked about how it was funny how the San Diego Padres gave him a customized surfboard with his picture on it as a retirement gift.
Scully said his first thought: How am I going to get this home?
“My son, who is a vintner in the Santa Barbara area, happened to be at the game and drove his pick up truck, so we were able to wrap it up and put it in the back and he drove it out,” Scully said.
“But then did you see what the team gave Dick Enberg as a retirement gift? They also gave him a surfboard. So I’ve been thinking that with all the time we both must have, I’ll have to give Dick a call and say, ‘Hey, meet me at the beach.’”
= Scully is still scheduled to be a guest on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” on Thursday night (Channel 7, 11:35 p.m.) The show tapes at 4 p.m. – or just as the Dodgers-Nationals decisive Game 5 is about to take place. For waitlist tickets: http://1iota.com/Show/1/Jimmy-Kimmel-Live
== And a Dick Enberg podcast interview with SI.com’s Jon Wertheim, focused a lot on tennis, but we can live with that.
== A link to our map for how Week 7 plays out in the L.A. market with USC at Arizona (Saturday at 12:30 p.m., Channel 11, Joe Davis, Brady Quinn and Bruce Feldman) and UCLA at Washington State (Saturday, 7:30 p.m., ESPN, Allen Bestwick, Mike Bellotti and Kris Budden)
== A link to our map of how Week 6 plays out in the L.A. market with the Rams going to Detroit (Sunday at 10 a.m., Channel 11, Justin Kutcher, Charles Davis and Chris Spielman), reaching 24 percent of the country in that time Fox window.
== More overt fretting over the NFL’s declining TV ratings from the Washington Post, the Atlantic, the New York Post, the Sporting News, the MMQB, the Tacoma News Tribune, and, yes, all the way up to the Prescott Daily Courier.
== The Pac-12 Network’s live event highlights for the weekend include:
= UCLA men’s soccer at Cal (Thursday, 4 p.m., Mark Rogondino and Cobi Jones)
= UCLA women’s soccer at Arizona (Thursday, 7 p.m., Matt McConnell and Kyndra de St. Aubin)
= UCLA women’s volleyball at Oregon State (Friday, 6 p.m., Kevin Barnett and Al Scates, only on Pac-12 L.A. and Pac-12 Oregon)
= USC women’s volleyball at Oregon (Friday, 8 p.m., Anne Marie Anderson and Holly McPeak, only on Pac-12 L.A. and Pac-12 Oregon)
= USC women’s volleyball at Oregon State (Sunday, noon, Anne Marie Anderson and Holly McPeak, only on Pac-12 L.A. and Pac-12 Oregon)
= Arizona State ice hockey, vs. Air Force (Sunday, 2:30 p.m., Matt McConnell and Tyson Nash).
= UCLA men’s soccer at Stanford, Sunday at 5 p.m., Mark Rogondino and Kelly Gray)
== More than $20,000 was raised in seven days with a GoFundMe.com page to help Associated Press writer Joe Resnick in his current battle against cancer.
== Ryan Ruocco, Rebecca Lobo and LaChina Robinson continue the ESPN coverage of the WNBA Finals between the Sparks and Minnesota Lynx with Game 3 at USC’s Galen Center on Friday (6 p.m., ESPN2, moved because of the Kings’ home game) and Game 4 at Staples Center on Sunday (5:30 p.m., ESPN). Holly Rowe will join the group for Game 4 after her college football assignment in Arkansas on Saturday and then remain with the coverage if a Game 5 is needed in Minnesota (Oct. 20, 5 p.m., ESPN2).
The Sparks’ Game 1 buzzer-beating win at Minnesota in Game 1 was reported to be the most-watched WNBA Finals opener on ABC, going back to 1998. The average audience of 597,000 had still a meager 0.4 rating, which is what the L.A. market registered as well on a day that game went up against the Dodgers-Nationals NLCS Game 2 and the Rams-Bills NFL game. Minnesota was the top-rated local market with a 2.1 rating.
== ESPN says in a press release it is a combination of “capitalizing on the personality driven ‘His & Hers’ program and continuing a successful ‘SportsCenter’ trend” that has resulted in a decision that Michael Smith and Jemelle Hill will start co-hosting a “reimagined version” of the 3 p.m. SportsCenter slot starting next year and effectively replacing Lindsay Czarniak.
Smith and Hill, neither of whom have done sports update work before, start on this project on Feb. 6, 2017, the day after the Super Bowl. Czarniak, currently hosting this “SportsCenter,” goes on maternity leave in early November and is supposed to return “in a new, featured role” according to ESPN. Between November and February, the 3 p.m. “SportsCenter” will be hosted by others until then.
Rob King, the ESPN senior VP of “SportsCenter,” said in a release that Smith and Hill “have unique chemistry and impressive journalistic credentials …just as we did with the one and only Scott Van Pelt, we’ll build a new version of our program that amplifies all that makes them special.”
We can’t say we agree on how “SportsCenter” seems to be going back to its personality-driven format that seemed to happen more organically back in the Dan Patrick-Keith Olbermann days, and then resulted in the company deciding that the show should be the star, not the ones on the set.
Until this segue, Smith and Hill will continue to co-host “His & Hers” with an end to that show to be decided. Perhaps then they can get some quick training about what it takes to do video highlights, just for starters.
== A complete rundown of how ESPN will divide up about 1,100 college basketball broadcasts for the 2016-17 season can be found at this link, highlighting the Tip-Off Marathon on Nov. 14-15, the Pac-12 China Game on Nov. 11 that features Stanford against Harvard at 8 p.m. from Shanghai, the Wooden Legacy games from Cal State Fullerton on Thanksgiving Nov. 24 that feature UCLA against Portland at 8 p.m., the Dec. 3 HoopHall LA Invitational game between USC and BYU, and then Pac-12 regular season games such as UCLA at Oregon (Dec. 28, 6 p.m., ESPN2), Cal at UCLA (Jan. 5, 6 p.m., ESPN), Cal at USC (Jan. 8, 7:30 p.m., ESPNU), ASU at USC (Jan. 22, 5:30 p.m., ESPNU), USC at Washington (Feb. 1, 8 p.m., ESPNU), Oregon at UCLA (Feb. 9, 7 p.m., ESPN), UCLA at Arizona State (Feb. 23, 6 p.m., ESPN or ESPN2), UCLA at Arizona (Feb. 25, 5 p.m., ESPN) and Washington State at UCLA (March 4, 6:30 p.m., ESPNU).
== CBS’ college basketball season, which has 270 games between it and CBSSN, will start its 36th straight season on Dec. 3 with UCLA’s game at Kentucky in Rupp Arena with a 9:30 a.m. PDT tip, and will include UCLA’s participation in the Dec. 17 “CBS Sports Classic” from the new T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas that features the Bruins against Ohio State at noon, followed by Kentucky-North Carolina. CBS also has UCLA’s home game against Arizona on Saturday, Jan. 21 at 1 p.m.