With Oriole Park seats at a premium, HTS should lift theirs, rejoin basic cable

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Here's an interesting statistic for all you red-blooded, Oriole-loving ball fans out there who have come to realize that for the next month or so you cannot purchase two reserved seats together at Camden Yards: Just a dozen of the 230 cable systems serviced by Home Team Sports treat Oriole telecasts as a premium service.

In other words, while a vast majority of fans in the region receive Birds games as part of basic service, Baltimore City and Baltimore County subscribers have to pony up $10-plus, and still get bombarded with commercials.

No wonder HTS shudders when it reviews the figures revealing only about 12,000 of the 100,000 homes hooked up in the city subscribe while the percentage (15,000 of 175,000) is even less on Comcast in the county.

"Naturally, we want to be in front of as many viewers as possible," an HTS spokesman said, "and you know a lot more people would watch if it was part of basic."

Hagerstown, two systems in Anne Arundel County and two more in Virginia are the latest to go basic and HTS is hopeful the city and county follow suit. Come on, Orioles, give your adoring public a break for a change.

* A couple of days before the Kentucky Derby, host Jim McKay and coordinating producer Curt Gowdy Jr. of ABC talked about how they had to be prepared for any eventuality come the day of the big race. "You can't overlook anyone," said McKay. "We've got to be prepared to talk about all the horses, because there's a chance anyone can win."

The way it worked out, ABC batted .500. Yes, anyone can win, a fact proven by Lil E. Tee. Unfortunately, the net had virtually nothing on the steed. And stranger than fiction is the fact that race caller Dave Johnson let the horses go three-quarters of a mile before getting around to mentioning heavy favorite and failure Arazi for the first time.

* By way of celebration for its 100th championship fight tomorrow (10 p.m.), HBO has Meldrick Taylor (29-1) challenging for the WBC super-welterweight title held by Terry Norris (31-3). Julio Cesar Chavez is generally regarded as the best pound-for-pound fighter around today, right? Taylor handled him quite easily until their fight was stopped with just two seconds remaining and Chavez was a lucky winner. Norris is the guy who thoroughly shellacked Sugar Ray Leonard, sending him into retirement for good (hopefully).

* Imagine, it's the seventh game of the World Series, Jack Morris is pitching for the Twins and the man at the plate for the Braves leaves the dish and tomahawks the pitcher's hands with his bat. That's what replays show Adam Graves of the New York Rangers did the other night to Pittsburgh Penguins star Mario Lemieux, breaking his left hand.

Graves received a two-minute penalty -- and what were the Pens going to do with the power play without Mario? -- the NHL's premier player is out indefinitely and the league's wondrous commissioner, John Ziegler, is in London talking about playing games in Europe and Asia the year after next. Unbelievable? No, par for the NHL.

* Fear not, loyal Blast fans, team games will be on radio next year, although not on WCAO. Also, despite just moving to a job with USA Today Radio, the Blast plans on having sportscaster Dave Johnson back to scream, "It's in the net! It's in the net!"

* After spending about $9 trillion on baseball, NCAA hoops, the Winter Olympics and the usual stuff the last few years, CBS has been chided about losing big dough, making lousy decisions, etc. All this pales in comparison to something it did in 1956: The dumbos sent Johnny Carson packing.

* The first week of college football and ABC's experiment with pay-per-view is Sept. 5. Here's the lineup of games: Notre Dame vs. Northwestern; Southern Cal vs. San Diego State; Texas A&M; vs. LSU.

How big a response, at $10 a pop and with all the syndication and cable games inundating us, will there be to either of the latter two games for folks in the Northeast receiving the Notre Dame game?

Another thing, despite having 3 million alumni scattered throughout the land, will Ohio State grads living in California order up a Illinois vs. Iowa or a Minnesota vs. Indiana game just for old times sake?

Steve Solomon of ABC says the alternative "creates more appealing programming than some of the PPV systems are running now [mostly movies]," perhaps overlooking the fact that on a normal Saturday afternoon in the fall a fan has access to about 10 games between noon and midnight.

* Following the Bob Costas inside joke and elocution lesson pre-game show tomorrow at noon, the Knicks go against the Bulls, then the Blazers take on the Suns in NBA playoff action on NBC. Sunday, if it doesn't run a tape of the All-Star Game again, the net will have the Celtics vs. Cavs, followed by Sonics vs. Jazz.

* Tom Davis wants it known that he scored a hat trick and the 7-10 split last weekend when, during the same half-hour, he had a "SportsBeat" on Ch. 45, "Boog and the Birds" on Ch. 13, "The Johnny Oates Show" on HTS and replays of any and all on a couple of county cable systems. And he hasn't even tried working out an arrangement with the Ted Turner broadcasting empire yet.

* If you want to take the time to click your way past all the baseball on this weekend:

* CBS has the NCAA men's volleyball championship at 2 p.m. tomorrow, immediately followed by the NCAA men's gymnastics title meet at 3. The latter are the guys who'll be competing in the Olympic Trials in Baltimore next month.

* The first two races of the America's Cup, America3 taking on Italy in a best-of-seven, go at 3 p.m. tomorrow and Sunday.

* If the excitement there is too much for you, check out the time trials for the Indianapolis 500 on ABC (4 p.m.) and ESPN (6 p.m.) Sunday.

* ESPN does 30 minutes on the Tour Du Pont, under way yesterday in Delaware, at 4:30 tomorrow, then CBS will get you up to date on the 11-day event Sunday at 3.

* The Pimlico Special, which features all the best (if unsuccessful) horses from last year's Triple Crown melodrama, will be live on ESPN tomorrow at 5 p.m.

* Decent tennis ahead with ESPN sending along the German Open final Sunday (12:30 p.m.) and HTS doing the U.S. Clay Court Championship semifinals tomorrow (1 p.m.) and the final Sunday (6:30 p.m.).

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