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Santos facing uncertainty

Health problem clouds the future

By Chad Finn
Globe Staff / April 13, 2012
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Gil Santos told his bosses at 98.5 The Sports Hub and CBS Radio following Super Bowl XLVI in February that he wanted to return in the fall for a 36th season of calling Patriots games on the radio. But a serious health scare may prevent him from doing so.

Santos has been battling a severe case of pneumonia for much of the winter. According to industry sources, Santos, a longtime smoker who turns 72 Monday, was in such dire condition at one point that he lost feeling in his extremities and had to be put in a medically induced coma. He is currently rehabilitating at a facility in Stoughton.

While he has made some progress in his recovery, it remains to be seen whether he will be able to return to the booth once the football season begins. Training camp opens in less than four months, and the Patriots’ preseason opener against the Saints is scheduled for the second week of August.

CBS Radio, which owns Patriots radio rights-holder 98.5 The Sports Hub, has not made any formal decisions on the status of Santos and analyst Gino Cappelletti. The standard procedure in recent springs has been for Santos and Cappelletti, who have teamed for the past 21 years and 28 overall, to meet with CBS Boston vice president Mark Hannon and vice president of programming Mike Thomas to determine their immediate future.

CBS Radio has consistently treated Santos and Cappelletti with respect, essentially letting them decide each year whether to return. This year, it’s more complicated. Cappelletti’s retirement is believed to be a formality, with Scott Zolak, a standout in an enhanced, innovative sideline role last year, moving into the booth.

If Santos is well enough to handle the job - and his health problems became evident late in the 2011 regular season - it is expected that CBS Radio would accede to his wish to return for at least this year.

CBS Radio, the sources said, intends to give Santos as much time as possible to progress in his recovery before turning to an alternate plan.

But the season is not so far away. If he cannot return, CBS Radio would conduct a national search for a replacement, rather than immediately turn the microphone over to a familiar local voice such as Gary Tanguay, the host of the Patriots’ pregame and postgame programming on The Sports Hub, or John Rooke, the Gillette Stadium public address announcer who has a lengthy résumé of play-by-play work and is believed to be Santos’s preference as his eventual successor.

Bayless’s tall tale

Line of the week goes to ESPN’s Jalen Rose, who called out “First Take’’ antagonist Skip Bayless for greatly exaggerating his high school basketball exploits.

It began when Bayless’s basketball knowledge was called into question by Kevin Durant, among others, after he criticized Thunder guard Russell Westbrook.

In a ridiculous attempt to enhance his credibility, Bayless compared Westbrook’s electric and sometimes out-of-control style of play to . . . his own. In high school.

Some people never close the yearbook. Others, like Bayless, mentally revise it.

Tweeted Bayless: “Tall for 9th grade, chosen MVP of state-wide basketball camp over several future D1 players. Decided I was [Pistol Pete] Maravich. Coach disagreed.’’

Naturally, such a claim by an incurable instigator sent plenty of Google sleuths into overdrive. And lo and behold, the suspicion that Bayless was exaggerating was confirmed, and then some.

It was the Oklahoma City-based website TheLostOgle.com that dug up the 1969 and ’70 yearbooks for the Northwest Classen (Okla.) High, Bayless’s alma mater.

It turned out he wasn’t kidding that he played. Just about how much, and how well. He scored 21 points - total - in 15 games as a senior.

Which brings us back to Rose, and his barb.

“Did you average 1.4 points per game in high school,’’ he asked.

Bayless nodded and said he did.

“Well, all of that Pistol Pete stuff? [You’re] ‘Water Pistol Pete Jr.’ ’’

It was a line so sharp that it appeared, possibly for the first time, that Bayless wished the camera were not on him. And it’s a nickname that is sure to stick longer than any Bayless might have had in high school.

NESN, Ch. 4 will share

NESN and Channel 4 announced a content-sharing partnership that begins with the Red Sox home opener Friday. NESN will provide live shots for Channel 4’s newscasts, and NESN will feature Channel 4’s meteorologists in its weather reports. Perhaps the best part of the deal is that sports anchor Dan Roche, an affable voice of reason, will appear as a regular guest on NESN’s pregame programming . . . With the Red Sox giving their fans gruesome September flashbacks and the ownership group’s approval ratings at an all-time low, the timing of the new features on NESN game telecasts could not be much worse. The WEEI-like emphasis on Twitter, the constant teases to “NESN Daily,’’ and inanities such as a tour of the visiting clubhouse in Toronto all contribute to the perception, right or wrong, that baseball is no longer the priority of the franchise . . . NESN’s regular-season Bruins ratings were the highest they’ve ever had. The 4.7 average household rating was up 52 percent from last year’s 3.1 . . . Steve Fredericks, who built a strong following as a host of sports and news talk at WEEI and WMEX in Boston from the mid ’60s to the mid ’70s before moving to Philadelphia, where he became an icon, died April 7 of pancreatic cancer. He was 72.

Chad Finn can be reached at finn@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter@globechadfinn.

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