Baseball Network tough to tune in

July 15, 1994|By PHIL JACKMAN

The TV Repairman:

Even people in the business act as though you have to have a couple of advanced degrees to understand The Baseball Network's coverage of games beginning tomorrow (8 p.m.): ABC goes for the next six Saturday evenings, showing every game being played on a regional basis exclusively with a national and backup game at the top of the menu.

NBC will do the same for six weeks right up until the end of September. All these games means there figures to be too many returns to a studio where a host will update us on a game somewhere else by showing a batter hitting the ball over a left-field wall. That's the only thing that counts in baseball, y'know, home runs . . . and/or cats running onto the field.

The Yankees vs. Ken Griffey is the big game (going to about one-sixth of the country), the net probably never wandering too far from the huge New York audience. Atlanta-Florida is the backup. And what geniuses decided Saturday night was the way to go?

* Yes, the British Open is a big deal, a "major," and it would be nice if more American players arranged their schedules to be there. But for the media to constantly harp on who's not presently competing at Turnberry in Scotland without taking into account extenuating circumstances is tiresome.

For the gents who have made $9 million and are in the business of trying to capture majors, like Tom Kite, the two- to three-week hole in their schedule is no problem. To guys attempting to maintain position on the PGA money list or in need of a break after playing for seven or eight weeks, it can be an expensive waste of time so different is the style of play from the tour here.

ABC does the Open at 10 a.m. tomorrow and 9:30 a.m. Sunday after ESPN finishes off its stint today (9 a.m.). Even if you're not a golf nut, commentator Peter Alliss is worth a listen. Here's the type stuff Peter dispenses: "Forecasting is such a silly game. Fire 50 or 60 feet short [of the pin] and let things take their course."

* ABC, its coverage running a bad second to its partner ESPN's work mainly because announcers Roger Twibell, Sean Malin and Rick Davis appear as if they're conducting a Senate filibuster, has done a 4.7 rating through 10 World Cup games heading into the biggie between Brazil and Italy Sunday (3:30 p.m.) from the Rose Bowl. That's about 50 percent more than what was being predicted a month ago. ESPN scored a 2.1 with its games, many located on inaccessible ESPN2, which is twice as good as TNT four years ago.

* The Jim Palmer-John Lowenstein combo on Orioles games is excellent, the guys working in both topical and interesting talk, not just relying on the stats and what the guy did in his last at-bat.

Meanwhile, the overhead camera at Camden Yards continues its tale of woe, exposing the folly of American League umpires calling balls and strikes from a position over the catcher's shoulder on the inside corner of the plate.

* As former quarterback Billy Joe Tolliver hammers the green with his putter after missing a short one at the Celebrity Golfers Championship, NBC commentator Johnny Miller reminds, "Hey, you don't want to do that. The next guy will have a rough time putting over the rut you left." Besides, it's shockingly immature and if a member of the club the tournament is borrowing sees it, he'll be against the CGA returning.

* "Speaking the language of the younger generation [the 16 to 24 age group]," ESPN-2 debuted the magazine "Dirt" Tuesday. It should come with a trot or a teen-ager to translate.

* Dan Dierdorf told Parade magazine, regarding three in the booth for "Monday Night Football" on ABC: "You just don't get to express yourself every time you'd like to." Truthfully, does anyone remember Dan ever holding back?

* Time was when the PGA Championship was a golf "major" in nTC name only. Nowadays, it's up there with the others in television time -- a combined 26 hours and 30 minutes on CBS and TBS -- and that, folks, is what makes it a big deal.

* Quickie review: NBC's three-in-the-booth for the All-Star Game the other night didn't work, lead guy Bob Costas showing up over-prepared, and commentators Bob Uecker and Joe Morgan ho-humming their way through just another ballgame with the same old goop.

* ESPN's Chris Berman, concisely: "If baseball doesn't settle its strike by Labor Day, you'll be looking at football. No one will care about baseball after football starts." Y'know, he's probably right (except here in Baltimore, of course).

* ESPN2 has the 33rd Street All-Stars game vs. the Calgary Stampeders in their home opener tomorrow (7:30 p.m.), then Channel 2 does its first of six games, July 23 when the Townies take on Shreveport. . . . City cable (United Artists) has been threatening to add "The Deuce" for a while; wouldn't you think this would be a good time?

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