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Game Day
Written June 4, 1988


Background:  From 1987 through 1993, I traveled around the country working on baseball telecasts for KDKA-TV and its Pirates Television Network.  I was the Chyron electronic graphics operator.  (If you don't know what that means, see the article "What Is It Again That You Do?")

I managed to work almost all the games.  However, there was always the possibility that someday someone would have to substitute for me, so I wrote out sets of detailed instructions.  (You'll find excerpts below, highlighted in green.)  There were also lists of where on the disk to find each graphic.

Jerry Schad (right) had shown me how to run the Chryon back in 1982.  Here he stands outside Three Rivers Stadium with John Wrobel, April 11, 2000.

This photo is in 3D, a stereoscopic anaglyph.  For the 3-dimensional effect, view it with a red filter over your left eye and a cyan (blue-green) filter over your right eye.

In 1988, there was no question that I would need a substitute, because I was headed to Korea for the Summer Olympics.  Jerry Schad would travel with the Pirates in my place.

I decided to augment my technical explanations with the following hour-by-hour rundown of what Jerry would be expected to do on a typical day.


In 1989, the MGM was "folded" on the left and called Pribbon.
605, 020 020, 030 030 030, 040 040, 050 050, 060 060, 605


From a newspaper, get the page that shows the baseball standings and tonight's schedule.

Note the starting pitchers for the Pirates and their opponents.  If you have press guides, write down the following facts about these pitchers:  height, weight, age, hometown (either "born" or "resides"), and major-league won-lost record, innings pitched, and earned runs.  You'll need all these facts later.

Also try to dig out an interesting "hero note" about each pitcher.



Check with the producer about what graphics will be in tonight's show.  We don't actually use all our standard graphics in every broadcast, so there's no need to prepare "Tonight in Baseball" if it's not on tonight's broadcast.  However, Bill will probably have some special full-page panels in mind.

The KDKA telecasts were directed by Lonnie Dale (left) and produced by Bill Shissler (right).

These images, from June 10, 1989,   come from a videotape of the half-hour documentary Close Up:  A Pirate Broadcast, by Thomas P. Concannon.

Click here for more pictures from this period.



You arrive at the truck about five hours before air time.

Also arriving were other members of the crew, often including local cameramen Lanny McKeegan (left) and Stan Sobolak (right).

Audio engineer Brad Sheldon (center), from Texas, traveled around the country for KDKA games with Lonnie, Bill, and me.

The engineer in charge of this particular mobile unit was Don Karcher (left).

If the truck hasn't done a KDKA game lately, or if you aren't sure, first restore the MGM graphic "Plaque" from floppy to hard disk.

There are a few backgrounds that come not from the still store but from the Chyron itself.  These are of two types, stripes and MGM.

Background stripes follow this color pattern:  000 604 503 000 600, 400 400 400 400 400 400 400, 300 000 604 503 000.

An MGM rectangle named Plaque has the same colors, but is squared off at the ends.

To simplify operation, Plaque is the only MGM graphic used.  But we do move it around the screen.  Its normal position is behind a lower-third player name.  Autodisplays (like 0002 or 2270) may slide it up or down for other applications.

Next, I customarily copy two message-disk floppies into the hard disk, although this is optional.  I copy the disk from our last broadcast into drive B, and the disk labeled with tonight's opponent into drive A.

Drive A is the one that's used during the game.  From drive B, we can get panels (such as promos) that we used last time and will be using again tonight.

Finally, load the system disk (autoload 1).

The "a" in a0019 indicates that this is an autodisplay, a prerecorded function that plays back multiple keystrokes to perform specific tasks.

Select drive A and call up a0019 to set the system edge, etc.

Check out a few of the other messages to make sure everything's in order.



You've brought the newspaper.  Bill will give you several other sources of information as they become available to him.

There's the manila folder which contains a Chyron List with promos and contests and such.  By the way, ignore the addresses on this list; some are correct but others are outdated.

There are the MLB-IBM Stats, several familiar pages of computer printout.

There are the lineups for the two teams.

And there are the printed Game Notes from each team's PR office.

As each of these sources is delivered to you, you can create various panels from it.  Here's the priority:  Panels that will be recorded on still-store or pre-taped in the afternoon should be prepared first, so as not to delay the pre-production process.  Panels that will be keyed in live during the game should be prepared last.



From the Chyron List, the high priorities are 1430 Stadium Dimensions (which should already be on the disk), 2000+ Promos, and 2180 Next TV Game.The low priorities include the following.

1405 Locator and 1412 Teams should already be on the disk, as should the scoreboards at 0040, 0048, and 0055.

Bill will tell you the amount for 2160, the first Home Run Sweepstakes contestant.  The second, at 2166, is $100 more, and the third, at 2173, is $100 more than that.


