Major league baseball, according to CBS, commences tomorrow with the Mets and Reds in the main game and the White Sox and Red Sox from "venerable Fenway Park" the backup (1-4:30 p.m.). Channel 11 will carry the American League game.
The only change in the announcing booths is Greg Gumbel moving in for Dick Stockton as the play-by-play man on the second team and there's a certain amount of irony that Gumbel draws a White Sox game right out of the box: "Growing up, I was a Sox fan and used to go to 30 to 40 games a summer. It was so easy to sneak into Comiskey Park. If you walked in backward, the guards thought you were walking out."
* "Mario Lemieux Month" gets under way this weekend, ABC starting its five-week series of Sunday afternoon NHL playoff games with regional fare from the Patrick, Norris and Smythe divisions. Gary Thorne and Bill Clement will be the voices as the Penguins host either the Islanders or Devils at 1 p.m.
ESPN regulars Mike Emrick and Jim Schoenfeld draw the Norris assignment, the Blackhawks hosting the Blues while the network will provide the play-by-play man for the Kings and Flames game in Calgary, a gent named Al ("Do You Believe in Miracles") Michaels. He'll work with John Davidson.
ESPN is doing all the production work and figures to lean on "Marvelous Mario" each and every time the Penguins' scoring machine laces up his skates, beginning with Tuesday night's second game from Pittsburgh. And who can blame them?
Even bigger than the Penguins going for their third straight Stanley Cup triumph has been the unbelievable campaign Lemieux has had.
Well on his way to untold records in the first half of the season, Mario was found to have Hodgkin's disease Jan. 5 and, following two months of radiation treatment, he returned to rack up 51 points in his first 17 games back.
Against the Rangers last week, he was so exciting while scoring five goals even a Madison Square Garden crowd rose to give him a standing ovation. In the Big Apple, they don't even stand while being robbed.
The second round or division finals of the playoffs begin May 2 with the conference finals starting May 16 and the Stanley Cup final June 1. The possibility exists of a June 15 finish, which, if the Bruins are involved, could lead to some fairly soft ice since the Boston Garden does not have such modern conveniences as air conditioning.
* Watching the Channel 20 telecast of the Capitals-Rangers game Wednesday night, which led to the Caps clinching second place in the Patrick Division, incidentally, reminded me of an Easter egg hunt. There were no penalties in the first and third periods, three in the middle session. The Rangers should be fined stiffly for lack of effort and all records purged.
* Larry Holmes just doesn't seem to get it, does he? Instead of hammering away at a heavy bag named Ken Lakusta, as he did on USA's "Tuesday Night Fights" last, the former champ has to do likewise against a foe who can at least defend himself before he can be taken seriously. Holmes simply shouting over his ample midsection about how good he is has become a tired refrain.
A poll of viewers showed that 53 percent of respondents favor Holmes getting one last title shot, a fact Larry no doubt will bring up to prove his popularity. Actually, these people want him to get another shot in hopes he absorbs a good beating and quits for good.
* Oh-oh, the announcers on Channel 2 got in the official scoring business during an Orioles-Rangers game the other night. A lazy fly ball headed out to right field, which Sherman Obando completely butchered, the Texas batter ending up on third base.
"We see a lot of fly balls misjudged that are called hits," said Jon Miller, surprised that this one was called an error while conceding the play should have been made easily.
Brooks Robinson, who won 16 Gold Gloves and should know better, said Obando made "a great effort" and predicted the call would be changed.
* Pointing out it has figures that show more men in the 21-to-34 age category will watch beach volleyball over college hoops and baseball if given the opportunity, NBC is starting up a series of 11 live Association of Volleyball Professionals shows beginning June 19. Makes you wonder where the survey was conducted,south of Los Angeles in towns on the Pacific?
* Amanda White of Dulaney is among the six finalists vying for the Scholastic Sports America scholarship awards to be announced on ESPN at 3 p.m. May 3. Included on the selection panel for the awards is Calvin Hill, vice president of the Orioles.
* The NBA on NBC had a terrific first quarter of the year, garnering a 5.3 rating and beating out "ABC's Wide World of Sports" in the weekend-afternoon viewing race for the first time ever. Wide World's inventory often was lackluster, which helped in its dip to 4.5. Each rating point counts for about 931,000 households.
NBC (Channel 2) sends along the Celtics-Heat game tomorrow (3:30 p.m.), then the Spurs and Trail Blazers Sunday at 3.
* Strangely, the NCAA rules committee reduced the shot clock from 45 to 35 seconds in hopes of speeding up play, then decreed that the clock will be stopped after every basket in the last minute of regulation and throughout overtime. The idea that 10 seconds being chopped off the shot clock will reduce fouling is folly in that it's still the only tradeoff for possession.
* The PGA Seniors Championship, due to be picked up by NBC tomorrow (1 p.m.) and Sunday (noon) after being handled by USA the last two days, is missing featured performer Tom Weiskopf due to freak happenstance. While working the Masters telecasts on CBS last weekend, Weiskopf let a sore knee stiffen badly by not constantly moving it while working a commentator's desk for long stretches.
CBS moves in on the Heritage Classic at 4:30 tomorrow and 3 Sunday, hopeful that there's a little more fire involved than the flickering match which was the Masters. The cakewalk to the green jacket by Bernhard Langer was dull enough. As producer-director Frank Chirkinian put it, "When you're going to taped stuff, you're digging a grave for yourself," so that was out as an alternative. Chip Beck says he still made the right play, laying up on the 15th.
* There are six baseball games on cable carriers today, four on cable and network tomorrow and five Sunday. And this is before Tele-Communications Inc. begins construction of a fiber network that could send upward of 500 channels into homes. Warm up, Yomiuri Giants.
* The horse races on "Wide World of Sports" and ESPN tomorrow (4:30 and 5 p.m.) are the Wood Memorial and the Arkansas Derby, the last biggies before the Run for the Roses (pant-pant) May 1. . . . Home Team Sports is doing the U.S. men's clay court tennis from Charlotte tomorrow (2 p.m.) and Sunday (9:30 a.m., no misprint). . . . CBS sends along the NCAA indoor track championships at 1 p.m. Sunday, then follows that up with the women's swimming and diving championships at 2. It's all part of the billion-dollar deal for March Madness and the NCAA is to be commended.