The more than 49 million viewers who tuned in each of the five World Series games on television saw nine outstanding performers: Rollie Fingers, Dick Green, Catfish Hunter, Joe Ferguson, Steve Garvey, Mike Marshall, Vin Scully, Joe Garagiola and the extra camera in center field.
That added camera, used extensively for the first time during the playoffs preceding the Series, enabled NBC to vividly depict a dimension of outfield play that most people had never seen. The majority of baseball telecasts utilize center-field cameras but they are employed only to show the catcher sending out signs to the pitcher and to pinpoint exactly where pitches are thrown. NBC's extra camera concerned itself with the attempts of man to intersect the flight of batted balls and the problems he encounters with fences, white-shirted crowds, sunlight and in making relay throws. Many of the sequences from center field were excellent, particularly the one during the ninth inning of the first game when Oakland's Joe Rudi and Bill North leaped against the barrier in Dodger Stadium trying to pull back a home run by L.A.'s Jim Wynn. When North returned to the ground, he thought the ball was in his glove. He and Rudi did double takes when they discovered it was not, and North kicked the fence in frustration. NBC showed reruns of that dramatic play from three different angles, impelling anyone with even a limited knowledge of baseball to sense the intense concern that grips players when a 3-1 lead suddenly shrinks to 3-2 with the home team batting in the last inning of a Series game.
During the two games played in Los Angeles, the telecasts were enhanced not only by that extra eye in the outfield but by added insight in the announcing booth, where Scully joined NBC's Curt Gowdy and Tony Kubek. The Dodger announcer's low-key style, thorough preparation and expert reportage bring a delightful element to baseball viewing. As early as the fifth inning of the first game Scully pointed out a seemingly insignificant item that proved—as he predicted it would—to be a big factor in Los Angeles' undoing. Asked by Kubek about the Dodgers' ability to adapt to Oakland's outside pitching, Scully said, "If they have it in their minds to pull, they'll pull—and go right down the drain doing so." At another point during the same game the Dodgers had three runners on base with two out and were in position to break the contest open when a gentle fly was hit to left field. A giant roar went up in Dodger Stadium. Even before Joe Rudi and the cameras zeroed in on the ball, Scully had told his viewers all they needed to know. "The crowd is looking at that with their hearts," he said.
When Marshall relieved with pinch runner Herb Washington on first in the ninth inning of Game 2, Scully announced Marshall was an excellent bet to pick off Washington. He did just that, and three replays clearly showed Scully had not made a lucky guess. Marshall had trapped Washington so artfully that the sprinter had about as much chance of getting back to first as Chief Ironside.
As dictated by NBC's contract with major league baseball, Scully was replaced by A's announcer Monte Moore when the Series shifted to Oakland. There are more melodramatic subplots involving the A's than there are on The Edge of Night, but viewers heard very little from Moore about them. Curt Gowdy seems to know only three things about the A's and you can set your watch by them. He always announces that Sal Bando's wife is an excellent Italian-style cook, how Jim Hunter got the name "Catfish" and how far Reggie Jackson's home run traveled in the 1971 All-Star Game.
The performances of Moore, Gowdy and Kubek were major disappointments for viewers, as was the absence of a replay of Rudi's Series-winning home run. Otherwise, NBC was rewarded for the quality of its production by ratings that indicated this was the second-most watched Series ever, a remarkable achievement considering that it was also an all-California Series. The most-viewed Series was last year's between the A's and Mets, which was seen by 54 million people per game. It had several advantages: The first Sunday game in '73 was the longest Series game ever televised and carried so far into prime time that it drew a huge nighttime audience; teams from both coasts were involved; and the playoffs preceding the Series had been dramatic, five-game affairs.
Last year's Series had one more edge—The Baseball World of Joe Garagiola was never bumped off the air. That happened last week because of President Ford's Tuesday-night speech. For fans, missing out on one of Garagiola's little specials was almost as dismaying as the economic news that knocked him off the air. Although technically only a warmup for the network's telecasts, Garagiola's World touches on subjects far more significant or entertaining than who scored the runs. His two-part show with Gates Brown, the Tiger who spent two years in prison, was one of the best programs shown on TV this summer, and his Series cameo with Dodger Pitcher Andy Messersmith explaining how to blow big-league bubbles was a masterful put-on. By using excellent replays before the fourth game Garagiola was able to evoke the frustration the "snake-bit" Dodgers felt after losing Game 3. Garagiola is doing more with his World than he gets credit for. And NBC, with help from an extra camera and an extraordinary added broadcaster, should be credited with doing more than ever with the World Series.
LOW-KEY VIN SCULLY WAS HIGH MAN UP IN THE BOOTH