Traverse City Record-Eagle

October 9, 2011

Dennis Chase: You can’t beat sports for entertainment


TV — Maybe it was only appropriate that the lasting images we have of two of the most exciting divisional games in the Major League Baseball playoffs involved two of the most animated players.

There was Detroit’s ace closer Jose Valverde blowing a third strike past New York’s Alex Rodriguez to seal a 3-2 win for the Tigers. There was Milwaukee’s Nyjer Morgan smacking a game-winning RBI single to center to beat Arizona in the 10th, 3-2.

It made for great TV. And it only reinforced my belief — in this era of reality TV — that if you want to watch a pure reality experience, tune in to sports.

No script, no editing, just unadulterated, often emotional entertainment.

When Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, now a studio analyst, tells you how tense he was just watching the drama unfold in the Tigers-Yankees finale Thursday night, that says something. And he didn’t even have a rooting interest.

That’s why networks spend millions for rights to televise games.

Who will forget the incredible finish to the Michigan-Notre Dame football game last month?

Who will forget Little Giants, Michigan State’s fake field goal play that beat Notre Dame in overtime last fall?

Who will forget Carlton Fisk waving his arms, steering his eventual home run fair in the 1975 World Series?

Who will forget a limping, fist-pumping Kirk Gibson circling the bases after his dramatic pinch-hit home run that gave the Dodgers a stunning win over Oakland in the opener of the 1988 World Series? Or Gibson’s blast off Goose Gossage in the 1984 World Series at Tiger Stadium?

Those are indelible moments.

And now, with just about every big event televised, we’re privy to it all. If there’s a big moment in sports, it usually plays out right in front of us.

I was reminded of this watching the Tigers-Yankees series.

That series to me was, in a sense, reminiscent of the Yankees-Pirates World Series in 1960. New York outscored Detroit 28-17 in the five games. The Yankees’ two wins were blowouts — 9-3 (9-1 going into the ninth) and 10-1. The Tigers’ three wins were by a total of four runs.

In 1960, New York outscored Pittsburgh 55-27, but lost to the Pirates on Bill Mazeroski’s ninth inning home run in Game 7. The Yankees won games by counts of 16-3, 10-0 and 12-0. The Pirates won their four games by a total of seven runs.

But World Series games back then were still played during the day when people were at work, and radio more so than TV was how most followed the action live.

Now — if you’re a Tigers’ fan, for instance — virtually every game is televised on Fox Sports Detroit. And, if you missed it, there’s usually a rebroadcast or you can watch the highlights on ESPN. I’ve seen Valverde’s final pitch to A-Rod countless times since that game ended on Thursday night.

Back in 1960, though, networks did not preserve all their telecasts, opting to tape over them. Thus, broadcasts of the first six games of that 1960 World Series are no longer known to exist. The lone exception is a black-and-white kinescope of the entire telecast of Game 7, which was discovered in a wine cellar in Bing Crosby’s home in 2009.

Apparently, Crosby, part-owner of the Pirates, was too superstitious to watch the Series live, according to Wikipedia, so he listened to Game 7 with his wife and two friends on a shortwave radio in Paris. In case the Pirates won, Crosby arranged for a company to record it so he could watch it later. He stashed it in his wine cellar, where it was discovered 49 years later.

One of the great games in baseball history and the only copy of it found in a wine cellar? How times have changed.