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Fox Will Return To Normal Wrigley Center-Field Camera For NLCS

This is good news for TV viewers.

cubs cardinals screenshot 9/23 game

Maybe Fox Sports executives saw my article from a couple days ago critical of their center-field camera angle during the Wrigley Field division series games.

That sounds like boasting, but maybe it isn’t -- in the Tribune, Phil Rosenthal wrote that in part because of complaints heard on social media and elsewhere, Fox is going back to the normal Wrigley Field center-field camera shot when the Cubs take the field Saturday for the National League Championship Series:

With the start of the National League Championship Series on Saturday, Fox will go back to using the lower, off-center camera position in center at Wrigley Field. That’s what fans are accustomed to seeing from Wrigley and the one they made clear via social media and elsewhere that they preferred.

“We listened to what was going on,” Mike Davies, Fox Sports’ senior vice president of field and technical operations, said before the Cubs closed out their divisional playoff Tuesday in San Francisco. “We decided we’re just going to move it back. … The tradeoffs weren’t worth it.“

Whether the complaints were fueled by the new camera position itself, Fox’s use of it, viewer aesthetics and resistance to change, or some other factor doesn’t matter as much as the vehemence of the complaints.

Thank you, Fox executives. As Rosenthal points out in his article, there are challenges for TV networks to find camera positions in a ballpark that was built decades before television was even invented.

But TV executives would be wise to remember that the center-field camera shot we now take for granted was invented right here in Chicago, by WGN-TV. Back in the early days of televised baseball, TV producers and directors always assumed that the best view of the pitcher and batter was from overhead -- the behind-the-plate upper deck shot. But in 1954, WGN televised some Little League games from Thillens Stadium on the North Side. Because of the tight quarters there and no place to put a camera behind the plate, they installed one in center field.

They quickly discovered that this shot was like gold -- it clearly showed movement on pitches, the pitcher and the batter in their confrontation, and zoom lenses made the action far more close-up than with the overhead shot. When they began using this at Wrigley Field, it was quickly copied by other local and national baseball telecasters.

Just to review, here’s the comparison between the “high” shot Fox (via its cable network FS1) was using for the division series games last week:

And, the “normal” center-field shot used by local channels for Cubs home games:

cubs cardinals screenshot 9/23 game

No doubt, the local shot is better. Rosenthal’s article makes this point:

Davies wants it known, however, that Fox Sports was just trying to reproduce a straight-on camera angle of home plate common around the league, minimizing blockage by players.

This is valid, but I think you can see that the local shot shows you everything better, even though there can be partial blockage of some players in the lefthanded batter’s box.

Thank you, Fox, for listening.