It's last call for two eras in St. Louis sports broadcasting Sunday. Jay Randolph's long play-by-play career apparently comes to an end, and free telecasts as part of the Cardinals' local television package also conclude.
Randolph, who has been the over-the-air TV voice of the Cardinals for 21 seasons split over two stints, said he's willing to continue. But there simply will be no more work for him when the approximately 20 games that KSDK (Channel 5) has been televising the past four seasons move next year to Fox Sports Midwest, which has its own broadcasters. FSM will add the KSDK games to the roughly 130 contests it has been showing in recent years.
"It's not that I'm retiring, I'm being phased out," Randolph said, smiling. "I've been phased out in my career before. I'm grateful to have been able to do these games the last four years."
He had a 17-year stint in the Cards' TV booth that ended after the 1987 season when the station lost the local rights, but was brought back in 2007 when KSDK got its small part of the TV pie.
The Cards have had locally produced games on so-called "free TV" since the 1940s, but the move next year means the only over-the-air telecasts will be the eight or so games Fox carries on a regional basis (locally on KTVI, Channel 2).
That will keep the local telecasts away from the roughly 11 percent of area homes that don't buy cable or satellite as the Cards join a national trend of migration of sports to these outlets. Despite substantially higher ratings on KSDK than FSM, cable outlets can pay more for rights. They generate subscriber fees, unlike over-the-air stations.
"We feel now is the time," Cards President Bill DeWitt III said when the decision was made. And Randolph concurs.
"It's the way the business is going," he said. "A lot of people have said to me, 'We're really going to miss it.' But it was inevitable."
Randloph, 76, was a fixture on NBC in the 1970s and '80s, doing golf, NFL, bowling and many other sports while also serving as Channel 5's sports director as part of a 52-year broadcasting career. He won't disappear after Sunday. He still does the "Randolph Report" on KFNS (590 AM) and said he'd like to stay involved with the Cards in some capacity.
But he'll go out of his current role with a flourish. He's set to throw out the ceremonial first pitch — to longtime partner and buddy Mike Shannon — before Saturday's game. Then on Sunday he'll do what figures to be the final big-league broadcast.
"A lot of thoughts and memories probably will come, but that's true of about every game I've done" recently, he said. "I'm here to do the game, it's not about me. I might say something thanking fans for watching on KSDK, but that probably will be about it."
Matt Winer is about to assume one of the most prominent positions of his career, host of TBS' postseason baseball coverage that begins Wednesday. The network will have all the first-round games, plus the American League Championship Series. The rest of the playoffs will be on Fox.
"It's huge," he said of the assignment. "There aren't many people doing studio shows in the postseason."
Winer, a 1987 Hazelwood West High graduate, replaced Trey Wingo as the No. 3 man in KSDK's sports department after Wingo left for ESPN in 1997. Winer also went to ESPN, in 2001, and spent nine years there in prominent roles, including hosting "SportsCenter'' and NBA programming. That led him in January to NBA TV, which is run by TBS parent company Turner Broadcasting.
Ernie Johnson had been TBS' postseason baseball host, but he has the lead play-by-play job this year because Chip Caray and the network parted ways.
Winer had discussed the baseball job when he was interviewing for the NBA position and said he was hopeful when Johnson moved to play-by-play.
"But you never know what the boss is thinking," he said.
The boss' thinking led to Winer, a self-described "low-key guy" whose strengths include providing context, into the spotlight. And when the baseball assignment ends, he'll quickly move to NBA mode. He finds it interesting he has become tied to that league after growing up in a town that doesn't have a franchise. But he grew up a fan, having posters of NBA stars in his room in a city where most kids were fawning over the Cardinals and the Blues.
"I've never been entirely clear how that happened," he said. "But basketball was the game I played the most."
But for the next few weeks, he'll be in the baseball biz.