FOX's newest toy makes its debut at AT&T Park. It will fly out over the infield for a new perspective, gingerly adding a new element without any possibility of interfering with the occasional pop fly or fielder's view. Crew members were testing it extensively on Tuesday night, and it was positioned above and behind the backstop screen, tethered to six amazingly long cables affixed to the upper decks.
"You always sit around and talk about, 'What are we going to add to the World Series?' And the practical person in you says, 'The more stuff you add to a special event, the more stuff there is that could go wrong,'" FOX Sports president Eric Shanks said. "This year, we've been really judicious as to what we're doing. The one thing you'll notice, because it's the biggest visual difference, is in San Francisco, where we're installing a football-style cable cam that can fly out over the field. You'll see that angle, kind of a video game view of the field during certain points. It mainly flies.
"There have been a lot of rules we've agreed on as to when it can go and where it can go. It mainly covers the point from pitcher's mound to home plate, then in foul territory, kind of in that radius. It doesn't go very far out. You'll only see it during dead ball situations when you know you're not going to be interfering with anything in play."
World Series record for Buck
When Giants starting pitcher Tim Lincecum throws the first pitch to Rangers leadoff hitter Elvis Andrus, Joe Buck will pass Curt Gowdy and Vin Scully for consecutive World Series play-by-play TV broadcasts with 13. It is a milestone that undoubtedly would have meant a great deal to his father, the late and legendary sports broadcaster Jack Buck, but Joe seemed almost uncomfortable discussing it.
"It means that FOX has a lot of money," he deadpanned. "Because without FOX, that question wouldn't even be asked. Let's be honest, it's more due to FOX's ability to secure rights to Major League Baseball than my ability to keep calling the games."
With FOX Sports executive producer Ed Goren also on the conference call, Buck added with a laugh, "It's the pictures I have of Ed."
"I'm flattered that that's even brought up," Buck said. "But [Gowdy and Scully] are the titans of the industry. When I think of baseball broadcasters, I think of those voices, and I certainly don't put myself in that category. I've done it the best I can. Until I get tapped on the shoulder and the next guy comes along ... we have so much fun covering the sport. So many times that gets lost in these conference calls and the business of ratings. I really look forward to these games and my time in the booth with Tim [McCarver] and preparing for these games and going through this march to the World Series. We just couldn't have any more fun. We know how to cover it, we know what to do and we try to stick to that.
"It's hard to believe I was 27 when it started, because I don't feel anywhere close to 27 right now. It's been a blast. I can't tell you how thrilled I am that all this time, Tim has been my partner at it. We've never had any cross words. We're not sick of each other, so that's a good thing."
One of the highlights going into this Fall Classic is the start time for Game 3 on Saturday at Rangers Ballpark. On-air time is 6:30 p.m. ET and first pitch is 6:57. It is the earliest start time since the 1987 World Series. Game 3 will be played against a backdrop theme focusing on Youth in Major League Baseball, and as part of that broadcast, FOX will show the three winning entries in the World Series of Halloween, with Ryan Seacrest and Randy Jackson of "American Idol" involved as celebrity judges.
"I love it. Getting to the ballpark a little earlier and getting under way cuts down on the anticipation," Buck said. "I can't tell you how many times Tim and I looked at each other before the game and thought, 'God, will this thing get started already.' You get to the ballpark early and talk to managers and then wait. Tim has said, 'Try as a player to wait and anticipate these games.' I have kids, they watch, and the fact they're going to bed earlier is something I like."
Added McCarver: "I find it very refreshing to start games earlier in the fall."
"Maybe we can make it a trend for all sports," Goren said.
So the Yankees and Phillies are out, and naturally there was a reaction in some circles of "Who will watch?" Well, here's something that might be news to people: It is only the second time in the last decade that the World Series has featured two of the top six television markets in the U.S.
Goren said he would not be surprised to see ratings start slower than last year, and then build with "volume" -- meaning a Fall Classic going at least six or seven games. FOX is definitely hoping for a long series.
"Both teams are certainly attractive," Goren said. "They play exciting baseball. You have a marquee pitching matchup in Game 1, so that's all fine. What we saw in the NLCS, you need volume in a best-of-seven series. The ratings for Game 6 of the NLCS were 70 percent higher than Game 1. So a series builds. There's no question that there is a direct relationship with the number of games you get and your overall rating. If we go six or seven games, we're going to come out of the World Series with strong ratings.
"One thing that's happened in baseball the last six or seven years, people like to talk about parity in a given sport. In the last six years, the only team that's been to the World Series twice has been Philadelphia. It's just the nature of the game right now, and it's something that for years we've heard fans say they want. Parity. Well, you got it. I think you have two really exciting teams here."
Moreover, FOX officials said they predict Sunday's Game 4 broadcast will actually benefit by having FOX's Vikings at Patriots NFL game starting at 4:15 p.m. ET. It should end about the time FOX's baseball game gets under way. Shanks said the ability to tell Vikings-Patriots fans to stay tuned for baseball will benefit the network.
"On Sunday, you'll see our highest ratings of the weekend because of the lead-in with the NFL game," he said. "The more people we can get as a stronger lead-in, the better the ratings."
Special open by Ken Burns
Make sure you are tuned into FOX before the first pitch. Ken Burns, who just released his much-anticipated "Tenth Inning" sequel to his seminal "Baseball" documentary series, has written a special Game 1 open.
Where have you heard this before?
Yes, it's true. The FOX Sports football theme music is now the FOX Sports theme music. Period. Many fans have asked what happened to the past FOX theme music for baseball. It's now one universal tune.
"Our postseason baseball music for the past 10 years ever since 2001 has been a much slower, probably kind of cathedral music," Shanks said. "When we were taking a look at recent tapes, we decided that baseball deserved a fast-pace, more upbeat music. And there's no better music than the FOX theme for NFL. You'll start to see that same theme across all of our sports. It's become a real FOX Sports theme. It gives all of our sports that marquee feel and a more upbeat way to come on the air."
Not all fans are in favor of that move based on some loud feedback, but it just shows how such a traditional sport can cause angst by tinkering with fixtures. Get used to it, because it is staying.
For the second year in a row, vitriolic White Sox manager and former World Series winner Ozzie Guillen will be a pregame analyst and available for in-game cutaway analysis. During the NLCS, FOX had Mitch Williams and Eric Karros on the pregame set, and those guys would be available for in-game commentary prompted by Buck when appropriate. It added a new dimension, and Guillen will be doing that.
"Ozzie is a huge figure of baseball, and I think that Ozzie brings an incredible amount of energy to the broadcast, and analysis," Shanks said. "We definitely had our eye on a manager to bring in for the World Series. We've been pretty successful with this idea, used in football with the virtutal three-man booth, and you saw us use it in the NLCS. We can get a different perspective on certain things during game by bringing in someone without having to do a three-man booth. Ozzie with a managerial perspective, from his electric personality really, and knowledge of game, is going to bring us a unique dimension to our pregame and game analysis."
"I love having new voices," Buck said. "You miss the bigger points because you're trapped in the minutia of the moment, and everything's going pitch by pitch. To get a broader perspective, to get a different feel, whether it's Mitch talking about a closer or Eric talking about a runner coming down the baseline as a first baseman ... to be honest, it does break up the monotony of people listening for three hours, and over the course of a series."