Phillies fortunate to have Wheeler

Many Philadelphia Phillies fans appreciate the expanded presence of their teams’ games in the region thanks to WHVL-TV, and fans of any team can appreciate the approach of the Phillies’ longest-tenured broadcaster.

Analyst Chris Wheeler, the Penn State graduate who moved into the broadcast booth in 1976 before being accepting a full-time on-air position in 1977, constantly does something his counterparts across baseball – and across sports broadcasting for that matter – do not.

He looks at the monitor in the broadcast booth.

Wheeler knows baseball and the Phillies.

He’s conscious of what’s happening on the field. After a career’s worth of gameday interviews with managers (some 150 a year for the last 20 years), he knows the ins and outs of the team itself.

Still, he’s good at what he does because he worries about what people are seeing at home.

“There are people out there watching – some on 60- or 80-inch TVs – and you have to acknowledge what they’re seeing,” Wheeler says. “Too often people do not do that, or they treat a TV game like it’s a game on radio. It’s not the same.”

Wheeler knows the difference, and because he does viewers benefit. He works mostly as a TV analyst these days, but he’s done thousands of games on radio.

He’s handled both color commentary and play-by-play duties.

And in the midst of his 37th season as a Phillies broadcaster and 43rd with the team (he was public relations assistant before moving to the broadcast booth), Wheeler, 67, has no plans of slowing down.

If Wheeler ever does decide to retire, the folks who print his scorebook will know first.

He orders two new books (one for him and one for his production folks in the TV truck) in advance of each season. He used to order enough for five seasons at a time.

In recent years, that order has been pared to just two or three seasons, depending on his mood. He’s in a pretty good mood at this point, though.

“Oh, it might not be 10 this year, but it’ll be more than enough for a couple seasons,” Wheeler says.

Tuner tidbits

n Great, timely job by Steve Jones to get to Pocono Raceway for the open-wheel race there last week and talk to some interesting people. There were some nice broadcasting and racing insights from Scott Goodyear in particular. The only tough part came as a result is Jones’ weekday radio show schedule. After-the-event interviews from such events do not make great radio, but they are informative and can fill time in an otherwise slow time of the year. It’s an approach both he and Cory Giger wrestle with from time to time with guests and special events. They’re kind of stuck, but radio’s strength is timeliness and those interviews work a little less because of that. Once an event happens, the interviews become the History Channel on radio. Still, it was different, interesting stuff.

n After a lackluster start with “Venus Vs.” the Nine for IV documentary series on ESPN (nine films about female athletes and issues directed by women) rebounded this week with “Pat XO.” The profile of former Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt, who surrendered her career because of early onset dementia, was told in large part by family and friends and it was another strong example of ESPN at its documentary-making best.

Steve Sampsell covers the broadcast side of sports. He’s on Twitter @talkingtvsports, writes at online, and may be contacted at with comments and story ideas.