Baseball Night's strikeout shouldn't come as surprise

July 21, 1995|By PHIL JACKMAN

The TV Repairman:

You have to wonder why or how ABC came to the conclusion that it could score with a "Baseball Night in America" show when that has been ESPN's tag line for a couple of years now, and it's not like there's not a thousand ballgames on the tube already.

You question the nights it chose, too, Saturday and Monday in the middle of the summer. Its ratings were horrible earlier this week, 6.4 million and 6.5 million households, but came within a point of the ratings the nets are choking on in prime time during the re-run season. NBC will do just as badly later on when it goes with a Friday night game.

You can get figures like that with a return to a Saturday afternoon "Game of the Week" format, which would serve a target audience of kids better and cut expenses dramatically. It's no surprise the nets are bye-bye when the season ends.

Also, it's not the coverage of baseball the networks and cables provide nationally that sees the game taking a ratings hit. That hasn't changed in years. Contrary to what Judge Lance Ito says about the game being a bore, it's a fine game that has been messed up by the human element and it has never really worked on television anyway.

The game you're probably missing on ABC Monday (8 p.m.) is the Yankees vs. Rangers.

* Changing logos and team uniforms is becoming a huge business. The prime reason clubs are doing it, of course, is to provide a new line of shirts, socks, caps and whatever to unload on men, women or children with a surfeit of money. But baseball, bless its heart, is said to be considering a rule where a team has to stick with a logo for at least two years.

* The way the commercial and cable networks are throwing time and money around to pro football, you'd guess that the viewing public couldn't get enough of the top-secret information coming out of pre-game shows. Uh-uh. It's found money considering the pot-boilers start at 11 a.m. Sundays and pre-game shows is where a lot of advertisers start out while waiting for the jump to the big time, the game telecast itself.

* Turnabout is fair play, right? For years, in those cable and network unions covering tennis and golf, the big-name people from network have done most of the work on cable covering the early rounds. No complaint to this point. But with HBO so clearly superior to NBC when it comes to doing Wimbledon, when is someone going to realize here's one event where the assignments should be reversed.

* Jeff Tarango, bad boy of tennis, come on. Following up his brouhaha at Wimbledon, Tarango made it onto some highlight tapes with another run-in with a chair umpire in Washington the other day. There was a time when the bad boys, John McEnroe, Ilie Nastase, Jimmy Connors, Dennis Ralston, had to be able to play.

* "Wide World of Sports" (ABC) tomorrow (4:30 p.m.) has same-day coverage of the Tour de France and super-heavyweight grappling from the World Wrestling Championships in Istanbul last November. Go to the head of the class if you recall who won the competition. Same-day coverage of the charge down the Champs-Elysees in Paris to the finish of the Tour is Sunday at 5 p.m.

* Folks in the pay-per-view industry are upset with the boxing promoter-cable outfits, which are becoming more and more prominent in boxing. No sooner does HBO announce a heckuva competitive fight, Riddick Bowe-Evander Holyfield III, for Nov. 4 when Showtime starts screaming that the date was projected for Mike Tyson's second waltz with a tomato can after he disposes of Peter McNeeley Aug. 19: Pay-per-view, $50. It's called counter-programming, fellas, a fact of life in TV for years.

* A Fox Network spokesman, upon hiring Pam Oliver away from ESPN to report on the NFL, said, "Pam's versatile. She can be in the studio and go on the road." For $250,000 a year (three-year deal), one would hope so.

* TNT has made official a trade that ranks right up there with the Nellie Fox-for-Joe Tipton, George Kell-for-Barney McCoskey, Lou Brock-for-Ernie Broglio or Frank Robinson-for-Milt Pappas steals: Verne Lundquist working opposite Pat Haden, replacing Gary Bender on play-by-play, puts this duo as the second best announcing team in pro football if you still think Pat Summerall and John Madden are numero uno.

* ESPN's early-round coverage of the British Open continues today at 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. before ABC moves in tomorrow (10 a.m.) and Sunday (9:30 a.m.). With Jim McKay still recovering from heart surgery a while back, the network is summoning Jack Whitaker out of retirement to host. Now that's some relief pitcher. The Repairman picks Colin Montgomerie.

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