With TV deal incomplete, O's wheeling, dealing not confined to field


November 26, 1993|By RAY FRAGER

If you're in a family of Orioles fans, baseball talk may have dominated yesterday's Thanksgiving dinner.

How much better is the rotation with Sid Fernandez? Is Eddie Murray coming back? Can the O's really get Andy Benes? Why doesn't Aunt Flo stop Cousin Mikey from sticking peas up his nose?

Hey, you can't talk baseball all the time.

In any case, many fans are waiting for The Big Deal. Meanwhile, though not as many people may be waiting for it, another Orioles Big Deal is waiting to be consummated -- the club's new television contract.

Broadcasting folks involved in the deal keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. During the wait, that shoe has changed from a summer sandal to a winter snow boot. (And while you're here, could we interest you in these soft leather loafers, on sale this week?)

In June, after Channel 2 had dropped out of negotiations to retain Orioles rights, the new TV format began to take shape: continued cable coverage by Home Team Sports and a split of the over-the-air telecasts between channels 13 and 54.

Later, more details leaked out: Rights would be owned by HTS, which would produce all telecasts. ABC affiliate Channel 13 would carry weekend games, thus not disrupting network prime-time shows, and independent Channel 54 would have weekday telecasts. What made the deal even cozier is that HTS and Channel 13 are under the Westinghouse corporate umbrella (and we have several styles of corporate umbrellas that you could check out after you look over those loafers . . .).

By late August, the talk from HTS, WJZ and WNUV was that the television contract would be completed any day. But the wait continued. At first, it seemed just a matter of Peter Angelos formally taking control as new owner of the Orioles. But the changing of the suits took place, and still no deal.

Earlier this month, Angelos said he wasn't comfortable with some aspects of the television deal. And there certainly have been many other aspects of the Orioles for him to deal with -- pursuing free agents, checking over trades, rearranging the front office.

Still, the word from broadcasting insiders -- the outsiders never seem to be near a phone -- is that they again anticipate a new contract soon. And the deal could deliver a bonus for Orioles fans: every game on television. Last season, HTS and Channel 2 combined to carry about 140 games.

What's the holdup? Here's a guess: money. In 1993, combined local television rights were worth a reported $8.9 million to the Orioles. The broadcasting economy may not support a large increase, so maybe the club and HTS are working out their version of the national baseball contract. Under such an arrangement, the rights fee would be supplemented by a split of advertising revenue after it reaches a certain level.

In the meantime, we wait. And contemplate Andy Benes. And wonder if we're really related to Cousin Mikey.

Back to the Toddlin' Town

When NFL owners reconvene near Chicago Tuesday, Baltimore's radio and television strike force will return to send back the news on an expansion team.

The lineups may be slightly different from when owners decided not to decide on the 30th franchise on Oct. 26, but the numbers are the same. Everybody plans to break into regular programming when the announcement comes.

* Channel 2: sports anchor Scott Garceau and reporter Lou Davis. No special planned.

* Channel 11: sports anchor Gerry Sandusky and reporter Frank Graff. A half-hour special at 7 p.m. or 11:30 p.m., depending on when the announcement comes.

* Channel 13: news anchor Denise Koch and reporter Alex Demetrick. A half-hour special at 5 p.m., 8 p.m. or 11:30 p.m.

* Channel 45: sports anchor Bruce Cunningham and sports reporter Drew Sullins. No special planned.

On the radio end, WBAL (1090 AM) sports-talk linebacker Stan White and WCBM (680 AM) sports-talk punter Stan "The Fan" Charles will be on hand. Charles' Monday and Tuesday night shows will originate from the meetings site, and White will do a Tuesday program from there.

WBAL's regular sports-talk host, Jeff "Hmm, Interesting" Rimer, won't be headed to Illinois. Rimer has a hockey play-by-play assignment, and he said on the air this week that, if it were up to him, all Baltimore media would stay away from the meetings because our town is going to get shafted by the NFL.

Now, Jeff, you wouldn't say that just because you're not going, would you?

1-2-3, ugh

ESPN2 wants you to do penance for all that you ate yesterday. The channel is running a five-hour fitness-programming block beginning at 7 a.m. today (like I believe you're reading this before 7). . . . Speaking of ESPN2, Saturday's abbreviated "SportsNight" after the Towson State-Massachusetts basketball game seemed a lot less concerned with being oh-so-hip. Maybe because there was less time for the usual foolishness, co-anchor Keith Olbermann was more in his old ESPN mode, and his humor was a lot less forced as the show ran through the sports news of the day.

ESPN will have a television first: the live announcement of the NFL's Pro Bowl teams on Dec. 28 at 7:30 p.m. The official name of the show: "The ESPN Pro Bowl Selection Show Presented by Radio Shack." Does each Pro Bowl pick get free membership in the Battery of the Month Club?

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