Matt Winer is mixing a little family time with work as he is making a homecoming this week while serving as host of TBS' coverage of the National League championship series between the Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers.
Winer, a 1987 Hazelwood West High graduate, has been seeing family and friends during some of his time away from the ballpark.
"It couldn't have worked out better — six weeks ago it didn't look like there was any way it would turn out this way,'' Winer said, referring to the Cardinals' large deficit in the standings.
Winer went to Mizzou and worked for several small-market television stations before returning to town to replace Trey Wingo in the KSDK (Channel 5's) sports department after Wingo moved to ESPN in 1997. Winer followed Wingo's lead, going to ESPN in 2001. He was there for nine years and filled many key roles, including hosting "SportsCenter'' and NBA programs. Then last year he moved to NBA TV, which is run by TBS parent company Turner Broadcasting, as a host. He had been doing NBA work for ESPN, so he said it "was a natural fit.
"They really went out of their way to make it easy for me when I came on board,'' Winer said. "It's been really good, we like Atlanta, we like living down there.''
And compared to the behemoth operation at ESPN, he likes the more mom-and-pop atmosphere at his current employer.
"Turner is such a different operation than ESPN, it's relatively smaller so you're working with the same people over and over and I think there's value in that,'' he said. "My role is a lot more specific. At ESPN, by necessity, you pretty much have to be a jack of all trades. You're going to wind up doing the NASCAR show eventually even if you don't do NASCAR year round. ... And obviously during 'SportsCenter' you're going to touch on virtually anything.''
He has had a mixture of assignments at Turner, too. Last fall he began anchoring postseason baseball shows and this spring he hosted NCAA Tournament coverage as Turner joined CBS in televising the event.
Now his emphasis is on baseball and Winer took some ribbing from colleagues Cal Ripken, Dennis Eckersley and David Wells before the first game in the series in St. Louis, when shots of Hazelwood West were shown with old photos of Winer superimposed on the screen, with his name spelled "Whiner'' and "Weiner."
There were a lot of yucks among the group that is together for the second year, and Winer said the familiarity has helped them gel.
"It's been good this year,'' Winer said. "I feel like the shows have been really strong. We're having a lot more fun now that we know who we are.''
Playing it straight
There's a TBS twist on the air — the host of its coverage is from St. Louis and the man describing the on-field action is Brian Anderson, the Brewers' regular-season TV play-by-play announcer.
Anderson, like Winer, has done a solid, down-the-middle job and there has been little grumbling locally about a Milwaukee guy doing the games.
"If there is a fan base that wold be a little more understanding, it would be the Cardinals' fan base,'' Anderson said. "I think they understand what I'm doing.''
St. Louis has surged in television ratings for the Cards this week after a slow start for the playoffs.
The St. Louis rating was lower than the number in the opposing team's market for the Redbirds' first six postseason games — five vs. Philadelphia in the first round and the opener of the NLCS.
But the rebound started as the Cards routed Milwaukee on Monday in Game 2 then the momentum grew Wednesday, when The Nielsen Co. says 34.3 percent of homes with a TV in the market tuned in to see the Redbirds win 4-3 to take a 2-1 lead in the series.
That was the highest Cards rating since a 51.7 figure for their World Series-clinching victory over Detroit in 2006. And the rating Wednesday was the best in St. Louis for a Game 3 of the NLCS of any of the Cards' seven appearances in the round dating to 1987 (ratings for individual contests are not available for earlier years).
And the 34.3 rating smoked the 22.5 figure in Milwaukee. Ratings for Thursday's Game 5 weren't immediately available.
All Cards postseason games thus far have aired on TBS.
In the booth
Illini-Ohio St., 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Ch. 30 • Bob Wischusen (play-by-play), Bob Davie (analysis), Heather Cox (reporter).
Rams-Green Bay, Noon Sunday, Ch. 2 • Chris Meyers (play-by-play), Tim Ryan (analysis), Jaime Maggio (reporter).