In recent days the Yankees played to 413 customers at home, finished 10th and last, and canned Red Barber—which is not wholly a non sequitur. Of course, Barber was not dismissed just because the Yankees had a lousy season with him at the mike, but because they had one broadcaster too many; because he was at times imperious; and because he had gone out of style.
Phil Rizzuto, Jerry Coleman and Joe Garagiola, the other Yankee announcers, are all former ballplayers—which is the trend. The idea is that since they played the game, ex-ballplayers know it better and listeners will therefore benefit from their expertise. (Ex-ballplayers are also more promotable—a word, incidentally, which Barber wouldn't dream of uttering.) Although this is sometimes the case, too often ex-ballplayers make good ex-ballplayers; they are not necessarily qualified reporters, nor do they always speak English. However, because a sportscaster has not played big league ball it does not follow that he uses fewer solecisms or knows what he's talking about.
Barber is a first-rate reporter: the game tells him what to say. As he has said: "Bill Klein used to tell his umpires to umpire the ball. In much the same way, I have always tried to broadcast the ball." He is also that rarity nowadays—a literate, articulate man. Last week he phrased it memorably: "Radio and television have forgotten all about the most beautiful thing I know next to human love, and that's the English language." Or, to quote Vin Scully, "Red never used a careless word; he felt that he had a responsibility to the listener."
By firing Barber the Yankees have shown they couldn't care less.
It is easy to put the knock on TV, and we have delivered a few in our day, but when TV does do a good job who bothers to applaud? Well, one night last week TV did a bang-up job, and we would like to give it the hand it deserves.
After National Guardsmen and city cops armed with shotguns quelled a riot in a Negro section of San Francisco the night of Sept. 27, an 8 p.m. to-6 a.m. curfew was imposed. But Mayor John F. Shelley felt that unless further steps were taken the riot would flare anew. One suggestion was that if the Giants-Braves game in Atlanta, which wasn't scheduled to be televised, could be shown in San Francisco, many rioters might stay home to watch it.
Mayor Shelley called the Giants and asked if the game could be televised. The Giants said it was fine by them, but that the station carrying their games, KTVU, was in Oakland—not Atlanta. Chub Feeney, the Giants' vice-president, then called Frank King, the general manager of KTVU. King said he would see what he could do. Two hours later he called Feeney back and told him arrangements had been made with KTVU's sister station in Atlanta, WSB-TV, and that the game would be on live in San Francisco starting at 6 p.m.
However, only five hours remained before game time and the telecast wouldn't be of much use if nobody knew about it. The mayor's office thereupon wired the newspapers, announcing the telecast and expressing the hope that "residents of the riot-troubled districts...would remain at home and watch the game." The story made several late editions.