One of baseball's oldest axioms holds that left-handers, quite apart from the way they throw the ball, think, shall we say, differently than others, and former Orioles southpaw Mike Flanagan is certainly a breed apart.
For instance, when Flanagan, the lead analyst on Orioles television broadcasts, thinks of the Cuban all-star team that will invade Oriole Park Monday night, he thinks of the Galapagos Islands, the homeland of those giant tortoises.
Now, before you call out the non-sequitur police, hear Flanagan out. In his mind, the Cubans, who were a vital part of baseball until the Castro revolution, have become shrouded in mystery, much like the Galapagos and their inhabitants.
"Part of the way you prepare in the major leagues is knowing the opposition. You want to know as much as you can and have as much information as possible, as well as drawing on your own personal experience," Flanagan said. "Well, that's not really possible in this case, because we know so little about the Cubans."
Beyond the mystery of the Cuban roster, Flanagan says one of the intriguing components of Monday's game is that while, for the Orioles, it will be an exhibition game -- much like playing one of their minor-league affiliates -- their opponents are likely to see the match as having tremendous social significance, particularly after the Orioles won in Havana last month.
"There will be a lot of political overtones, which you don't see in your usual exhibition game. I mean, it's not the kind of thing that takes place in a game between the Orioles and the Cincinnati Reds," Flanagan said. "They [the Cubans] were saying last month that they didn't have all their best players. Well, now the shoe is going to be on the other foot, and the Orioles will be playing with an arm tied behind their back."
The game will be telecast on Fox Sports Net at 7: 30 p.m. with Flanagan joined in the booth by former WBAL announcer Josh Lewin, and the production handled by Home Team Sports. However, because HTS will be carrying the Washington Wizards-New Jersey Nets game, area cable systems will pick up the telecast on alternate channels.
Joining the team
HBO has announced that Baltimore native Pam Shriver, who won 21 tennis singles titles and 112 doubles crowns during her career, will join the channel's Wimbledon coverage unit next month.
Shriver, who has fashioned a solid television career as an analyst, reporter and play-by-play announcer, will conduct interviews during the tournament, and alternate with Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova, with whom Shriver teamed for many of those doubles championships, on the nightly highlights show.
The rosy run
With 20 horses scheduled to load into the starting gates at Churchill Downs for tomorrow's 125th running of the Kentucky Derby and more than 40 cameras positioned around the track, the viewer probably won't miss some of the technological advances ABC had planned for its 25th telecast.
The network scrapped its Jockey-Cam, the lipstick-sized camera worn by jockeys in their caps in recent Triple Crown races because some owners and trainers were leery of having the extra equipment on their mounts. And ABC officials this week dropped plans to mount a camera to a four-wheel drive vehicle that would have circled the track from the turf infield because of weather and an inability to get track stewards to agree.
But the network has a full day planned for its 90 minutes (Channel 2, 4: 30 p.m.), with scheduled features on the ladies of the Derby -- equine and human -- and a Jim McKay essay on recently deceased trainer Charlie Whittingham.
The network has added ESPN analyst Hank Goldberg to its telecast team, and he will join veteran race-caller Dave Johnson near the finish line. Co-host Al Michaels will anchor a new post near the grandstand, while reporters Lesley Visser and Charlsie Cantey will rove the track.
Among its Derby-related programming, ESPN will air today's running of the Kentucky Oaks, the annual race for 3-year-old fillies at 5 p.m., and carry a pre-race special at 2 p.m. ESPN2 will survey the early morning scene around the barns today at 7 a.m. and tomorrow at 8 a.m., with a handicap show tonight at 11.
Around the dial
Tomorrow's championship round of the Brunswick Long Island Open has an interesting twist for bowling aficionados: The matches will take place outdoors, from Bryant Park in midtown Manhattan, so the bowlers will not only have to check their pockets for their wallets, but the skies for rain. CBS (Channel 13) will have the action at 3 p.m.
The final weekend of the NBA regular season commences tonight at 8 with Houston playing host to Utah on TNT and ends Monday with New York playing host to Boston on TBS at 8 p.m. NBC's Sunday doubleheader finds the Knicks at Indiana after "NBA Showtime" at 12: 30, followed by the Jazz traveling to San Antonio.
Channel 2's coverage of Sunday's Johns Hopkins-Towson men's lacrosse game (1 p.m.) will require the station to join the California 500 NASCAR race in progress afterward. We trust that doesn't run afoul of race fans, who have proven to be a particularly finicky lot.
Finally, Wayne Gretzky joins "The Sports Reporters" at 10 a.m. Sunday on ESPN. Hopefully, he'll be able to get a word in edgewise.
O's-Cuba on TV A number of local cable systems will carry Monday's 7: 30 p.m. exhibition with a Cuban all-star team at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Because of existing obligations on HTS, the game will be carried on alternate channels by local cable providers throughout the HTS region. The alternate channel listings are as follows:
Area System Ch.
Bel Air Clearview 55
Balt. Co. Comcast 25
Harford Comcast 69, 66
Howard Comcast 54
Annapolis Jones 15
Balt. City TCI 8
Pub Date: 4/30/99