TBS broke unprecedented ground Sunday when they put analyst Michele Smith in the booth alongside Ernie Johnson and John Smoltz for their broadcast of the Dodgers-Braves game. It's the first time a woman has ever served in the commentary role for a national MLB broadcast, and is one of a handful of breakthroughs in a summer that marks the 40th anniversary of the passage of Title IX.
Smith won two Olympic gold medals as a softballer, and is a member of the Softball Hall Of Fame. She's certainly an expert on softball, having served as one of ESPN's chief announcers for the sport, and testing her out for an MLB broadcast was an interesting idea. (It's also one announced with surprisingly little fanfare; we only learned of the broadcast today.) Here's baseball blogger William Tasker's take:
She also knew what she was talking about. Her insights were usually spot on. The one awkwardness of the entire broadcast was the incessant pandering of the two men on the broadcast team to talk about or bring up Smith's softball exploits. Such pandering was probably meant to make Smith as comfortable as possible, but it also gave the impression that such comments were needed to justify Smith's existence on the broadcast. From a personal standpoint, during a broadcast, the less said about the broadcaster the better. Concentrate on what is going on in the field.
Tasker also noted that the 45-year-old Smith brought a maturity to the analysis. Okay, but how did Smith go over with casual viewers? There were plenty of positive comments:
Overall, though, reaction was positively Archie Bunkerian.
Sure, the audience interested in hearing about softball while a baseball game is on is likely small. But TBS/TNT continue to do unique things with their broadcasting, so we'll encourage them to keep experimenting.