Pressure's on baseball to get ratings

ON THE AIR

July 10, 1995|By MILTON KENT

Forget Cal Ripken's consecutive-games streak, Hideo Nomo's strikeout total or Mark McGwire's home run tally, for the most important baseball-related number of the week is 15.7/28.

That's the rating and share of last season's All-Star Game, and if baseball is truly on the route to recovery, tomorrow's midseason, midsummer classic will need to approach, if not surpass, that figure.

Supposedly, things are looking up, ratings-wise, for baseball. Locally, Orioles ratings for June were higher than in May, from a slight 5 percent boost on Channel 13 to a 26 percent hike on Channel 54. Home Team Sports ratings in the Baltimore region rose 11 percent in June, but jumped a whopping 82 percent in the Washington area.

Still, at the very least, ABC's telecast -- the first national over-the-air baseball broadcast since last August -- had better match the 13.9 average of last month's NBA championship series to head off the persistent talk that baseball has become passe, not to mention demonstrate to Fox and CBS, who presumably will bid on a telecast package for next season, that

there's something worth bidding on.

All-Star coverage

It's All-Star workout day, and ESPN has a full schedule of events planned for tonight from The Ballpark at Arlington (Texas), beginning with the Legends of the Game All-Star Classic at 7:30.

At 9 p.m., it's the Home Run Derby, followed by a peek inside baseball's official All-Star party at 10:30. After "SportsCenter" at 11:30 p.m., Karl Ravech will anchor a 30-minute, round-table discussion on the state of the game.

Locally, Channel 2's Keith Mills will head to Texas, and WWLG (1360 AM) will have the area's only local radio presence at the All-Star Game with reports during its evening talk programs.

Wimbledon wonders

All in all, NBC did a rather nice job at the world's greatest tennis tournament, providing stirring pictures and words that summed up the situation without intruding, though the telecasts really could have used more of the quirkiness of Bud Collins, who was relegated mostly to reporting duties.

This weekend's high point was unquestionably Saturday's women's final, between now six-time winner Steffi Graf and Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, which was great tennis and very good television.

The 11th game of the third set of the match may have been one of the best moments of sports television of the year, with analyst Chris Evert, who is rapidly developing into a good broadcaster, and Dick Enberg showing a welcome ability to let play speak for itself.

On the men's side, analyst John McEnroe displays a bluntness that to some is refreshing, but to others, including these ears, comes off as smug or a smart-aleck. One can at least credit McEnroe for saying what's on his mind and not backing down from it. Here's hoping a sense of modesty will someday merge with his candor.

By the way, Enberg, who is inexplicably underrated, turned in a stirring essay at the end of yesterday's telecast, wrapping up the fortnight in a tender and amusing fashion. Last year's piece won Enberg an Emmy, and this year's should do no worse.

Going to extremes

It has been only a week or so since the inaugural "Extreme Games" ended, but admit it: You've suffered from street luge withdrawal. In the middle of the night, you've awakened in a cold sweat, wondering how you'd be able to fill that aching need for more skysurfing, and life without sport climbing has hardly seemed like a life at all.

Fear not, for ESPN has sensed your anxiety and acted accordingly, with an announcement that there will be a second "Extreme Games" next year, a year earlier than scheduled.

;/ Now, you may rest easy. Life is good again.

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