TCI tosses shutout innings

Cable TV problems put some Series fans in dark most of game

October 28, 1999|By Rafael Alvarez | Rafael Alvarez,SUN STAFF

Television viewers in parts of Baltimore were shut out for most of the crucial fourth game of last night's World Series between the New York Yankees and Atlanta Braves because of technical problems at cable-provider TCI Communications.

For eight innings, customers in postal ZIP codes 21201, 21202 and 21223 in downtown and Southwest Baltimore were without cable service. A little after 11 p.m. -- with the Yankees ahead by three runs after a Jim Leyritz home run in the bottom of the eighth inning -- service was finally restored.

"The game finally came on, and people started clapping," said Alice Gerstung, a bartender at the Midtown Yacht Club, shortly before the Yankees won their second consecutive World Series championship.

In some areas, only a few blocks separated those without service from those with it. The Midtown Yacht Club at 15 E. Centre St. was without cable, while customers at Mick O'Shea's at 328 N. Charles St. were enjoying the game.

Others were left to network television, radio or box-score updates on the Internet.

"The problem [was] in an underground vault," said TCI spokeswoman Jean W. Davis. "There was only one technician in the truck [who discovered the problem], and we sent another tech to the site. We don't know if it was simply an equipment malfunction or what, but we are very sorry."

Nathan R. Beveridge, the 37-year-old owner of the Midtown Yacht Club, said service had been out at his bar since 10: 30 a.m., and few answers were forthcoming from TCI. Beveridge said that he is thinking about canceling his advertising contract with the company.

"This isn't `Laverne and Shirley,' this is the World Series," said the exasperated Beveridge, calculating that the problem cost his small pub $2,000 in business.

"All day they kept telling me they were checking my account for problems, and I kept telling them the trouble was in their system. When I called at 4: 30 p.m. to talk to a supervisor, they told me they'd all gone for the day."

Beveridge, who pays a minimum of $79 a month for commercial service from TCI, said: "They told me they'd get someone out tomorrow. I told them there is no tomorrow, this is the World Series."

A customer at the Yacht Club -- Larry Vosmik from Ormond Beach, Fla. -- decided to go back to his hotel room to watch the game instead of enjoying a sporting atmosphere with other baseball fans.

The disruption occurs 18 months after TCI was unable to provide thousands of Baltimoreans with the final episode of "Seinfeld" because of a Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. power outage.

Sun staff writer Mark Ribbing contributed to this article.

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