For Yankee Stadium Finale, ESPN Brings Fans Inside

By Carolyn Braff

The last game at Yankee Stadium on Sunday night had the feel of a playoff game in the stands and on TV, with ESPN presenting hours of multi-platform coverage leading up to the game and expanding the audio and camera coverage of the game to allow baseball fans at home a chance to get close to the action and emotion.

“We augmented our audio component [with extra microphones],” explains Tom Archer, coordinating producer for Sunday Night Baseball. “We tried to give people who might not have ever been to Yankee Stadium — or to people who had been, but couldn’t be at that game — the feeling of being at the ballpark. In and around the various vignettes and guests that we had, we really tried to play up the ambient sound of the ballpark.”

Sennheiser and Audio-Technica shotgun mics enhanced crowd sound captured from the hard cameras while mono Sennheiser shotgun mics on roving ENG cameras added audio depth. In addition extra Crown PCC 160 mics were onhand for sound effects and crowd noise down the first and thirdbase lines. CP Communications provided the audio gear.

Yankee Stadium’s support facilities are notoriously small, especially the broadcast booth, so when ESPN decided to turn its broadcast booth into a de-facto interview room, the production team had quite a challenge ahead of itself.

“Normally, we have one robotic camera so we can bring announcers Jon Miller and Joe Morgan on camera at a moment’s notice,” Archer says. “But given the fact that we were rotating guests through the booth, we augmented that with an additional robotic camera, which made an already challenging thing to do even more challenging.”

Jimmy Moore, director of Sunday Night Baseball, was able to use that second camera to create an environment in which Miller could continue to call the game, while also putting the spotlight on the booth guests, especially when the space was at its most crowded — when Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford visited the booth together.

“To take an existing booth that is generally made for two people and create an environment that would accommodate four people is a challenge,” Archer says. “It took a lot of work to make it look good and then to be able to cut it and integrate it into the show.”

Although Sunday night’s broadcast used 24 cameras instead of the normal 16-18 used for a Sunday Night Baseball game no additional setup time was required.

“We approached it as any normal Sunday night game,” Archer says. “We use NCP’s 10A and 10B units, parked early on Saturday, and after the Yankees game concluded early on Saturday afternoon we began our setup. Pre-production obviously began earlier than that, but technical setup of the stadium began after the conclusion of the game on Saturday.”

A five-year veteran of Sunday Night Baseball broadcasts, Archer has had his share of trips to Yankee Stadium, but he said Sunday night’s game stands out from the rest.

“The fact that we closed Yankee Stadium, that in and of itself is very nostalgic,” Archer says. “It was a very special telecast to be allowed to do.”

Archer generally leaves the production compound shortly after a game’s conclusion, but on Sunday night, he spent 30 minutes on the field.

“Going down to the field and looking around at all the people who were still there, I’ll never forget that,” Archer says. “All the Yankees and Orioles were scooping up dirt, trying to get their little piece of history.”

Sealing Archer’s fond memories of Sunday night’s nostalgic production was the tease that was produced to open the show, starring Yogi Berra.

“It was a magnificent piece,” Archer says of the open, which was shot August 24-26 in and around the Stadium in the Bronx. “It was an emotive piece. I’ve been doing this for 20 years and of the shows that I’ve worked on, that was the best.”

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