Call up a0033 to read on the quiz.  Retype the question (with a record mark at the end) and the four answers (with record marks on each row).  Record the question at 1775 and the answers at 1782 through 1788.  Call up a0033 again to make sure everything works.

Next, call up the answer panel from 1790.  With the cursor on the third row, pop in the question from 1775; delete the record mark.  Type in the correct answer.  Record the whole thing back at 1790 and check it.


Here I am at the Chyron 4100 keyboard, looking up my own stats.

Nowadays, a "graphics coordinator" finds all the stats and merely tells the Chyron operator what to type.

But on the KDKA telecast, there was no graphics coordinator.  I found myself doing both jobs, coordinating as well as operating.

Because I could do the work of two people, it was cost-effective for KDKA to fly me (or Jerry) around the country to all their telecasts.  Nowadays, the coordinator gets to travel, but the operator is usually hired locally.

Another advantage of sending me on the road:  unlike operators in other cities, I was already familiar with the details of the Pittsburgh show.  This meant that Lonnie and Bill didn't have to take time to instruct me each day.



When the stats arrive, refer to your notes on the two starting pitchers.  Add your press-guide numbers for career W, L, IP and ER to the current-season numbers to get new totals.  Calculate the updated career ERA (= 9 x ER / IP) for each starter.

Armed with these numbers, create 0480 and 0880 Lifetime Stats.  Consult with Bill as to what hero note he wants to use for each pitcher, and create 0470 and 0870 Starting Pitcher.

Next find the stats pages headed National League Batting (and Pitching) Departmental Leaders.  Consider only those departments in which the Pirates or tonight's opponent are represented among the ten leaders.  Pick the most useful eleven departments to be made into NL Leaders panels (1800 through 1900).

To begin, call up 1800.  Say that it turns out to be Runs Batted In, and RBI is in fact one of the eleven departments you want to use.  It will be easiest to move and retype the existing names and numbers right here, and then re-record 1800.

Let's say the RBI stats are as follows:






























By checking the Team Batting/Pitching pages, you discover that one of those three players who are tied with 38 RBI is Murphy of Atlanta, whom we're playing tonight.

We have room for only five players, not ten.  We'll choose Bonilla, Van Slyke, and Murphy because they're here, and Davis because he shares the league lead.  That leaves room for one other player, and the most deserving is Brunansky.

Davis and Bonilla are tied for #1.  Brunansky is next at #3.  Van Slyke is #9, and Murphy is among those tied at #10.

So, putting the Buc first, our Chyron panel looks like this:


BONILLA  Pittsburgh



DAVIS  Houston






VAN SLYKE  Pittsburgh



MURPHY  Atlanta


Pittsburgh is in yellow, Atlanta in blue or red, and other cities in gray (the "green" key).  Often you'll have to abbreviate the cities.

All of the above is high priority, because stills will be made from the Starting Pitcher, Lifetime Stats, and NL Leader panels.  Lower priority uses which you can make of the stats include:

0100 Batting Averages for every player.  Of course, this is lower priority only in the sense of scheduling your afternoon time; it still has to be done before we go on the air.

0300, 0305 Pitching Stats, two panels for every pitcher.

a2270 Team Stats bar graphs if you have time.

The bar graphs could be calculated with the help of a small silver computer, seen here resting in the middle of the Chyron keyboard.

For more about this versatile tool, click here.


Director Lonnie Dale has arrived by now, and the tape room is ready to start pre-production.  Lonnie will want to store (as stills) the panels I've described as high priority.  Each Chryon panel is keyed over another still-store background, and sometimes a player's face is added from the DVE.

About now is when Bill gets the starting lineups.  This allows you to build a number of other stills, at Lonnie's direction.

1450 and 1470 are the batting orders.  Use the space bar and repeat key to wipe out all the names and positions except the leadoff hitter's; retype that one if necessary.  A composite still will be recorded.  Type in the second hitter; use a0007 to stretch the blank space to the right of his position (if you don't do this on each row, you won't be able to re-record the panel in its allotted space when you're done).  And so on.

After all nine names have been typed in and all nine stills recorded, re-record the panel where you got it.  1460 and 1480 Defense are also typed and still-stored.

Cleveland's Brian Johnson is also a graphics operator, but on this show he was operating the Abekas still store.



Now most of the crew gets a supper break, but the Chryon operator usually doesn't because there's more to be done.

Since you now know the lineups, you can make out your scorecard.  After each starter's name, note his stolen bases (SB) and attempts (SB + CS), so that you'll have these numbers later to use with a0022.

Type the home team's 1-2-3 hitters into 0062 Due-Ups.

Use a0909, if you wish, to make 0fers for the 18 starters.  Record them at 0910, 0915, ..., 0095.

From your newspaper, set up the scores of other games (1650 through 1690) and maybe the NL standings (1500 and 1515).

