SAN FRANCISCO -- Al Michaels jokingly feared being caught in a time warp when he broadcasts Friday night's Mets-Giants game. "I thought we were going to get Jerry Koosman against John Montefusco," Michaels said. Actually, television viewers will get the equivalent of Tom Seaver and Juan Marichal -- the best upon the best.
Michaels and Bob Costas, two of the finest all-around sports announcers ever, will call a baseball game together for the first time as they collaborate on MLB Network's telecast of the Mets-Giants series opener, which is blacked out locally. Viewers who will see the telecast might be more fortunate than the luxury suite occupants at AT&T Park. As Giants broadcaster Mike Krukow said of Michaels and Costas, "They could be [describing] full-contact beer belching and they'd bring some sort of elegant credibility to their show." This represents a return to Michaels' broadcasting roots in more than one sense. He was the Giants' lead play-by-play announcer from 1974-76, his last job before he ascended to superstardom with ABC. Hence his reference to Koosman and Montefusco, who were top starters of that era for the Mets and Giants, respectively. Before joining the Giants, Michaels served as the voice of the Cincinnati Reds for three seasons. But Michaels hasn't done a baseball telecast since Game 5 of the 1995 World Series between Atlanta and Cleveland. It's no surprise that he's relishing this opportunity. "For me, [baseball] was the foundation of my career," Michaels said on a conference call this week. "I built my career around baseball, started with baseball, always loved it." Costas, who initiated the effort to bring Michaels back to the ballpark, expressed how fortunate viewers are. "This is a chance for people to hear Al and be reminded of how great he always had been as a baseball announcer, in addition to everything else he excels at," Costas said. Many listeners might not have known just how good Michaels was when he called Giants games. Each San Francisco team he was associated with finished under .500 and drew less than 650,000 to Candlestick Park for the season. Michaels recalled keeping a parka in the broadcast booth to cope with the elements, naming the people in the sparsely populated stands one night instead of announcing the paid attendance and seeing the franchise nearly move to Toronto before the 1976 season. "It was all pretty negative," Michaels said. Michaels had nice things to say about Bobby Murcer, the Giants' right fielder from 1975-76, and expressed appreciation for calling the no-hitters thrown by Ed Halicki in '75 against New York and Montefusco in '76 against the Braves. "The Count" happened to own a 15-14 record before throwing his gem at Atlanta, which was his last start of the season. Michaels built his broadcast around Montefusco's desire to avoid finishing .500. So, after Montefusco recorded the final out and secured much more than an ordinary win, Michaels crowed, "You bet he's not a .500 pitcher!" -- kind of a forerunner to "Do you believe in miracles? Yes!" Asked if he thought the Giants ever would win a World Series, Michaels echoed the widespread amazement that last year's motley crew accomplished what teams with hugely talented performers such as Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Marichal, Gaylord Perry and Bobby and Barry Bonds never could. "This is why we love baseball," Michaels concluded. "This is why we love sports. You can never figure out what's going to happen." Michaels also cited the dramatic change in the relative fortunes of the Giants and Dodgers since his San Francisco tenure. "In those years, Los Angeles was the superstar franchise with the great ballpark and the great teams and the Giants were the dregs -- and look at it now. It's pretty amazing how it has turned around," said Michaels, who was set to call Game 3 of the 1989 World Series at Candlestick before the Loma Prieta earthquake struck. San Francisco broadcaster Duane Kuiper said that Michaels and Costas deserve to experience the charged atmopshere of a Giants home game. "It'll be fun to watch those two veteran announcers appreciate what a happening place AT&T Park is right now," Kuiper said. Michaels and Costas will have to absorb the atmosphere on the run. The first three innings will be fairly basic, with Costas calling the first inning and a half and Michaels the next inning and a half. They'll speak directly to fans of both teams by switching to SportsNet New York's booth for the fourth and fifth innings before taking over ComCast SportsNet Bay Area's broadcast for the sixth and seventh innings (Krukow and Kuiper will handle MLB Network duties during that span). Then it's back to the MLB Network telecast for both Michaels and Costas. As any true professional would, Michaels has prepared diligently for this game. He said that he has spent more time consulting Krukow and Kuiper, as well as SNY broadcasters Gary Cohen, Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez, "than I have with my family." Longtime Giants fans surely will enjoy having Michaels back in the Giants family, even if it's just for a few innings.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.