Monkey has nothing on Smith

The Angels may have this comeback mojo all wrong. Maybe the credit should go to Terry Smith and not Anaheim's favorite simian, the Rally Monkey.

After all, the Angels were just the other team in greater Southern California the year (2002) the radio play-by-play man arrived, one with a vexing history, casual fans and limited postseason success. Now they have a World Series win in hand, back-to-back AL West titles, and are driving interest in the 2005 postseason.

Smith arrived having spent 19 years as the voice of the Yankees' AAA farm club in Columbus, where the Clippers won six International League titles during his stay. He was also the play-by-play voice of prestigious Ohio State football and basketball from 1986 to 1997.

The Angels' good karma perhaps began when Mr. Smith came to Anaheim.

"I'm sort of used to this," Smith said from Chicago before returning for Game 3 of the ALCS tonight against the White Sox. "I've been involved with a lot of championship teams. I don't know if I'm lucky or not. I just know you never get tired of it. It's great being a part of the Angels franchise during what's become their glory years.

"When I was interviewed by (Angels' Communications Vice-President) Tim Mead for the job, he told me about the history of the franchise and how it had not enjoyed a whole lot of playoff success."

Whether he's a good luck charm or not, Smith and his partner Rory Markas have given stability and professionalism to the Angels' radio booth for the first time in more than a decade. The radio package jumped around the dial for several years in the '90s and no one since Dick Enberg and Don Drysdale were ever able to capture the fancy of fans.

Enberg is in a class by himself, but Smith, who grew up idolizing the work of Phillies great Harry Kalas and the legendary Lindsey Nelson, embraces all of the basic and necessary qualities one wants in an announcer. He calls a very clean game, he provides good insight into the team, fleshes out the personalities of the players, doesn't openly root, and handles the often difficult task of callers to the postgame show, the catch-basin of sports talk.

"I don't feel I'm the most talented guy or a know-it-all," Smith said. "But I don't know anyone who outworks me. I've been doing baseball professionally since 1977, and I like to do my homework. I like getting out to the park early and knowing the players and team and being able to talk with knowledge about the game.

"I don't have an air about myself. I'm a common guy who grew up in Philly. My mom and dad were teachers and I saw how hard my dad had to work, and he coached high school football in addition to teaching."

Smith wasn't looking for a new job when the Angels' opportunity came up. He had won several area awards and was firmly entrenched. A few major-league opportunities had come and gone, and he had decided he wasn't going to pursue any more unless he felt he would be considered a serious candidate.

The person most responsible for his arrival is another Angels' voice, the irrepressible Rex Hudler, the TV analyst on KCAL and Fox Sports West.

Smith was in his rookie season at Columbus the same time Hudler was there as a Yankees' minor leaguer. They became friends, Hudler married a local girl, and he and Smith would get together a few times each offseason.

When the Angels radio jobs became open, Hudler encouraged Smith to pursue it.

"I was reluctant," Smith said. "I didn't have family in Southern California. I was from the East Coast and my wife from the mid-south. There were a lot of reasons why I thought it wasn't the right thing to do, but Rex kept prodding me."

His meeting with Mead went extremely well, in part because Smith and Mead respected each other's loyalty. The Angels may have not enjoyed much success, but it had been a family operation under Gene Autry and Arte Moreno was determined to maintain that tone.

Mead respected Smith's loyalty for almost two decades in Columbus.

"I'd had other opportunities and stayed. There was a stretch of about 10 years there where I never applied for another job," Smith said. "Even though doing major-league baseball was my dream, I didn't feel the need to look elsewhere.

"When I met with Tim, he put me totally at ease and I felt I didn't have to put on any front. I could just be myself. And I told him that I wasn't looking at the Angels job as a stepping stone. I wanted to anchor myself and do a good enough job that I would have a long career with the Angels. if I took this job, it would be my last stop."

The Angels haven't stopped winning since he arrived, so it's safe to say he's not going anywhere soon. Why monkey around with success?

And now the news

Game 1 of the ALCS Tuesday earned a 7.7 Nielsen rating on Fox, a solid number but predictably far off the 10.0 for Game 1 in 2004 between the Yankees and Red Sox. The game did a 25.0 rating in Chicago and 17.3 in Los Angeles. Game 2, a split national telecast, earned a 9.1. Game 4 of the Angels-Yankees division series Sunday earned Fox a 9.7, up 45 percent from Fox's ALDS 2004 telecast, and Game 5 Monday posted an 8.9. ESPN also posted big ratings gains for their division telecasts, up nine percent for ESPN telecasts and 36 percent for those on ESPN2, including an all-time high of 4.1 for the White Sox-Red Sox Game 2 telecast. … Fox Sports West premieres "Crowning Moments' next Wednesday, a special one-hour documentary that reviews the network's 20 year-association with the Los Angeles Kings. Bob Miller narrates and the special is produced by Bob Borgen. … The CIF Southern Section and KCAL have agreed to televise the Division I football championship game from Home Depot Center in December, and the section has a tentative deal to televise four football playoff games and four girl's championship events on KVMD. … NBC has the USC-Notre Dame game Saturday (11:30 p.m.) with Tom Hammond and former Trojan quarterback Pat Haden in the booth. Haden, who won a pair of national titles at USC, has an interview with two-time national champ Matt Leinart that runs in two parts, in the pregame show and halftime. … Showtime has the Diego Corrales-Jose Luis Castillo II replay Saturday at 9 p.m. … NBC airs Michelle Wie's official pro debut tourney this weekend (Saturday and Sunday at 10 a.m.). … Through four weeks, CBS is averaging a 9.4 rating for its NFL telecasts, up 12 percent and better than Fox's 9.2, the first time this late into the season that CBS and the AFC package has outdrawn Fox and the NFC.