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Duo's rapport reveals third man as fifth wheel

It's nothing personal, but Bob Uecker always was a bit outside when he was teamed with Bob Costas and Joe Morgan on NBC's baseball broadcasts.

Costas and Morgan are the consummate baseball men, and Uecker was left to add some comic touches. Nice plan, but the execution was never seamless. Uecker, like Morgan, needed space to blend observations with humor.

Now the three-man booth is down to two on the network's coverage of the ALCS, and viewers, as well as Morgan, are enjoying the extra room.

"It allows me more time to talk about what I want to talk about without rushing it," Morgan said. "With three people, if you don't get something in right away, you might not get it at all.

"Bob makes sure we both have time to talk about what we want to talk about. There's a much better rhythm."

Now all NBC needs to go with the rhythm is a little upgrade. The network is rusty after not broadcasting baseball all season. Costas mistakenly credited the Braves' Andruw Jones with a home run before making a mid-sentence correction to Eddie Perez during the divisional playoffs, and the network missed a Shane Spencer home run against Texas.

"It's not like when we had the game of the week and the playoffs were an extension of that," Costas said. "About 90 percent of the time, it's like riding a bike. But there is always that 5-10 percent when the unexpected comes up that reminds you that you are a little rusty."

OVER AT FOX: Fox, in its coverage of the NLCS, continues to stick with a three-man booth of Joe Buck, Tim McCarver and Bob Brenly. Brenly, for one, likes the approach even though he's joining the Buck-McCarver pairing that has worked together all season.

"I think it's working great myself, especially with having two catchers," said Brenly, who spent his most famous years with the Giants. "You're going to get more in-depth with two catchers than you would with any other position. I know there was some concern because Joe and Tim have been working together all season, but they've both accepted me with open arms and allowed me the opportunities to make my points."

As far as the Braves bullpen that failed in Game 1 against San Diego, Brenly said Thursday afternoon that the situation was being blown out of proportion.

"I didn't think (Kerry) Ligtenberg pitched that poorly," Brenly said. "He only had a few bad pitches and unfortunately for him one just happened to be on a 3-and-1 pitch Ken Caminiti took over the fence.

"It's hard for me to second-guess Bobby Cox as far as putting together a roster. It's hard for me to second-guess anything he does. I know Braves fans would like to see a Mariano Rivera or a Trevor Hoffman, but the reality of the situation is you can't have an All-Star at every position."

BIG GAME: ESPN college football studio host Chris Fowler returns to Athens, Ga., for the Volunteers-Bulldogs clash 10 years after seeing Tennessee play Georgia in his first Southeastern Conference game as a sideline reporter. A native Midwesterner, he never had attended an SEC game but got a quick idea about what it was all about before the opening kickoff.

Right after the national anthem, an electric crowd roared and UGA, the Georgia bulldog mascot, rolled over and barfed.

"You know it's a big game when the mascot throws up," Fowler said at the Outback Bowl luncheon this week.

FINE TUNING: Steve Duemig, afternoon host on WDAE-AM 1250, will work as a co-host on ESPN radio this weekend. Jim Rome's affection for South Florida coach Seth Greenberg is so strong he actually could see Greenberg getting one of the best jobs in the country _ someday: "He would be the next UCLA coach if I had a vote." Fox will counter CBS' NFL doubleheader Sunday with the Grand Slam of Figure Skating at 4:30 p.m. Michelle Kwan, Lu Chen, Nicole Bobek, Yuka Sato and Josee Choinard are scheduled to compete. Roy Jones Jr. will be guest host on ESPN2's Friday Night Fights tonight.

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