So, the baseball season ended up being pretty special after all, didn't it? There were home runs by the score, terrific pitching performances and one of the great races of recent memory, what with the Chicago Cubs, San Francisco Giants and New York Mets coming into the second-to-last day of play in a flat-footed tie and the Cubs and Giants needing an extra day to settle it all.
And viewers latched onto it, too. Saturday's Fox telecasts, with full coverage of Sammy Sosa and look-ins at Mark McGwire, pulled in the highest ratings in the three-year history of the program, signifying an 86 percent boost from last year's season finale.
It would stand to reason, then, that there are plenty of stories to be sold to a prime-time audience as this week's Division Series begin, right?
Wrong! As far as Fox and NBC are concerned, all baseball viewers want in the evenings this week is the Yankees, Yankees and more Yankees.
The first three games of the New York-Texas series are slotted for the 8 p.m. hole tonight, tomorrow and Friday, with subsequent games on Saturday and Sunday likely to occupy the equivalent slot, should they become necessary.
The only reason there won't be a Yankees game in prime time Thursday is because they aren't playing.
No one's arguing that the Yankees aren't a compelling story. After all, they did set an American League record for wins. But, for goodness sake, aren't there seven other teams out there, too, all suitable for prime-time viewing?
Next week, four teams will receive network exposure in the American and National league championship series, but the evening viewer won't know who three of them are.
Before tonight's Fox telecast (Channel 45, 8 o'clock), ESPN will carry the Boston-Cleveland series opener at 1 p.m., followed by Game 1 of what should be a fabulous set-to between San Diego and Houston at 4 p.m.
Tomorrow's lineup has Game 2 of the Indians-Red Sox series at 1 p.m., with the Atlanta Braves playing host to the Cubs at 4 p.m. NBC (Channel 11), the accidental baseball telecaster, has Game 2 of the Rangers-Yankees series tomorrow at 8 p.m.
WBAL (1090 AM) will pick up ESPN Radio's coverage of the postseason, starting with tonight's Rangers-Yankees game at 7: p.m., with tomorrow's second game airing at the same time.
Media professionals come to understand that occasional frenzied travel comes with the job, but television director Marc Peyton is in the middle of a run that takes frenzy to another level.
On Saturday, Peyton was in Connecticut to do a boxing card for HBO, followed by a trip here Sunday night for the Ravens-Cincinnati game for ESPN. First thing yesterday morning, he was on a plane for Chicago to direct the National League one-game playoff.
Peyton will head for Houston, where he'll work the first two games in the Astros-San Diego Division Series today and Thursday. On Friday, it's off to Las Vegas for another HBO fight Saturday night. Following that telecast, Peyton will take a red-eye flight to Kansas City for Sunday's Chiefs-Seattle game on ESPN, and if there's more than one Game 5 in the Division Series, Peyton will direct one of them, site unknown, next Monday for ESPN.
"Sleep is overrated," joked Peyton after Sunday night's game.
So, why do six or more cities and log 5,000 miles in eight days, you ask? Why not, replies Peyton, an Emmy winner.
"Everything fell just right so that it would be almost wall-to-wall activity. It's what we live for," Peyton said. "At this time of year, you don't worry about that [rest]. This is what you work all the regular-season games all the year for, to get a chance to do really meaningful games in the playoffs in baseball. It's just a thrill to be involved. It's a lot of fun."
What a day!
By any objective standard, ESPN2's Sunday afternoon of baseball programming had to be the best hours in the outlet's five-year history. Consider that between 1 and 6 p.m., Deuce viewers got to see:
The last inning of a near no-hitter in Toronto.
The Mets, Cubs and Giants all battling to stay alive in the National League wild-card race.
And, as if that weren't enough, Mark McGwire's 69th and 70th home runs.
Whew! The people in master control in Bristol, Conn., moved the pace along nicely, never dawdling in one place, but always staying long enough to give viewers a sense of what was happening.
By the way, we can only hope that we all live long enough for someone at baseball headquarters to do something logical.
The decision to play last night's wild-card playoff game at roughly the same time as the Monday night football contest doesn't qualify.
Whenever possible, sports fans shouldn't be forced to make viewing choices between events of the magnitude of last night, even if the football game was a regular-season contest.
Why couldn't the baseball game have started three or four hours earlier?
Pub Date: 9/29/98