Dome’s First Game on TV a Dull One But Not Leo and Chris
This story appeared in the Houston Post on May 23, 1965. The headline and words are reprinted as they ran then.
In the first inning Saturday Bob Bruce changed speeds on Willie McCovey, and in the television booth high above home plate Chris Schenkel turned to the man in the next chair. “Leo,” he said, “that looked like a slip pitch.”
“Yes Chris,” said Leo Durocher, the greatest manager not now in baseball, “that was a slip pitch, all right. They all throw in on this staff. It’s a Paul Richards specialty.”
McCovey laced a single to right fields, and as Willie Mays stepped into the batter’s box, twisting his spikes and flexing his shoulders, Schenkel had another question.
“Would you throw the slip pitch to Mays?”
“Absolutely not,” answered Leo, horrified. “Mays is a great off speed hitter.”
At that moment Bruce, apparently turned in to Durocher’s wave length fired a fastball right down Willie’s wheel house. And Willie hit the longest home run in the colorful history of the Domed Stadium, a screamer that disappeared over the fence in dead center, directly above the sign that notes the distance at 406 feet.
This was ABC’s Game of the Week, beamed to cities in half of the United States. Houston was among the fortunate half that missed it, being blacked out as the home city.
The Giants made it a dull game - well, the Astros did their share, of course -winning in a breeze, 10-1. There was no way Schenkel and Durocher could have made the day more exciting, short of leaping out of their fifth level broadcasting booth and landing on second base.
Still, the occasion was a more or less historic one - the first national telecast from the world’s first indoor ball-yard. To do the job ABC employed seven cameras, featuring the instant video replay, the instant slow motion replay and the Instant Second Guess, as provided by Durocher.
None of them worked with much success. The replay camera was on the fritz, and so was the one that provides a view from the centerfield, enabling Durocher to steal the catcher’s signs.
The slow motion camera also proved unreliable, and only one sequence was shown at a retarded rate speed. That was Juan Marichal delivering one of his famous high kicks.
“Now watch this fellow kick in slow motion.” Leo urged his viewers. “See that? He was the highest leg kick I’ve ever seen. “This seemed to confirm and impression that many people got from watching Marichal in regular motion.
Leo’s strong point is his commentary on strategy - some call it second-guessing - and he worked at a disadvantage Saturday. How much strategy is there in a 10-1 game?
Yet Schenkel and Durocher made a good team, and they milked the most out of a boring afternoon spent in spectacular surroundings.
“Welcome back,” said Schenkel, after a station break, “to the Taj Mahal of baseball.”
“This place.” chimed in Durocher, “is out of this world. It’s like a spaceship.”
Leo said he had never seen anything like it before, and there were a few developments on the field that were new to him, too. Such as when Jimmy Wynn lost Tom Haller’s routine fly in the ceiling, and it fell for a three-base hit.
“Well, fans,” screeched Durocher, in that raspy tenor of his, “the paint job was supposed to have solved that. They said it couldn’t happen. But you saw it happen. The ball fell 50 feet from him. He lost it completely. I’ve never seen one missed so far.”
“There are over 4,600 skylights in the Dome,” added Schenkel, solemnly, and Leo said he wouldn’t be a bit surprised.
It went on like that for nearly two hours. During one lull in the action -there were many- Leo remarked that he had watched last Wednesday’s Houston-Dodger game on television back in Los Angeles. This was the night that Umpire John Kibler called Joe Morgan out at home, a decision that led to the eviction and suspension of Manager Luman Harris.
I’ll tell you, fans,” Leo told them, “if they had been using our slow motion camera on that play Harris would REALLY have had a reason to blow his stack. I know on that play I’d have been in the clubhouse too. Anytime a catcher goes after a man a second time, you know he didn’t get him.
“I can’t understand how Luman kept from getting fined’ but he had a kick coming, I’ll say that.
As the innings rolled by Leo could not conceal his boredom. “I was hoping a Houston player would hit a homer,” he said, a statement that may have startled the fans in San Francisco.
“Then you’d really see that scoreboard go crazy.”
From time to time he would wig-wag to the San Francisco bench, trying to get the attention of Mays, whose big league career he launched in New York in 1951. After Willie’s homer Leo did a deep salaam toward the Giant dugout, and Mays grinned and gave him a quick flip on the wrist.
Toward the end of the game Durocher made a Freudian slip. “And at the end of the eight innings, ” he said, “our score is the New York Gi...”
He turned to Schenkel, a suspicious pinkness in his cheek.
“That’s the first time I’ve done that in a long time,” he apologized, “I just can’t forget it.”