A Five-for-one Tv Deal Ex-phils Replace Fregosi On Sportschannel Broadcasts

Posted: May 23, 1991

Don Heller doesn't think you can have too much of a good thing.

Heller, vice president and general manager of PRISM and SportsChannel Philadelphia, yesterday announced the hiring of five former Phillies to replace Jim Fregosi as analysts of Phillies games on SportsChannel during the remainder of the 1991 season.

Former relief pitcher Kent Tekulve made his SportsChannel debut last night in the Phillies' 8-1 win in Montreal. Greg Gross, Jay Johnstone, Tug McGraw and Glenn Wilson will take turns providing color analysis in the 20 remaining games to be televised by SportsChannel this season.

"Initially, we were going to pick one person," said Heller, who began with a list of 25-plus applicants. "As we were going through the list, we had so many fine candidates, it was my suggestion that we go with a team concept. I thought all these guys, as former Phillies who have broadcast experience of one form or another, had something to offer."

Fregosi left the broadcast booth April 23, when he replaced Nick Leyva as the Phils' manager. During the interim, his spot opposite play-by-play announcer Andy Musser had been filled by Chris Wheeler.

Heller said he and his search committee agreed on the unusual group concept at a meeting April 26. Nothing was announced then, he said, because separate deals had to be worked out with the five ex-players.

The SportsChannel "team" might have been larger had still another former Phillie, Bill Robinson, who is under contract to ESPN, been granted permission to negotiate with Heller.

"It was our intention to include him," Heller said.

The shifting cast of analysts recalls the Chicago Cubs' infamous "College of Coaches" experiment in 1961, when the Cubs used a rotating group of coaches in place of a manager.

"Mr. (Phillip) Wrigley (the late Cubs owner) basically got tired of firing managers," said Rich Ashburn, the former Phillies centerfield great who does color analysis of the Phillies on Channel 29 and was a member of the '61 Cubs. ''He had the idea of one big, happy family, but it didn't work out that way.

"Instead of acting like a family, the five coaches who took turns running the team each tried to outdo each other. It was a disaster."

Musser, the one constant in the booth, doesn't anticipate any problems working with a steady stream of new partners.

"It's going to be difficult, but I'm looking forward to it as a challenge," Musser said. "All of these guys know baseball. If I can give them a few tips about broadcasting, maybe we can make a go of this.

"Over the years, I've worked with dozens of partners. What's five more?"

Heller said it's possible the group concept will extend beyond the current season.

"If it's successful, we could continue it into next season and beyond," he said.

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