An open letter to the Earl of Baltimore, upon the completion of his first World Series announcing assignment:
I just saw you, Howard and Al Michaels on the Series. Remember last week when you said Howard feels you'll never be any good, but you hope to be at least half-good someday? Take heart. You'll never be Joe Garagiola or Tony Kubek, but you're improving. So tell Howard to cool it. The only guys you have to fear are Jim Palmer and the superb Reggie Jackson, who almost stole the show whenever he appeared. They're both more articulate than you, Earl, and they soon may be after your job.
Your buddy Michaels was exceptional on play-by-play. It seems almost sacrilegious to say, but he trumped NBC's exalted Vin Scully, who talked himself blue on the National League playoffs. The nod goes to Michaels and NBC's Bob Costas. As for Howard on the Series, he contributed little besides his suffocating presence. Wasn't it something, the way he'd steal one of your observations—say about Ripken being overeager at bat—and pass it off the rest of the week as his own? Do us a favor, Earl. Next time you see Roone Arledge, ask him to leave Howard on the warmup show—no one conducts more revealing interviews than Cosell—and replace him on the game with Jackson or Palmer.
You made some good points, Earl. Remember how you told us that Morgan was hanging tough against McGregor's curveball just before he hit the Game 1 homer? And how Flanagan often gets bombed in the second inning while trying to get his curve established? Some people expected you to pull your punches and be ABC's excuse man for players who deserved some flak, but you fooled them, Earl. You're honest. You even disagreed with Altobelli before he made some controversial moves.
Of course, you've got some problems. Don't take this personally, but you've come across this year as bland as Cream of Wheat. You're one of the best interviews in sports, forever unpredictable, always opinionated and contentious, a cocky bantam of a man. On the air, you turn into a choirboy. You agree with everything Howard says, although not necessarily everything Michaels says. Earl, you're too tight. Smile a little. You've got to consider yourself an equal partner in the booth, the way Reggie does when the broadcast turns into a quadrilogue. No need to be intimidated. So what if you've never checked Moby Dick out of the library? Has Howard ever called for the hit-and-run?
Another thing. This was supposed to be a Baltimore-Philadelphia World Series, but it might as well have been Baltimore vs. the Bolshoi Ballet for all the anecdotes we heard about the Phillies. Howard was off playing Howard, talking authoritatively about outfield "drying agents" or which remarkable man he had dinner with the other night. Michaels was too busy serving as a traffic cop. Fairly or not, it fell mostly to you, Earl, to provide a balance of information. Your heart may still be black and orange, but 10 Oriole anecdotes for every one about the Phillies?
You didn't ask for this, but here's a little box score on your first year. Voice: four points on a scale of 10 (you always sound hoarse, as if you just ate a fistful of popcorn). Brevity: seven (you started the year around a two, forever talking over live action). Color: three (did you ever hear of white noise). Attention: 10 (would that everyone kept his mind on the game). Two tips: Don't feel compelled to talk just because it's "your turn." And please avoid recounting the obvious, such as, 'There's a ground ball to Schmidt."
It's nice to hear you'll be back at ABC in '84, because you and the network are improving apace. Quality is contagious. The camera work this year was excellent for a change. There were few screamy mob shots, Players' Wives On Parade was kept under control and the infield shots from the stadium roof were revealing. Say hello to the other guys in the booth. See you next year.