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Costas and Team Getting Into Rhythm of the Playoffs

October 10, 1996

Bojangles he ain’t. But if Bob Costas expects to tap dance through the playoffs without stepping on anybody, he’ll need timing and rhythm, too.

``It’s not just a question of my own rhythm,″ Costas said. ``It’s also a question of getting into rhythm with the two other guys in the booth.

``We’re just starting to get it together.″

Costas, Bob Uecker and Joe Morgan got the serious part of baseball’s playoffs going Wednesday afternoon as NBC began its coverage of the American League series between New York and Baltimore.

Fox, in its first baseball postseason, got the National League series between St. Louis and Atlanta underway Wednesday night, also using a three-man booth of Joe Buck, Tim McCarver and Bob Brenly.

Buck and McCarver worked together for Fox during the regular season. Because NBC doesn’t do regular-season games, Costas had only the All-Star Game and three divisional playoffs to get back in the swing.

``Most of it came back quickly, and right now I’m comfortable about 90 percent of the time,″ he said. ``It’s just a few little things that viewers probably don’t notice, but I notice them.″

When Costas says little things, he means Little Things. After a few seconds, he thought of an example that illustrated just how detailed his business can be, if you want to do it right.

When Brian Jordan of St. Louis hit the homer that beat San Diego in the division series, the count was 3-2. He had just fouled off two pitches, and the runner at first was going on both of them.

As the pitcher is preparing to throw the home run ball, Costas says: ``The runner goes on a 3-2 pitch.″ Only, the runner hadn’t quite gone yet. Just like the runner, Costas was trying to get a head start on the play.

``I know it’s a 3-2 pitch, and I know the runner went on the previous two pitches,″ Costas said. ``But what I should have said was, `On the 3-2 pitch, the runner goes.′

``I know the count’s not going to change. This way I’ve given myself a fraction of a second to make sure the runner goes. And I can still be right on the play when Jordan hits the ball so I can say, `It’s a long drive. ...′ It’s a small thing, but it’s something I notice.″

OUT TAKES: The start of Game 1 of the National League playoff in Atlanta was delayed about 7 minutes, at Fox’s request, to avoid an overlap with NBC’s coverage of the American League series, which went into extra innings.

``We had discussions with major league baseball and we pushed the start back about as much as we could,″ said Fox Sports spokesman Vince Wladika.

The game was to have begun at 8:11 p.m. EDT, and first pitch was about 8:18 p.m. At that, the two games overlapped for about 13 minutes, Wladika said. ...

Brenly might be a rookie analyst, but he knows when to keep quiet. Asked if he saw any irony in having Ruppert Murdoch’s Fox network televising a series involving the Braves, owned by Murdoch arch rival Ted Turner, Brenly said: ``I personally have no comment on that. They don’t call me for advice, so I’ll just let them do what they have to do.″

Good answer. ...

Last year, you remember, the league playoffs and World Series bounced back and forth between NBC and ABC in the final year of The Baseball Network. This year, with NBC and Fox splitting the playoffs and Fox doing the World Series, there will be a little more continuity in coverage.

``That makes a huge difference,″ Costas said. ``Like last year, let’s say you’re doing Game 3 of the World Series. You don’t know if you’re ever going to be on again, and there’s a tendency maybe to try to force something in. Now, you have room to breathe, and you can let a story play out over the course of games.″

NBC producer Bob Neal also called the continuity issue huge.

``I either think of it as a luxury or as a necessity,″ Neal said. ``Now you can tell some stories from one game to the next. You build a relationship with the players and managers.″ ...

Because of the pace of the game, baseball probably is better suited to a three-man broadcast booth than any other sport, yet it still can lead to some embarrassing moments.

After a long discussion between Costas and Morgan on Wednesday night about whether players or managers know more about player moves, Uecker had to admit: ``My point was so long ago, I forgot what it was.″

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