Now, with a flash of neo-electronic magic, a trick is to be performed. Using the wonders of the split screen, it is possible to do a simultaneous verbal-cast from both behind and in front of television's tube. The event to be dissected is an absolutely routine presentation of sporting Americana to coast-to-coast Super Spectator. It is a relatively meaningless early-season NBC baseball Game of the Week: May 24, 1969, the Los Angeles Dodgers vs. St. Louis Cardinals. Three witnesses are involved. One is in the control truck outside Dodger Stadium with Sports Manager Scotty Connal, Lou Kusserow, producer of the game show, Dick Auerbach, producer of the pregame show, Harry Coyle, director, and a cast of half a dozen technicians. Another is in the broadcast booth above the field with Curt Gowdy, Tony Kubek and Mickey Mantle. The third is watching KQ-TV on a set in the Elks Club bar in St. Joseph, Mo. To set that scene, the Elks Club bar is a large room (60-by-30 feet) in the basement of the Robidoux Hotel. It has buff-colored panels, a nicely stocked liquor larder and a color TV placed upon the top of a grand piano within easy view of bar stools and tables. The St. Joseph Elks Club was an arbitrary selection of venue, but St. Joe is considered a bastion of Cardinal fans. Besides that, on May 24 there was a regional convention of Shriners in town and it has long been considered a truism that there is no more loyal core of baseball fans than the kind of people who belong to an Elks Club or a Shriners Temple. Here is a diary of what happened. Perhaps it is typical, perhaps not. Who knows?
9:30 a.m. to noon (P.D.T.): Harry Coyle does equipment checks with crew. Scotty Connal reminds crew for umpteenth time that if show isn't off by 7 p.m. (E.D.T.) for Huntley-Brinkley network news, "It's a slow Matson Line to Hawaii for all of us." Curt Gowdy arrives with red nose and cross look; he has a cold. Portly man with magnificent mustache arrives in announcers" booth, plunks huge suitcase onto floor, introduces himself as Allan Roth, NBC's baseball statistician. Suitcase is jammed with record books. Also a large Turkish towel. Roth explains, "I never go to a game without it. Announcers are always spilling their coffee on my papers." Tony Kubek and Mickey Mantle on hand now, too. Very cheerful pair, no red noses. Dick Auerbach, pregame producer, calls rehearsal of pregame show. Gowdy's timing awful, demeanor serene. Auerbach says, "Curtie, you're splendid." Mantle ducks head to inspect his baldness as shown on monitor nearby. Gowdy sits down in booth, puts on pair of sunglasses that have a broken frame. Gowdy tosses glasses aside, says, "Boy, this is the big leagues."
12:15: Forty-five minutes to show time. Tension in control truck, in broadcast booth. In St. Joseph Elks Club. TV is dark. No tension. No customers.
12:35: Milton Berle brings son to booth to meet Gowdy, Kubek. Berles leave. Dodger physician stops to inquire about Gowdy's cold. Physician leaves. NBC man brings Gowdy borrowed gold blazer to wear on air; Gowdy has brought only blue blazer which does not televise properly. NBC man leaves. Gowdy tries on borrowed blazer. Baggy fit. Could use big safety pin to hold shoulders back. This is big leagues.
12:50: In truck Producer Kusserow tells Coyle that singer of national anthem will stand in centerfield. Also says Dodger President Walter O'Malley is smitten with shrubs and flowers planted on hillsides beyond centerfield and would like NBC to mention them. Over intercom Kusserow tells Gowdy station breaks will be in fifth and seventh innings, Governor Reagan will be in crowd, Stan Musial will be honored by Dodgers, shrubbery will be mentioned.
12:55: Kubek, Mantle, Gowdy wait for opening. All very loose. Kubek and Mantle giggle, Kubek says to Mickey: "O.K., Slick, let's kill 'em."
12:59: In truck, associate director shouts, "One minute to air, gentlemen. One minute." Auerbach relaxed about pregame show. It will last eight minutes, 10 seconds. Night before, Auerbach spent seven hours shooting, editing, polishing tapes. Auerbach says to Coyle, "There is no turning back, sinners!" Coyle grunts.
12:59½: Associate director cries, "Thirty seconds. O.K., girls, have a goody!" Kusserow lights cigarette. Associate director says, "Roll the bird!," listens to his headset, then says, "The bird's up!"
1:01: Elks Club bartender turns on set. NBC peacock on screen...the bird is up. Gowdy hoves into view: "Hi, everybody!" Borrowed gold blazer fits fine on screen, red nose doesn't show, cold seems much better. This is big leagues.
1:02: Pregame show rolls nicely. Mantle relaxed, charming, knowledgeable. Scotty Connal says: "He's so good. I told him a little while ago that New York really likes his work. He's only done three games, but he's in."