Wednesday, July 10, 1996 | 11:59 a.m.
When you got it, you got it.
While Fox continues to experience growing pains with its Major League Baseball broadcasts, NBC showed off like a peacock with its All-Star Game coverage from Philadelphia Tuesday night.
It was NBC Sports' first baseball event in nine months and its last until the post-season rolls around. In fact, under its new five-year deal with Major League Baseball, NBC's only regular-season action will be the mid-summer classic every other year.
From a wonderfully produced opening to the MVP announcement, NBC's booth of Bob Costas, Bob Uecker and Joe Morgan were in mid-season form. On the field, Hannah Storm was stellar as usual, while Jim Gray did more help than harm.
While Costas played the straight man and Morgan the analyst, Uecker was, well, Uecker, and the three worked superbly. Take this exchange during the first inning, as Albert Belle came to bat amid a thunder of boos.
Morgan: "You'd think a guy would get tired of being booed all the time and do something about his image."
Uecker: "I don't know if Albert thinks he has an image."
Costas: "Outside Cleveland, he's known as the man Will Rogers never met."
Or this one, after Costas, speaking about consecutive-game hit streaks, asked Uecker what his longest streak was: "Yellow," he replied. "Right down my back."
NBC, which utilized 21 cameras and a baseball-record 50 microphones, was on top of the event even before it started with footage of Chicago White Sox reliever Roberto Hernandez breaking Cal Ripken's nose after the American League team picture was taken. Walking off the risers, Hernandez was clearly shown slipping off the top row, wildly flailing his arms in an attempt to keep his balance. That's when he decked Ripken, who was standing next to him.
Not stopping there, Storm interviewed the Iron Man before the game. Sporting a black and blue bridge and swollen eyes, the man who holds the major-league record for consecutive games played said he wasn't going to miss his start.
Storm, however, scored for NBC even earlier with her Mike Piazza interview, asking the Los Angeles Dodgers' catcher how it felt to be playing in Veterans Stadium -- the same park where, as a youngster, he witnessed his first big-league game.
Piazza went on to win the MVP after belting a home run in his first at-bat and an RBI double in his second.
Gray was hit or miss in his role as dugout reporter, which in and of itself is a great innovation. He landed a solid interview with National League manager Bobby Cox, who stated the major-league All-Star Game means more than those of the NBA and NFL because in baseball teams try to win. He also was on the spot with a teary-eyed Ozzie Smith -- playing in his last All-Star Game -- and an emotional Piazza.
But Gray also provided the biggest bumble of the night during his interview with AL skipper Mike Hargrove, asking him a question while Houston Astro Ken Caminiti was belting a home run. Before Hargrove could answer, Gray tossed it back to Costas, who was forced to teach Journalism 101: "Stick with it, Jim. Ask Hargrove how he felt about that."
One element NBC couldn't contain: the proliferation of Ken Griffey Jr. commercials. Although he couldn't play due to injury, Junior was shown hawking everything from Nike to Pizza Hut to Wheaties to video games.
* HAVE A CIGAR: Reigning Horse of the Year Cigar makes his run for glory at 1 p.m. Saturday on CBS (KLAS Channel 8), when he attempts to win the Arlington Citation Challenge. The $750,000 event was created for Cigar,who needs a win to tie Citation's 46-year-old record of 16 straight victories. "This is a unique opportunity to focus on the efforts of a true world champion," said CBS Sports vice president of programming Rob Correa . Cigar had been unable to race recently because of a bruised forefoot.
* GETTIN' PEPPY: The guests on this week's edition of "UNLV Rebel Talk" - - heard every Friday at 6:35 p.m. on KRBO 105.1-FM -- won't be traditional. The show welcomes pep band director Tony LaBounty and assistant volleyball coach Reuben Chererra. LaBounty will discuss the many complaints his band has received from fans who feel it's too overbearing. "Last year, several donors had called in complaining about the band. They were too rude, obnoxious and rowdy," said Scott Gulbransen, who co-hosts the show with Steve Stallworth. "They don't like it, but Tony will come on and try to explain why the band is just as important as any other aspect of the game performance. He's going to tell us why they do what they do. We're going to open that up to a forum." Chererra will take calls regarding the volleyball team, which takes to the court at UNLV for the first time since 1987. "It gives us the opportunity to publicize our new sport," said Gulbransen, who also works in UNLV's marketing department. "It will introduce Las Vegas to volleyball again. Volleyball in the WAC is almost as big as football." Listeners can call during the show at 642-3230.
* AROUND THE DIAL: With Mike Tyson vs. Bruce Seldon postponed, HBO (Prime Cable Channel 38) has cornered this week's boxing action. It has heavyweights Riddick Bowe and Andrew Golota Thursday at 6:45 p.m. from Madison Square Garden. Bowe enters at 38-1, 32 KOs, while the Polish Golota is 28-0, 25 KOs. ... TNT (Prime Cable Channel 18) will air a pair of Dream Team exhibitions, including today's 5 p.m. tilt in Phoenix against the Chinese Olympic Team. It also will show Friday's 5 p.m. contest against the Australian Olympians in Salt Lake City. ... Next Tuesday, ESPN (Prime Cable Channel 19) will broadcast the three-hour "SportsCenter Special: Olympic Preview" at 4:30 p.m.