By SHARON GINN
© St. Petersburg Times, published June 9, 2001
As he takes over television play-by-play duties for the Mutiny today, Larry Hirsch said he knows the pressure is on.
Not because it's his first job with a local team since the Lightning dismissed him in the summer of 1999. No, it's because people are telling Hirsch that if anyone can lift the Mutiny out of its doldrums, he can.
At least he'll give the viewers a boost. Hirsch won a loyal following during six years as Lightning announcer, a tenure punctuated by breathless play-calling and enthusiastic cries of Yessir! whenever the Lightning scored. His work during the 1995-96 playoff season was the most memorable, for him and the fans.
Hirsch never has worked for a truly successful franchise, so his high-energy style won't help the Mutiny on the field. But it's doing some big things for his career.
He said he was unable to find a job for the 1999-2000 hockey season because of the timing of the Lightning firing, but ESPN grabbed him last season to call several games, including Game 3 of the Dallas-Edmonton playoff series in April in Edmonton.
"It was so much fun to be a part of; it was so loud in that building," he said. "I really enjoyed working with (ESPN), and that really gave me a lot of confidence in doing television."
The Mutiny telecasts -- there will be seven, all road games on Sunshine -- will be another way to hone his small-screen skills.
"I have real affection for this town," Hirsch said. "What the (Lightning fans) did for my family and for me will never be forgotten. ... That's why I'm glad I live here, and I'm just really excited that I'm able to do this. If I can in any way lend some excitement and make it fun to watch the Mutiny, then that's great. And this town deserves it."
PERMANENT REPLACEMENTS: After some tinkering with the lineup, a few things have solidified at WQYK-AM 1010. Ronnie Lane, for years a mainstay at Q-105 (WQYK-FM), partners with Scot Brantley during afternoon drive time. Lane stepped in two weeks ago when 1010 dismissed Brantley's partner, Tom Korun. Lane also will take Korun's place during WQYK's Bucs radio broadcasts.
Operations manager Eric Logan also said the 10 a.m.-1 p.m. lineup is set, with Replacement Show hosts Brent Tearson and Kevin "Mr. Excitement" Wuster no longer in danger of being ... well, replaced.
Both shows have some growing to do. Lane is a well-known local voice who doesn't yet seem at ease in a sports-talk role; still, his chemistry with Brantley demonstrates the pairing has promise.
Tearson and Wuster are young, goofy and erratic -- which, to hear Logan tell it, is part of their charm. Maybe so, but now is the time for both to test the limits and learn them. It's fine to digress from mainstream sports talk when the alternative is to analyze the Rays. But when Bucs season begins, the tone of sports radio in this market will change from aimlessness to urgency and Tearson and Wuster must be ready to respond.
FINE TUNING: Sunshine will rerun the Lightning's first playoff victory (April 18, 1996, at Philadelphia) at 7 p.m. Tuesday as part of the Lightning Flashback series. ... Olympic sprint champion Marion Jones, also a two-time basketball All-American at North Carolina, joins NBC as a courtside reporter for WNBA games. She debuts at 3 p.m. Sunday. ... In the Why Didn't They Think of That Before? department, ESPN announced that its "Bottom Line" score/headline scroll has been adjusted so that after commercial breaks, it picks up in the same place it left off before the commercial. ... ABC has extended its agreement with the Citrus Bowl through 2006.