If "Today in Baseball" is to be used, set up 1530 through 1640.  These are one panel per game.  If there's a final score in the game, show it and the winning and losing pitchers and their records.  If the game hasn't finished or hasn't even started, just list the teams, the starting pitchers with their records, and the game time (EDT).  These panels, which you've delayed making in order to get those final scores, will be put on still store before air time.

Fill in our game's pitcher names (and records) on 1700 Box Summary, 1730 Pitcher Comp, and 0495 and 0895 Pitching Line.  If you have time to do this now, it will save time later.

Check to make sure that your name is at 2217 in the credits.  If you re-record it, make sure the next address is 2220.

And don't forget the other "low-priority" items you've been putting off.



The crew comes back from supper to pre-tape some interviews.  Call up 0093 Hardball Insider on channel 1 and type the name of each guest as he shows up.  Meanwhile, continue loading on channel 2.

Jack Sedlak (left) and Wayne Weaver work in the blue glow of the truck's video tape room.

The Game Notes should be out by now.  I haven't been using them for much, maybe just heroes on a couple of players.  We're trying to avoid the routine "five-game hitting streak" type of notes.  Bill does like to use "Batting .400 with runners in scoring position" when there are runners in scoring position.

Bill may ask for 0470 or 0870 to be redone if the talent has found a better hero note on a pitcher.



Next, the talent will pre-tape the opening segment of the show.  All you need to do is call up their names, e.g., 0073 John Sanders and 0078 Color.  But if Color has been typed as Steve Blass and the actual color man is Jim Rooker, you'll have to retype 0070, 0075, 0078, 0080, and 0085.

Jim Rooker (left) and Lanny Frattare in the booth at Three Rivers.

There were two color analysts, Rooker and Steve Blass.  One would do radio and the other TV.  The next day, they'd switch places.

There were also two play-by-play announcers, Frattare and John Sanders.  One would start a game on radio and the other on TV.  In the fifth inning, they'd switch places.

Lonnie then will rehearse the opening segment.  You have two autodisplays here:  a0030 Opening Sequence coming out of the billboards, and a0031 Animate OnDeck going into the commercial break.

Rehearsing the opening sequence should remind you to get the actual weather conditions and record them at 1420 Weather, since that's the third panel of this sequence.  How to get the conditions varies from city to city; there may be a phone number you can call, or when the AD returns to the booth maybe she can tell you the temperature.



With the director, record any stills which are still pending; for example, "Today in Baseball."

Find out the umpires' names (from the AD or the scorecard) and record them at 1440.  Check out 0032 Animate Umps, which works on channel 1 only.

At this point in the “Close Up” documentary, the narrator said, “Meanwhile, preparations continue for the most intense moment of the broadcast.”

BRAD SHELDON:  The opening.

LONNIE DALE:  The open.

BILL SHISSLER:  The open is always very intense.

BRAD:  No matter how long you’ve been doing this, no matter what sport it is or whatever you do, it’s the opening.

BILL:  Because there are so many extra things to get in.

LONNIE:  From the video tease that we’re playing back, and the game open that we’re playing back, and getting the lineups all set to go and the talent all set to go, the open has a lot of pressure to it.

BRAD:  It's like “30 seconds,” you know, and everything’s quiet, and you go to black, and they start the countdown, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6 ... and at 0, you bring everything up, and if it's not there, it’s like AAUGH!

LONNIE:  Because it’s the kickoff of the broadcast, and you want it to be right.

DON KARCHER:  Once we’re on the air, I usually sit back and relax.


Now comes the easy part.  We're on the air!  Do the opening segment as previously rehearsed.



Come back from the first break with 1405 Locator.

Soon thereafter, the director will go to a sequence of stills to introduce the lineups.  Your next Chyron is usually the two lower-third stats panels on the home team's starting pitcher.

Umpires and/or coaches may follow if there's time.  Remember that a0032 for the umps has to be called up on channel 1, so you can't preview it while the pitcher's stats are still on the air.

Then the first batter is at the plate.  Use his batting average.  Don't be surprised if you don't get this in until the third pitch because the telecast was behind schedule and you were still airing the starting pitcher's stats during the first two pitches.

My usual rotation on the batters is as follows.  First time up:  batting average.  Second time:  a hero note if available, otherwise "0 for 1/Struck Out."  Third time:  updated batting average, supplied by the AD.  Fourth time:  "1 for 3/Singled in 3rd Inning."  Fifth time:  updated batting average.

If there's a hit or an error, update the scoreboards in this priority:  0055, 0048, 0040.  But when a run scores, I usually do 0048 first so that Lonnie can get it on the air right away.  (He will also use 0048 occasionally during longer innings just to update the viewers tuning in.)

If there has been scoring in the inning, call up the appropriate panel from the 1910-through-1995 area and type in the details.  Re-record this panel where you got it.

For pictures and more details, see another article on this website called I Invented the Fox Box.

Autodisplay 0002 ("BSOR") invites you to type in the Balls, Strikes, and Outs, and then to hit a color key representing the Runners on base.  This autodisplay makes use of various subpalettes in which the three bases are colored either green (same as the diamond) or white.

With no runners on 1st and 2nd, hit RED.  With a runner on 1st, hit MAGENTA; on 2nd, hit BLUE.  With runners on both 1st and 2nd, hit CYAN.  (You'll want to put a strip of tape under those four color keys to label them 0, 1, 2, and 1+2.)  If, however, there is a runner on 3rd base, use autodisplay 0003 instead; it calls up a different set of subpalettes but otherwise operates the same way.

Once you've used 0002 or 0003 and the pitcher throws another pitch, the easiest way to update the balls-and-strikes count is with 0004.



When the ball is hit for what should be the third out, abandon whatever else you might be doing and call up a0006 on channel 1.  Wait for Lonnie's "Wipe it!" to hit the space bar.  Five seconds after that, we should go to black.

You'll find that the cursor is waiting for you to replace "Mid 1st" with "End 1st" and then to re-record 0055.  Then go over to channel 2, where the cursor is likewise ready for you to type the due-ups and then to re-record 0062.

If there was scoring in the inning, at this point Lonnie may want to record the How They Scored still, so give him the panel you recorded in 1910-1995 on channel 1.  After that, give him 0040 (properly updated and re-recorded) on channel 1.

On channel 2, change the inning on 0048.  Listen to the producer for what you should call up on channel 2 after that.



Coming back from break, Lonnie will almost always use 0040.  This could be followed by a still, or by a Chyron like 1400 Copyright (also known as Disclaimer), 2160 Home Run Sweepstakes (also known as Giant Eagle), a0033 Quiz (also known as Equibank Challenge), or 0080 (for a change of announcers).

In fonts 1 through 4, pressing the = key gives you a number-width space.  This is wider than the ordinary space; it's as wide as a numerical digit, so it works better in columns of numbers.

There are other number-width characters in the four unmarked keys (lower case):





The “ ] ” here is a “leading one,” shifted to the right of its allotted area.  Use it in tabulated multi-digit numbers where the first digit is a one, and you won't have to adjust character spacing.

In particular, on scoreboards the runs/hits/errors are typed =0=0=0 to begin the game (using no ordinary spaces).  After 5 runs, 10 hits, and an error, they should read =5 ] 0=1.  Use of the “leading one” will make this look right.

We avoid lower-case letters.  Instead, many words get their initial letter from one font and the rest from the next smaller font, all in caps.  Ordinals like 1ST and 2ND follow this same pattern.  For convenience, in fonts 1 and 2 we've provided small capitals ST ND RD TH in lower case.



We rarely worry about putting out-of-town scores on the Chyron.  They aren't sponsored, and the announcers tend to give scores whenever they feel like it (rather than whenever the Chyron's ready).  But you have the teams loaded and can update the scores if asked.

Since you missed dinner, Bill will have the runner get you a hot dog or something.


As the game nears an end, get 1700 ready.  This is known as the Summary Graphic.  Bill and the AD can help you confirm the winning pitcher, left on base, etc.

When the Player of the Game has been chosen (usually about the end of the eighth inning), get 0096 ready.  During a commercial break, this will be used to build a still of tonight's star.


At the final out, call up a0069 on channel 1.  After a few seconds, you'll notice that channel 2 is set up for you to re-record 2220 Final Score; just hit the record button.


During the commercial break, update 0040 and put it on Channel 1.  The post-game segment also usually includes 1700 Summary Graphic, plus sometimes an interview.



Then it's time for the announcer to read the final card.

The first Chyron in the closing sequence is 2190 Next TV Game.  Then announcer then says "The executive producer . . . " and you switch hot to 2220.  Follow along with the rest of the credits; the last one is your name from 2217.  That's followed immediately by another hot change to 2220 Final Score, which is used again following the billboards.  And we're off the air.



John Sanders may feed some news clips back to KDKA after the broadcast.  Then you can put up 1750 Goodnight with the appropriate time.

You may want to reset your scoreboards to zeroes for the next game.  This should be easy if they're properly backed up.  Call up the backup 2348 and record it at 0048, and so on.

When you're done, you should copy your messages from hard disk drive A (which you've been using) back to the floppy disk marked with tonight's opponent (so we'll have those messages for future games).

Then reload the system disk and park the hard disk drive.



Other crew members also spend hours preparing for the telecast, of course.  That includes the announcers.  Here is Ken Levine in 2016 describing his game day routine (scroll down to Cliff's question).




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